Snooker betting tips: China Championship preview

Shaun Murphy

Our tipster Simon Crawford is backing Shaun Murphy to be the dark horse at this week's China Championship in Guangzhou.

Recommended bets: China Championship

1pt e.w. Shaun Murphy to win the China Championship at 25/1 - has a reasonable draw and is a good enough player to cash in

1pt Barry Hawkins to win the second quarter at 12/5 - biggest danger is Ding Junhui who could once again be weighed down by the pressure of playing in his home country

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Despite winning a ranking final and reaching four semi-finals, Shaun Murphy will not have been entirely happy with last season's work.

Victory arrived in the Gibraltar Open courtesy of a 4-2 success over Judd Trump, who was flying at the time, while he also reached the last four of the Indian Open, UK Championship, Shoot-Out and China Championship.

Add to this four runs to the quarter-finals and it's a solid-looking campaign.

Shaun Murphy's potential route to the final

1st rd: Ken Doherty
2nd rd: Ebdon or Hamilton
3rd rd: McLeod, Maguire, Bingtao or Bingham
QF: Most likely to be Selby or McGill
SF: Probables are Ding, Carter or Hawkins

Click here for full draw bracket and tournament schedule

But for a player who has seven ranking, four minor ranking plus 10 non-ranking titles to his name plus the coveted career triple crown (World & UK Championships plus the Masters) it will not have been enough.

Having celebrated his 35th birthday last week, Murphy is now one of the most senior players on the tour and with the likes of John Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stuart Bingham consistently showing that there is still no substitute for experience, there is every chance that the Magician's best years are still ahead of him.

Current world number eight Murphy shot to prominence in 2005 when he won the World Championship as a 150/1 qualifier and is widely regarded as one of the best long potters ever seen in the game.

Now firmly established as a top-10 player, I have to confess my eyebrows were raised when I saw he was as big as 25/1 (general) to win the China Championship in Guangzhou.

We are only four events into the new season - and two of those have been invitational and one the two-man team event World Cup - so virtually everyone is short of match practice and as a result nowhere near optimum form.

So to have Murphy at such long odds in what I consider to be a quality, but very open field has certainly piqued my interest.

Tournament jolly Mark Selby, defending champion John Higgins and home favourite Ding Junhui are all ahead of Murphy in the betting - but all face qualifiers at the venue and although they are huge favourites to get through, there is still the chance of them not reaching the first round.

John Higgins is the defending champion

Neil Robertson beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in the recent final of the Hong Kong Masters so they do have some time at the table, as does world No. 3 Judd Trump who helped England to the final of the World Cup and was also in Hong Kong.

But he lost to 5-0 to Sam Craigie last week in the World Open qualifiers - managing to score just 27 points in total.

It's such a volatile stage of the season when upsets will happen until the top players get some meaningful events under their belts.

Murphy has not been that active either, losing 5-3 to Trump in Hong Kong in his only appearance so far, but the price makes him more appealing than the rest as there is no doubt he has the skill and experience to provide us with real value.

He comfortably qualified by beating the dangerous Zhang Anda 5-2 and he will open his campaign against Ireland's Ken Doherty, who he leads 6-4 in their head-to-head.

Then it would be a potential meeting with either Anthony Hamilton or Peter Ebdon, so it's not the worst of starts for him.

At this early stage of the campaign when form is little or no guideline, prices have to play a big part in reasoning and I would be surprised if Murphy was as big as 25s again this season so for me he has to be worth siding with.

Another price that is worthy of a small play is the 12/5 on offer for Barry Hawkins to win the second quarter.

Barry Hawkins

Ding Junhui is favourite but is not always at his best playing in his native country, where he is afforded superstar status but as a result carries around a huge weight of expectation on his shoulders.

In fairness to him, he and Liang Wenbo did lead China A to the World Cup title just last month in Wuxi when they beat Hawkins and Trump in the final.

But as already mentioned, Ding faces a qualifier against fellow Chinese player Niu Zhuang before a potential first-round meeting with Alfie Burden.

Barry Hawkins' quarter of the draw

Barry Hawkins v Oliver Lines
Ben Woollaston v Mark Davis
Ali Carter v Aditya Mehta
Ian Preece v David Grace
Fergal O'Brien v Mark King
Kurt Maflin v Michael Georgiou
Elliot Slessor v Alan McManus
Alfie Burden v Ding Junhui/Niu Zhuang

Click here for full draw bracket and tournament schedule

Hawkins is one of the players who takes part in just about every tournament he can and apart from his World Cup exploits, he went out of the Riga Masters to eventual winner Ryan Day and lost in the Hong Kong Masters to Marco Fu.

The world No. 6 starts in Guangzhou against fellow Englishman Oliver Lines before a potential meeting with Wollaston or Davis so, like Murphy, it's not a bad start and once Hawkins gets into his stride he has become a very difficult player to stop.

When you consider Ali Carter is third favourite in the section, ahead of the likes of Mark Davis, Ben Woollaston, Mark King and Alan McManus, then it really should be between Hawkins and Ding and 12/5 is good enough for me to get involved with.

Where to watch on TV: Eurosport

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Posted at 0855 BST on 14/08/17

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