UK Championship Snooker 2017
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The new snooker season is well under way with the China Open as the regular curtain raiser offering its share of entertainment along with some surprise results along the way. Players will already have one eye on the World Championships next April but before that, another major event is on the horizon.
The UK Snooker Championship has been held since 1977 and it is the second highest ranking tournament on the circuit. Currently sponsored by Betway, Mark Selby is the reigning Champion having defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2016’s final and the ‘Jester from Leicester’ is favourite to repeat that triumph next time around.
When this event was first held, it was only open to British residents and holders of British passports but with snooker gaining in popularity, that situation was due to change. Known initially as the United Kingdom Professional Snooker Championship, its original rules led to some unfamiliar winners including the first champion Patsy Fagan in 1977.
That first championship was held at the Tower Circus in Blackpool but in 1978, the tournament began a long spell at the Preston Guild Hall. The ‘UKs’ moved to the Barbican Centre in York from 2001 to 2006 and following a five year stint at the Telford International Centre, the competition is back at the Barbican once again.
Steve Davis won his first UK title in 1980 and there was a memorable victory for Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins who defeated Davis in the 1983 final.
A year later in 1984, the rules were changed and all professional snooker players were eligible to enter and from that point the event carried more ranking points than all other tournaments bar the World Championship itself. Davis went on to claim six titles and he holds the record for UK wins, one ahead of his great rival Stephen Hendry with five.
In the present day, Mark Selby has two UK titles but Ronnie O’Sullivan is level with Hendry on five wins and could yet match Steve Davis’ all time record.
Ante Post betting markets have been published for the 2017 tournament some way in advance and they show Selby leading the way at an industry best of 4/1 with SportingBet. Behind the front runner, O’Sullivan is ranked at 6/1 with SportingBet to record his sixth UK title while Judd Trump can also be picked up at that same 6/1 price with bet365 and Sun Bets.
It’s very early in the season and difficult to judge form at this point but if you were looking at results from the 2016/17 campaign, it would be hard to argue with Selby as the market leader. The World Number One currently holds the two biggest ranking titles in the game, following up his UK victory with a battling 18-15 win over John Higgins at the Crucible in May.
With O’Sullivan, you never know what you are going to get and that’s an assessment that has held true for most of the latter part of his career. Capable of winning all the top events, a defeat at the China Open at the hands of Luca Brecel underlines his vulnerability.
Trump, meanwhile, is another player in the O’Sullivan mould: A former World Number One, the left hander is now ranked three in the game and is a former champion of this UK event, having beaten Mark Allen in the final in 2011. However, inconsistency dogs his performances and few will back the joint second favourite with any real confidence.
The Chasing Pack
The UK Championship saw its first overseas champion in 2005 when China’s Ding Junhui denied Steve Davis a seventh title with a 10-6 victory in the final. Ding followed up that success with a second UK win in 2009 and he leads the chasing pack for 2017 at best odds of 10/1 with Sun Bets.
Elsewhere, John Higgins is a three time winner of this event and the Scot’s consistency will tempt many at his top price of 12/1 with SportingBet in the outright markets. Other names to watch here could include Shaun Murphy at 22/1 with bet365, Neil Robertson at 12/1 with Sun Bets and as an outside punt, Antony McGill is a rising star in the game and looks exceptional value at 80/1 with SkyBet.
At the time of writing in 2017, only outright winner markets had been published for the UK Championship but as the tournament draws closer there will be plenty of additional side bets. Betting on who will reach the final is a popular market and it should also be possible to speculate on who will hit the highest break and whether there will be a 147 maximum break in the tournament.
As snooker’s second biggest ranking tournament draws closer, we will have had a chance to assess who is in the best form leading up to the event and at that time we will bring you a full preview of all the runners and riders. Can Ronnie O’Sullivan match Steve Davis’ record of six wins or will Mark Selby make it back to back victories?
Can Ding Junhui make it three wins or will we get a surprise from among the outside bets? With the 2017 UK Championship set to take place in York from the 28th of November to the 10th of December, we don’t have too much longer to wait before we find the answers to all these questions.