It’s Triple Crown time in York this weekend as the 46th edition of the UK Championship heads back to the Barbican Centre.
It’s the first Triple Crown event of the 2022-23 season, giving the stars of the World Snooker Tour the first chance to stamp their mark on the campaign.
Zhao Xintong heads north as the reigning UK champion, still revelling in last year’s 10-5 destruction of Luca Brecel following a run to the final that included victories over John Higgins, Jack Lisowski and Barry Hawkins.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, unsurprisingly, heads to York as a 9/2 fav with bet365, buoyed by his historical success at the UK Championship winning seven crowns following his first win in 1993.
But the usual suspects of Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Judd Trump will be nipping at his heels as they look to add to their six titles combined.
The top 16 in the world have been fast-tracked through to the last 32 in a format revamp this season, but there is still plenty of wiggle room for some shocks and upsets at the 2022 UK Championship.
“Rocket” Ronnie steaming towards an eighth?
When it comes to the blue-ribboned events on the World Snooker Tour, then Ronnie O’Sullivan is still the man leading the pack.
Sure, he’s 46 now, but age seems only a number when you’re on the baize.
The “Rocket” has been handed Welshman Matthew Stevens in the opening round – the winner from 2003 – but now at No. 60 in the world is more miss than hit on the table.
O’Sullivan has already won the Hong Kong Masters and Champion of Champions titles in 2022 and should be favoured in the bottom half of the draw.
A semi-final thriller against his old mate Neil Robertson looks well on the cards deeper into next week.
Mark Allen the best priced option?
Mark Allen has won the Northern Ireland Open and finished runner-up at the British Open already this season and comes to the UK Championship in fine form.
The Northern Irishman will have to negate Jordan Brown in his opener before a probable Last 16 thriller against Kyren Wilson.
If Allen can find his rhythm early then there is no reason why he can’t steam-roller his way to another final – he has twice finished runner-up at the UK Championship in 2011 and 2018.
Can any of the underdogs bite at the Barbican?
Hossein Vafaei may have been handed Mark Selby in the opening round, but if you are going to win a title you have to be prepared to beat everyone, right?
At 66/1 the popular Iranian may be worth a small stake as he looks to build on his heroics at the Snooker Shootout earlier in the year.
He’s an extremely aggressive player and with short races to six frames in the earlier stages who says the “Prince of Persia” can’t roll into some form?
Elsewhere Jack Lisowski is still awaiting a big win on the tour.
The world No. 12 is a multi-runner-up at a number of events and will be wanting to squash the tag of the bridesmaid as soon as possible. 40/1 says he breaks his duck in York.
* Betting odds correct at the time of publication. All odds are subject to changes.