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Scottish Open preview: Judd Trump tuning up for timely treble

The Scottish Open, the third of four Home Nations Series events this season, gets underway in Edinburgh on Monday and Judd Trump will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of wins following successes at the English and Northern Ireland equivalents.

Trump has been one of the standout players so far this season, highlighted by three title triumphs which include those first two Home Nations tournaments, and he will be a leading contender to go in again at the Meadowbank Sports Centre.

The Ace in the Pack is 4/1 favourite to land the Scottish Open, a tournament which still eludes him, but it is Gary Wilson that is the defending champion and, therefore, top seed.

Wilson defeated Joe O'Connor 9-2 in a surprise final to claim his maiden ranking event title and, as a result, he has risen up to 20th in the world rankings.

It will be a tall order for him to defend his crown in a field that is also set to feature UK Championship winner Ronnie O'Sullivan and two-time Scottish Open winner Mark Selby.

The Rocket is 5/1 to build on his recent heroics in York, while Selby, champion in 2019 and 2020, is a 7/1 chance.

Mark Allen, John Higgins and Ding Junhui are all available at 14/1 and are three players in excellent touch that will be hopeful of making their presence felt.

Trump eyeing elusive hat-trick

Given the early best-of-seven format, which continues until the quarter-final when it changes to a best-of-nine, it would be a remarkable achievement were Trump to win a third Home Nations event of the season.

Having also made the semi-final of the UK Championship last time out, Trump will fancy his chance of regaining the winning thread, but his draw could have been kinder.

An opening-round showdown with Zhang Anda, who he defeated 9-7 in the English Open final earlier in the season, is a match-up thwarted with danger.

Even if Trump wins that, he could meet last season’s World Championship semi-finalist Si Jiahui in round two before a last-16 showdown with good friend Jack Lisowski.

That makes him easy to oppose given quotes of 4/1, although he is in the right half of the draw with last season’s winner Wilson the top seed.

Being in the top half means avoiding O’Sullivan, Higgins, Ding, Luca Brecel, Barry Hawkins and Shaun Murphy, so it may be the place to be.

Vafaei looks a lively outsider

In that case, there has to be hope that Hossein Vafaei can enjoy a deep run given his draw and recent form.

Vafaei pulled out of the Snooker Shoot Out through illness but that may be no bad thing given how busy the current calendar is.

Prior to that, though, the Iranian made the semi-final of the UK Championship, where he defeated Murphy, Matthew Selt and Anda before bumping into eventual winner O’Sullivan.

He faces Daniel Wells in his qualifier before a potential meeting with Thor Chuan Leong in the first round proper.

Ryan Day, seeded 17th, could be lurking in round two while reigning champion Wilson or  Joe O'Connor are potential last-16 opponents.

However, if producing his UK Championship performance, Vafaei could take some stopping in that mini-section of the draw, making a quarter-final spot up for grabs.

He has twice been a semi-finalist at the Welsh Open, as well as reaching the last four of the British Open earlier in this campaign, so he is knocking at the door. 

Odds of 28/1 may seriously underestimate him.

Brecel looks set for a positive display

The bottom half of the draw looks quite competitive with O’Sullivan, fresh from his record-extending eighth title at the UK Championship, likely to get plenty of support.

If in the mood to perform, which is not always the case with the Rocket nowadays, he could take some stopping with a nice early draw.

However, there are some potential obstacles in the way with Hawkins likely to be waiting in round three and Selby on course to clash with him in the quarter-final.

That means the fourth and final quarter could be the place to look for each-way value and second seed Brecel must make some appeal at 14/1.

The Belgian Bullet is the reigning world champion and he has previous in the Home Nations Series, having won the Scottish Open in 2022 and finished runner-up at the English Open last season.

Brecel faces inexperienced Ukrainian Iulian Boiko in his qualifier, James Cahill in round one and then could meet either Martin O'Donnell or Jamie Clarke in the last 32, so he should be able to go on a deep run. 

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