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Aaron Ashley's World Snooker Championship first-round tips: Ding Jungui, Jak Jones & Jamie Jones all feature

The World Snooker Championship kicks off with defending champion Luca Brecel bringing up the curtain on Saturday morning and Aaron Ashley is here to provide his best bets for the opening round of matches.

Aaron Ashley's World Snooker Championship first-round tips

Jak Jones to beat Zhang Anda @ 13/8
Ding Junhui to beat Jack Lisowski @ 4/6
Jamie Jones +3.5 frames on handicap v John Higgins @ 4/5

World Championship

Setting the scene…

Another World Championship is upon us and all eyes will be on Ronnie O'Sullivan as he bids to claim a record-breaking eighth Crucible crown and, in the process, become only the fourth player to win all three Triple Crown events in a single season.

Along with Judd Trump, the Rocket has been the form player of the campaign and, having already secured the UK Championship and Masters, he is 9/4 to add the Sheffield showpiece to his list of accolades.

O'Sullivan opens up against Jackson Page and could be in line to meet Trump, who takes on Hossein Vafaei in his curtain-raiser, in what would be a blockbuster semi-final.

As is tradition, reigning champion Brecel gets the tournament underway against Dave Gilbert and that is one of a number of mouth-watering first-round ties that also include Ding Junhui versus Jack Lisowski, Barry Hawkins against Ryan Day and Gary Wilson facing Stuart Bingham.

Jak Jones to beat Zhang Anda @ 13/8

Only four of the 16 qualifiers won their opening-round match at last year's World Championship but Jak Jones was one of them as he upset Ali Carter in a 10-6 victory.

Jones went on to make the quarter-final, beating Neil Robertson 13-7 in the last 16 before bumping into Mark Allen in a 13-10 defeat.

That highlights what the Welshman is capable of achieving and, on the back of convincing qualifying wins over compatriot Jamie Clarke and Zhou Yuelong, he should be feeling pretty confident about where his game is currently at.

This looks like a good draw for him against Zhang Anda who, despite being a seed, is making his first World Championship appearance since 2016.

The Chinese cueman has had an excellent season, winning the International Championship and finishing runner-up at the Players Championship and English Open, but his three Crucible appearances have all ended at the first hurdle.

Aaron Ashley's Tip:

A 10-4 win over the dangerous Yuelong in his final qualifier should have set Jones up nicely for a first-round showdown with Anda and at 13/8 he makes plenty of punting appeal.

The Welshman reeled off breaks of 126, 98, 93, 88, 84 and 81 in that drubbing of Yuelong and he may be able to settle better than Anda, who is seeded at the Crucible for the first time ever.

The Chinese player was beaten 10-8 by Gary Wilson in the Tour Championship most recently and he's not been involved at the Sheffield showpiece since 2016.

Jones knows he has what it takes to claim a prized scalp and his excellent temperament could help him get the better of Anda, who lost 4-1 when they locked horns at the Welsh Open in February.

Ding Junhui to beat Jack Lisowski @ 4/6

This is one of the matches of the round as the rejuvenated Ding meets Lisowski, who had been a seed in each of the last five seasons.

A poor campaign has seen Lisowski drop out of the world's top 16 and he is one of the players most would have wanted to avoid given his immense talent.

In qualifying, Jackpot looked back to his best as he defeated Liu Hongyu 10-4 courtesy of four centuries before posting breaks of 137 and 100 in a 10-3 thrashing of Matthew Stevens.

The problem for Lisowski is that Ding has had his best season for some time and looks to have all his belief restored following runner-up efforts at the UK Championship and most recently the World Open.

Aaron Ashley's Tip:

Lisowski is a serious threat but he still looks a tad overrated in the market given Ding is fifth on the one-year money list and has been holding his form consistently well.

There are few better than the Chinese player at break-building when his game is on song and, having finished runner-up to Trump at the World Open at the end of March, that appears to be the case.

Ding has won all three meetings with Lisowski and this is a contest that ought to suit him as neither player will want to get embroiled in safety battles. At 4/6, he still represents value.

Jamie Jones +3.5 frames on handicap v John Higgins @ 4/5 

Higgins is a four-time world champion, as well as a four-time runner-up, and he rarely disappoints at the Crucible having made at least the quarter-final in seven of the last eight years.

The Wizard of Wishaw may find a way to advance but he shouldn't be taking the challenge of Jamie Jones lightly.

Jones caused a real stir in qualifying as he came from 8-5 down to defeat Neil Robertson 10-9 and a reproduction of that performance would see him push Higgins close.

Aaron Ashley's Tip:

Higgins is 1/4 to book his place in the second round and, while that may well happen, those odds appear to be on the skinny side.

Jones' comeback win over Robertson should have given him plenty of confidence and he is a former World Championship quarter-finalist, so knows he has what it takes to upset the applecart.

The Welshman has won his opening game at the Crucible in two of his last three visits, upsetting Shaun Murphy in 2018 and Stephen Maguire in 2021, while he pushed Selby close in a 10-7 loss in 2022.

With all considered, a handicap start of +3.5 at 4/5 may seriously undermine his chances.

Aaron Ashley's World Snooker Championship first-round tips

Jak Jones to beat Zhang Anda @ 13/8
Ding Junhui to beat Jack Lisowski @ 4/6
Jamie Jones +3.5 frames on handicap v John Higgins @ 4/5

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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