English Open betting tips: Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan the star turn

Sky Bet have boosted Ronnie O'Sullivan to 5/1 to win the English Open
Sky Bet have boosted Ronnie O'Sullivan to 5/1 to win the English Open

Ronnie O'Sullivan is back in action when he defends his English Open title in Crawley next week and Richard Mann thinks he will prove very hard to beat.

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4pts Ronnie O'Sullivan to win the English Open at 5/1

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The Rocket has been conspicuous by his absence so far this season, choosing to miss a host of early-season tournaments, resulting in him sliding down to 132 in the current One Year Rankings List.

Nevertheless, O'Sullivan returned to fold for the valuable Shanghai Masters in September and despite having no preparation to speak of, he breezed through the tournament before defeating Barry Hawkins 11-9 in a high-quality final.

It was a stark reminder, just if we needed it, that O' Sullivan remains the best snooker player on the planet and wherever he chooses to turn up this season, he is going to prove mighty hard to beat.

As was the case last year, the 42-year-old seems keen to avoid burning himself out in the early part of what is a gruelling campaign and his season again looks to have been tailored around major tournaments such as the UK Championship, The Masters and the World Championship.

With the UK Championship - a title he won last year - only a couple of months away now, it is no surprise to see O'Sullivan again look to sharpen up his game in the English Open and if he can find anything like the standard of snooker produced when lifting the trophy 12 months ago, he will take some stopping.

Following his victory in this tournament last year, O'Sullivan went on to enjoy a stellar campaign which saw him lift five major titles and re-establish himself as the dominant force in the game.

Ronnie O'Sullivan after winning his sixth UK Championship
Ronnie O'Sullivan after winning his sixth UK Championship

As such, O'Sullivan was sent off favourite to win the World Championship for a sixth time in Sheffield last spring but a long season looked to have taken its toll when he crashed out to Ali Carter and catching O'Sullivan relatively fresh might be the way to go when deciding whether or not to back him this term.

While he ticks plenty of boxes in terms being 'fresh' ahead of defending his English Open crown - as he was when winning in Shanghai last month - another factor in his favour his that he appears to prefer the shorter-format tournaments nowadays.

The best-of-seven matches in the early rounds give players very little margin for error but O'Sullivan enjoys the fast-paced nature of the format, where matches are rarely dragged out and, given what a rapid starter he has proven to be over the years, it is easy to see why he does so well in these types of events.

The lack of form shown by a number of the other leading players on the circuit is another boost for O'Sullivan supporters with China Championship winner Mark Selby still seemingly short of his best form when dumped out of the European Masters the following week and John Higgins, runner-up in China, very critical of his own form throughout that tournament.

Kyren Wilson has been one of the form horses so far this year but he couldn't live with O'Sullivan in their Shanghai Masters semi-final clash and his performance levels have dipped a little since.

Barring a potential second-round meeting with the dependable Lyu Haotian, there would appear to be few dangers to O'Sullivan in the early rounds in Crawley and despite his apparently blase attitude towards his snooker so far this season, it is interesting to see note how active and connected he has been with the game and his fans on social media.

He appeared to live and breathe every minute of the Shaghai Masters final between Selby and Higgins and has made plenty of noise in the last week about his need to win next week to haul himself back up the rankings.

O'Sullivan appears hungry and primed to defend his English Open title and with Sky Bet having boosted his price to 5/1, he looks a knocking bet to me.

Posted at 1240 BST on 12/10/18.


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