Richard Mann previews the second round action at the English Open with best bets picked out in three of the ties.
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Yuan Sijun (Wednesday, 1400 BST)
Even by Ronnie O'Sullivan's standards, his post-match comments after scraping past little-known Jamie O'Neill were bizarre and ill-judged and as such, the latter is sure to be smarting at his failure to close out a match he dominated throughout.
Nevertheless, O'Neill wasn't able to hold it together when the prospect of recording the biggest win of his career dawned and it was O'Sullivan who booked his place in the second round with a display that was littered with as many mistakes as it was moments of typical genius.
Breaks of 90, 102, 54 and 81 suggest that the O'Sullivan break-building machine is in good working order and his victory at the Shanghai Masters last month tells us that the rest of his game is still there and that he can expect to enjoy a similar level of success as he did in a brilliant campaign last season.
He remains the man to beat in Crawley, for all a potential semi-final with Judd Trump looms large, but Monday night did suggest he could be vulnerable this week, with his form on the table needing to go up a gear or two, something that can't be helped by his irritable mood off it.
It comes to something when his good friends and colleagues at Eurosport can't lighten his mood and as such, I want to be against him in some shape or form on Wednesday against exciting Chinese youngster Yuan Sijun.
Regular readers of these pages will know I am huge fan of Sijun and victories over a host of big names last term, including Mark Williams, Ding Junhui and Mark Allen, gave sign that he would be a major force to reckoned with in the years to come, his pinpoint cue-ball control making him an excellent break builder already while his seemingly unflappable temperament means he can scrap his way to victory, for all his safety game still has some way to go.
Sijun has endured a tricky start to the new season but he has produced good snooker when losing to man of the moment Shaun Murphy on a couple of occasions and he looked in good touch when producing breaks of 73, 65, 60 in his first-round match here against Igor Figueiredo.
I suspect Sijun isn't too far away from putting a big run together somewhere and for all O'Sullivan could well wake up on the right side of bed on Wednesday morning and produce a much-improved display, the fact he has admitted to struggling with a cold in recent days and has already shown himself to be less than pleased to be back in at the K2 Leisure Centre suggests Sijun should at least give him a game.
When these two met in the last 64 of the Welsh Open last year, O'Sullivan paid Sijun the respect his reputation demanded but he still had to work hard for his 4-2 victory and I envisage a similar scenario here with Sijun appealing on the handicap.
Sijun (+2.5) at 5/6 might be the safest play but I think it might be even closer than that and am happy to take the 2/1 about Sijun (+1.5).
Li Hang v Mei Xi Wen (Wednesday, 1400)
Mei Xi Wen enjoyed a terrific win over Yan Bingtao in the first round in Crawley to continue his promising start to the new season.
Breaks of 97, 71 and 68 helped Xi Wen see off the Riga Masters winner in high-quality affair that saw Bingtao record two century breaks from the three frames he won.
Xi Wen made the last 16 of the Riga Masters earlier in the season before losing to his opponent here, Li Hang, and beat World Championship semi-finalist Gary Wilson with a dazzling display in their World Open qualifier at the beginning of this month.
He is clearly in a good place with his game right now and with Hang also playing some of the best snooker of his career in recent weeks, this one looks destined to be closely contested with the 4/7 about over 5.5 frames in the match looking rock solid.
In truth, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this finished up 4-3 either way but over 5.5 frames is particularly appealing and warrants a rare bet at odds-on.
Sam Craigie v Ricky Walden (Wednesday, 1000)
At his best, Ricky Walden is a pleasure to watch, the epitome of the modern snooker player; an aggressive, heavy scorer who plays at a brisk pace and can put it up to the big guns when on song.
Ranking title victories at the 2008 Shanghai Masters, the 2012 Wuxi Classic and 2014 International Championship demonstrate what a fine talent Walden is but he has been plagued by a back problem since and sadly, his results have taken a dramatic nosedive as a result.
A sole quarter-final finish at the Riga Masters was the highlight of Walden's 2018/2019 season and despite reaching the same stage of the Paul Hunter Classic this term, he has crashed out early in three more high-profile events.
He still looks a fine player when on his game but with results becoming harder and harder to come by nowadays, I want to take him on with Sam Craigie, an exciting talent and someone who appears to be heading in the opposite direction to Walden.
Craigie is still in the infancy of his career but in reaching the last eight of the China Open last season, he beat the likes of Ryan Day, Ali Carter and Liang Wenbo to illustrate what a fine player he promises to become.
After a quiet start to the new campaign, Craigie appears to have blown away any summer cobwebs in whitewashing Fraser Patrick in qualifying for the World Open recently and he looked sharp when beating Luo Honghao 4-2 in the first round in Crawley on Tuesday.
Having already put Craigie up at huge odds in my outright preview, it's fair to say I'm a big fan of the Geordie potter and in a clash that features one player firmly on the upgrade against another battling to recapture past glories, Craigie is simply too big to miss at even-money.
Posted at 1625 BST on 15/10/19.
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