The China Open starts in the early hours of Monday. It’s the last tournament before the World Championships and the penultimate competition of the 2018/19 season. It’s also a ‘biggie’ with players squabbling over a £1 million prize-pool. For many journeyman pros this will be their last opportunity to make money to see them through the barren summer months and, at the very least, an appearance in the ‘last 32’ will net them £11,000 apiece which will more than enough to cover the flight and hotel costs.
The outright destination of the trophy looks between Judd Trump and Neil Robertson to me (King Ronnie is not taking part). However, the best bet comes amongst the opening round matches where Lu Ning is definitely over-priced to beat Barry Hawkins (at 2.30am on Tuesday).
I’m a longstanding and more recently long-suffering Hawkins fan but he’s had a dire season. He’s been eliminated in his opening match in half of the last 12 ranking tournaments he has played. You probably don’t know Ning but he made the fourth round of both the Northern Ireland Open and UK Championship. Recently he’s made the quarter-final of the Indian Open (beating Stuart Bingham in the third round) and less than a fortnight ago he was a semi-finalist in the Gibraltar Open. He looks a player that’s going places and before a home audience he can most definitely give a pretty hopeless Barry Hawkins something to think about.
In receipt of a 2.5+ fame start on the handicap, Ning only needs to win four of a potential 11 frames against the ailing Brit. That’s an even-money proposition at Paddy Power and an excellent bet.
If you’re a little greedier, Ning is 11/4 with Paddy Power to win the match outright. Like we say, definitely over priced.