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Snooker: Trump primed to shine in Turkey

The Turkish Masters joins the snooker calendar for the first time, with several big names set to be absent from the action in Antalya.

There have been some high-profile withdrawals in the build-up to the event, with Ronnie O'Sullivan, Neil Robertson and reigning world champion Mark Selby all electing to bypass the competition.
 
However, even without three of the world's top four, there is a strong representation heading to the Turkish holiday resort as they pursue a ranking prize and the winner’s share of £100,000 that comes with it.

Judd Trump, who returned to form with a run to the Welsh Open final, is 7/2 to take the honours, but there is plenty of competition in the 64-man event, with John Higgins a 5/1 chance and Chinese rising star Zhao Xintong a 8/1 shot.

World number five Kyren Wilson is available at 12/1, while the likes of Yan Bingtao, Mark Williams, Mark Allen and Ding Junhui are also involved.

Trump is Turkey's headline act

As is often the case, the qualifiers involving the top players have been held over until the event, but a best-of-nine format gives them a bit more margin for error.

Trump is going to have his supporters with three of the other big-four members missing, but his price looks short enough given his inconsistencies this season.

The Juddernaut also drops into a tricky fourth quarter providing he navigates his way past Michael Georgiou, with Mark Williams, Ricky Walden, Ali Carter, Luca Brecel and Joe Perry obvious dangers.

Trump would face Chris Wakelin in his first-round proper, but Perry, who also reached the Welsh Open final, would provide a serious test in the last 32.

If the world number three fails to fire in that section, then Walden could prosper.

The Chester cueman made the quarter-finals in Wales most recently, having defeated O'Sullivan in the last-16 and he finds himself 11th on the one-year ranking list after a successful season.

He is 6/1 to win that quarter and can be backed at 25/1 to win the event.

Zhao well drawn to put things right

Zhao Xintong failed to impress at the Welsh Open, but this slightly longer format should make him slightly less susceptible to a shock.

The Chinese cueman has risen to stardom this season with title triumphs at the UK Championship and German Masters and finds himself atop of the one-year rankings.

That shows he is holding his form well - his German Masters win was just over a month ago - and happens to have landed in the softest section of the draw again.

The left-hander, who is the tournament's eighth seed, kicks off against Michael White before a last-32 clash with either Matthew Selt or Alexander Ursenbacher.

There are few concerns for him there and, as he grows stronger as a tournament progresses, he should be confident of winning his quarter at the expense of Jack Lisowski, Lu Ning and Stephen Maguire.

Lisowski is an obvious threat after his recent run to the Welsh Open semi-finals, but he is hit-and-miss, so backing that up looks tough.

Zhao, however, has been a model of consistency this season and there are few that are as confident as him when in and amongst the balls.

He is 9/4 to win the first quarter and reach the semi-finals, but the 8/1 about him to go on and claim the silverware is the way to go.

Higgins has few concerns in second quarter

All eyes will be on John Higgins in the second quarter of the draw, with the legendary Scot hoping to claim a first ranking event title of the season and a 32nd of his career.

Higgins has been a beaten finalist on four occasions this season and looks the man to beat in his section given his excellent draw.

The Wizard of Wishaw opens up against Dylan Emery and his toughest game before the quarter-finals comes from one of two compatriots, Graeme Dott or Scott Donaldson.

Ding Junhui, Kyren Wilson or Anthony McGill could be lurking in the last four but, with some table time and a few wins under his belt, Higgins would be a warm order to prevail.

It therefore comes as no surprise to see Higgins chalked up at 6/4 to come through that quarter, while he is 5/1 to win the tournament, although could have to face Zhao in the semis.

Allen hoping for a change of fortune

There are some big names doing battle in the third quarter of the Turkish Masters draw, with Mark Allen, Yan Bingtao and Shaun Murphy among those scrapping for a place in the last four.

With Welsh Open semi-finalist Hossein Vafaei and classy Chinese duo Xiao Guodong and Cao Yupeng also in attendance, there is plenty for punters to think about.

Yan may have his supporters, but it is Allen who may hold strong claims.

The Northern Irish left-hander faces Welshman Jak Jones in his opener and would be fancied to have the beating of an out-of-form Murphy were they to clash in the last-16.

The Pistol, who reached the semi-finals of the German Masters at the end of January, has been hinting at a return to form and he could triumph in Turkey.

He is 10/3 to win the quarter and 12/1 to be crowned champion.

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