Premier League Snooker starts tomorrow from the Embassy Theatre in
Skegness and you can read my preview for sportinglife.com by clicking here
Ten of the World's leading players are split into two groups
of five and play in a round robin format with the top two in each
group going forward to the semi-finals. The field is notable for the
absence of Ronnie O'Sullivan who has won seven of the last eight
league events. The Rocket made himself unavailable as part of his
planned six month break from the game following his World Championship
triumph in May.
Judd Trump heads the field at 4/1 favourite but the bet that hits you
over the head like a hammer and as top value is Mark Selby to win
Group One at 16/5 (Boylesports) - despite it being the toughest group.
The Jester is in his element in this format as his clever shots and
quick thinking do give you a definite edge.
Selby - Has the class in this format
The World Number One has had an indifferent start to the season and
was especially disappointed to lose to Nigel Bond early in PTC2 last
week. They played on the main match table where I was one of the
handful of spectators and it's difficult sometimes to find the
adrenalin to play at your highest level if the atmosphere is a bit
dead. Nothing to do with the facilities and playing conditions at the
South West Snooker Academy which are superb. It is no coincidence that
he lost in PTC1 to Dave Harold last month too because he can struggle
to find his rhythm against methodical players.
But Selby has only appeared in the league twice before making the
final in 2008 after earlier topping the group stage. What is key under
time pressure is having an idea what the correct shot is for the
layout of the table and the frame score before the balls come to rest.
He hasn't the quickest set up on the circuit but he sees the shot
quicker that anyone with the exception of the Rocket meaning he has
more time for his natural address. The 16/5 is far too big and won't
be around for long. Some other layers go as short as 5/2.
First on show here in these best of six matches are Ding Junhui who
takes on Shaun Murphy followed by Judd Trump up against Stephen Lee.
Ding blows a bit hot and cold sometimes and Shaun Murphy is playing
very well. He's been practising hard recently but readily admits he
had a few weeks off before the season's curtain raiser the Wuxi
Classic and it showed. But last month he did make the quarters of the
Goldfields Open in Australia. Also in PTC2 last weekend in Gloucester
he went down by the odd frame to eventual runner-up Stephen Maguire
who really impressed. In 2009 Murphy won the Premier League - the only
player to break O'Sullivan's stranglehold on the event.
So we'll have a small wager on Murphy to win the match at 9/5 with sportingbet.
In the second game we need to be wary of the odds-on Trump because he
will give Lee some chances so we'll leave it alone.This is Lee's first
appearance under the shot clock and it will help him that the format
is back to 25 seconds a shot rather than the 20 seconds in 2011. But
it does involve playing quickly even when it's not immediately
apparent what the best percentage shot is. In addition the league is a
cauldron-like atmosphere under which he will especially feel the heat.