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English Open Preview: Robertson in shape for title defence

The penultimate Home Nations Series event starts at the Brentwood Centre on Monday with the return of the English Open, as Australian ace Neil Robertson bids to defend his crown.

Robertson finished runner-up to Judd Trump in this event in 2020 after going down in a final-frame epic, but went one better last season as he overhauled John Higgins in another 9-8 thriller.

Although now switching venues from the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes to Essex's Brentwood Centre, Robertson is 4/1 to make it a successful title defence.

However, all the big names will be competing alongside Robertson as Ronnie O'Sullivan, winner of this event in 2017, is 5/1 for glory and 2020 champion Trump is an 11/2 shot.

World number three Mark Selby claimed the English Open trophy in 2019 and is 11/1 to land the honours again, with Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen and Higgins all available at 16/1.

The first event of the quadruple mini-series was the Northern Ireland Open and that was also won by local hero Allen, while there was a big upset in the recent Scottish Open as 150/1 shot Gary Wilson defeated Joe O'Connor, who had been 400/1 pre-tournament, in an unexpected title decider.

What: English Open
Where: Brentwood Centre, Essex, England
When: Monday 12th December - Sunday 18th December 2022
How to watch: Eurosport and bet365 Sports Live Streaming
Odds: Neil Robertson 4/1, Ronnie O'Sullivan 5/1, Judd Trump 11/2, Mark Selby 11/1, Kyren Wilson 16/1

Robertson a worthy tournament fancy

Despite the size of the field and the early best-of-seven format, this is a tournament that tends to go to one of the elite and Robertson is certainly the right market leader.

Runner-up in 2020, Robertson went one better last year and confidence should be restored after his recent run to the Scottish Open semi-final.

Robertson was the subject of a big surprise when beaten by O'Connor in that last-four duel but the Aussie had previously overcome the likes of Mark Selby, Anthony McGill and Joe Perry in Edinburgh.

It is also worth noting that Robbo mustered nine centuries across his six games in Scotland so is evidently playing well and makes most appeal out of the market protagonists.

Qualifiers are held over until the venue for the seeded stars, but Robertson should have few worries against Andrew Pagett and that would see him land in a nice section of the draw.

The 40-year-old would then face Lei Peifan before meeting Elliott Slessor, which would ensure him a place in the last-16. From there with a few matches under his belt, he would take some stopping.

The form of O'Sullivan's early exit to Wilson in the Scottish Open looks better now given the Geordie cueman went on to take the title.

However, he was blitzed 6-0 by Ding Junhui in the quarter-final of the UK Championship prior to that which highlights just how difficult he is to predict, and why he is best left alone at 5/1.

Trump has had a stop-start season and there is nothing easy about his qualifying clash with Jackson Page, while the same can be said of Selby, whose showdown with Noppon Saengkham is laden with danger. Those two are, therefore, also best watched.

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Jackpot's big day is edging nearer

It has yet to happen for the dangerous Jack Lisowski, but his early-season performances suggest his turn is edging ever nearer.

The 31-year-old has made six ranking finals in his career and been beaten on every occasion, but there appears to be renewed focus and belief since he has started to work alongside Peter Ebdon.

Despite his poor record in finals, there is no reason to doubt Lisowksi's temperament and he is certainly due a change of fortune.

Jackpot made the semi-final of the UK Championship in November, losing 6-5 to eventual champion Allen despite once leading 5-3, while the poor scheduling was his undoing at the Scottish Open most recently.

Having defeated Ali Carter 4-3 in the last-32 contest earlier in the afternoon, Lisowski had to come back in the evening for his last-16 encounter with Selby, who had had all day to prepare, and was ultimately beaten 4-2.

But he showed enough in those efforts to suggest he is holding his form well and at 22/1 bettors should keep the faith in a player who looks destined to break his duck sooner or later.

A qualifying contest with Sean O'Sullivan holds few concerns and this snappy format is one that should suit the attacking nature of Lisowski's game.

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