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BetVictor Welsh Open Preview

Charlie McCannHere’s a betting preview of next week’s world ranking event in Cardiff, by Charlie McCann – BetVictor’s Head of Communications….

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The draw for the BetVictor Welsh Open (15th-21st Feb) took place earlier in the week and three-time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan is again the star attraction as the top 128 players in the world meet at the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff.

It is not confirmed if this will be O’Sullivan’s last tournament before the World Championship at the Crucible Sheffield in April, but the Rocket showed his well-being when winning his home tournament the Masters in London last month and the five-time world champion remains the one to beat.

O’Sullivan, who so memorably won the last of his three Welsh Open titles with a maximum 147 break in the deciding frame back in 2014, is the 10/3 favourite at BetVictor after what looks a favourable draw although he did lose 4-3 in a similar best-of-seven event to his first round opponent Barry Pinches back in 2010.

Holder and four-time champion John Higgins begins his defence against former World Championship semi-finalist Andy Hicks. The last player to win the title back-to-back was Higgins himself back in 2010-11 and it is a tournament that is invariably won by one of the leading players with the list of previous champions a veritable who’s who of snooker.

The last home winner was Mark Williams who beat Stephen Hendry in a magnificent last frame decider back in 1999 at the Cardiff International Arena; Hendry got his revenge in 2003 when he beat Williams 9-4 and that was the last time we had a Welsh representative in the final. BetVictor bet 12/1 we have a home winner in 2016 and 13/2 a Welsh player makes the final.

One player who caught my attention in Cardiff last year was Luca Brecel. The young Belgian lost 6-4 to Higgins in the semi-final and showed his game was in good health when reaching the final of the German Masters in Berlin last weekend, losing 9-5 to Martin Gould in the final.

Brecel is still only 20 years-of-age and I expect him to break into the world’s top 20 (currently 28th) and possibly top 10 by the end of the year. He is 80/1 at BetVictor to win in Cardiff and that might be a shade too big for a player who has long been considered a future world champion. In the short term the hope is that he can become the first European from outside the UK and Ireland to win a ranking title although the prices factors in a difficult looking draw for the youngster.

The action begins on Monday 15th and it promises to be another wonderful week of snooker.

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