So after a 3 month season hiatus the Snooker World Championships kicks off this weekend in a much changed setting albeit still at the Crucible Theatre.
With so many sporting events going by the wayside in these unheralded times the Snooker authorities were quick to move the date of their blue riband event with a limited number of spectators set to attend.
What it leaves us with is a championship which has many unknowns given the lack of recent form.
That being said prior to the lockdown last years winner Judd Trump was showing a level of consistency and maturity that solidified his place at the head of the rankings. The mercurial talisman made short work of the opposition last year and on all form he is a worthy favourite at 11/4.
Indeed with so many of his rivals struggling for any type of form he looks overpriced to break the Crucible hoodoo of no first time winner retaining their crown.
The draw of Tom Ford up first and then a potential tie with Yan Bingtao could have been kinder but that will not worry Trump who has already claimed a remarkable 5 ranking titles in this truncated season. The last of which at the Players championship saw him swathe away Bingtao 10-4 in the final.
On all evidence Trump looks set to add numerous World Titles over the coming years and 11/4 looks a smashing price for him to do so this year. With a smaller crowd the tension will be slightly less – something that may have affected his game somewhat over the years.
On the other side of the draw Shaun Murphy looks a massive price at 18/1 to make a run to the final. With two titles and another two final appearances to his name this year the former World Champion is showing the benefit of a move to Dublin and practicing regularly with Fergal O’Brien.
In a recent interview Murphy admitted as much; saying some tactical changes and a better frame of mind have seen him approach the game with a renewed zest.
There will be plenty of first round shocks as ring rusty top 16 players fall to qualifiers who have had three matches to get here and we will look to pick out the value there.
But for outright look no further than Trump to retain the crown and Murphy as a viable alternative on the other side of the draw.
2 pt win on Judd Trump @ 11/4
0.5 pt e.w. on Shaun Murphy @ 18/1
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