The first round of the Crucible is notorious for upsets and shocks and we believe this year will be no different. With a host of the market leaders showing a consistent level of inconsistency, many of the qualifiers will be arriving with real belief they can run deep into the tournament.
Martin Gould looked in excellent touch when he reeled off six consecutive frames to dismiss the dangerous Chinese Bai Langning, 10-5 from 5-4 down, in the final round of qualifying and his reward is a first round tie against Masters Champion Yan Bingtao.
Bingtao has the edge in the safety department but Goulds break building is far superior and over the longer format we believe he’ll convert enough chances to cause a minor upset at 13/8.
Matthew Selt could run Barry Hawkins close, while the enigmatic Kurt Maflin could make Mark Selby sweat in their opener.
However of the lesser fancied players Chris Wakelin looks a superb play at 2/1 to dismiss David Gilbert in the first round. Gilbert admits he has struggled greatly in the pandemic and his fragility has been brought to bear on his performances this year which have yielded only one quarter final win.
He looks susceptible to Wakelin who produced some excellent performances to see off Matthew Stevens and Xiao Guodong in qualifying to cement only his second World Championship appearance.
The bookies are struggling to split rivals in plenty of these matches, and of those Ricky Walden should continue his climb back up the rankings following an injury plagued couple of years. Anthony McGill stands in his way but should Walden replicate the form that saw him blitz Ryan Day in the last round of qualifying he should have too much for the likeable Scot.
The treble could get us off in a baize of glory as the waistcoats take centre stage for the next 17 days.
1pt treble Martin Gould, Chris Wakelin & Ricky Walden to win their first round matches, c15/1.
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