World champion Mark Selby looks value for return to top form
Jester from Leicester could make a mockery of generous title odds
Tournament starts 1.30am Monday
Live on Eurosport from 7.30am Monday
World champion Mark Selby has endured a horrid time on the green baize in recent months but a trip to far happier hunting ground in Beijing for the lucrative China Open may well prompt a bounce back to form and a return to the winner's enclosure.
Twice a winner in the last three years at this event, Selby has made the final four times in seven attempts and clearly enjoys what is traditionally the penultimate tournament of the season.
A new sponsorship deal has propelled the China Open to the second-biggest event in terms of prize money, behind only the World Championship, and boosted the first prize to a whopping £225,000, ensuring it is respected as more than simply a tune-up for The Crucible later this month.
The Jester from Leicester landed the International Championship in November – his only title this season. However, the world number one has really struggled for consistency in eight subsequent appearances, reaching only a World Grand Prix semi-final and Champion of Champions quarter-final.
Championship League form should be taken with a pinch of salt but there were definite reminders of Selby's brilliance during last week's Winners' Group action and he could be revving up for a big effort in April.
As ever with these big events, one or two qualifying matches have been held over to kick off proceedings. Selby's clash with 20-year-old Wang Yuchen is one of those, with the winner progressing to a first-round meeting with Scott Donaldson.
Selby should be able to find his stride and build his confidence in these early matches and he'll be out for revenge after Donaldson dumped him out of the UK Championships in December at the last-64 stage.
Selby's huge dip in form has been noted by layers, meaning he is on offer at some of the biggest prices seen for several years.
With the three-time Crucible king drifting to odds almost four times bigger than tournament favourite Ronnie O'Sullivan, there is a strong enough argument for taking on the in-form Rocket, particularly given the draw.
Stuart Bingham, the 2015 world champion, had half of his six-month ban suspended and returned to action at the end of January, just in time for his China Open qualifier.
He has slowly sharpened up since returning to action and looked in good nick last month when reaching the final of the Romanian Masters.
Bingham lines up fresher than most and rates a decent bet to win the third quarter as well as an each-way play in the outright betting.
3pts 8-1 Betfair, Paddy Power, Sky Bet
1pt each-way 22-1 BoyleSports
S Bingham to win the third quarter
2pts 7-2 Sky Bet
Follow us on Twitter @racingpostsport
Like us on Facebook RacingPostSport