By Steve Dixon
International sports and gaming freelance blogger
We’ve seen some surprise event winners since the start of the 2014-15 snooker season in May. Peter Lines winning the Pink Ribbon pro-am was seen by some as an unexpected result back in June, and not many expected Stephen Maguire’s recent win at the Six Red World Championship in Bangkok, either. But this past weekend at the Shanghai Masters, we witnessed perhaps the biggest surprise of the season thus far when both Stuart Bingham and Mark Allen reached the final ahead of other significant favourites.
As written after the semi-final recap, Bingham and Allen overcame early deficits against defending champion Ding Junhui and Mark Selby, respectively. On Sunday, Bingham ran away with the Shanghai Masters final by a score of 10-3, giving him his first title of the year and sending him into next month’s events in Bulgaria and China with some strong momentum.
But did this past weekend’s surprising Shanghai Masters event alter the outlook for the remainder of the season? Here’s a look at where Bingham and Allen stand in the eyes of the oddsmakers, whose job it is to determine and hedge the likeliest winners for the 2014-15 Masters season.
The Masters snooker odds listed within the Betfair sports section currently show Mark Allen right in the mix with the favourites. Allen is sitting in a three-way tie for sixth best odds to win the Masters this season (alongside Shaun Murphy and Barry Hawkins), with chances listed between 18/1 and 19/1. A win on Sunday would have likely catapulted Allen into the top-five, and we’d probably be talking about him this week as one player with a true shot at taking the season’s title. As things stand now, however, Ronnie O’Sullivan (12/5), Mark Selby (11/2), Neil Robertson (11/2), Ding Junhui (13/2), and Judd Trump (10/1) remain above Allen in making up the top-five.
Stuart Bingham, meanwhile, has more work to do before he’s considered a serious Masters contender. Even after Sunday’s title in Shanghai, Bingham is listed with only 35/1 odds to win the season. While these numbers don’t necessarily make him too much of a long shot to have a realistic opportunity to compete, they do show that the oddsmakers see more than 10 players ahead of Bingham. This, of course, coupled with Ballrun’s Shanghai success, highlights the strength in-depth currently on the Main Tour.
The Snooker.org world snooker rankings paint a similar, though not identical, picture for Sunday’s finalists. Updated after the Shanghai Masters, the world rankings have Allen listed at eighth, a weaker position than the betting odds suggest. Bingham sits at 10th, which is in the same general range as the odds. This is not a dramatically different picture than the one entering the Shanghai Masters.
All things considered, this past weekend offered a wonderful moment for Stuart Bingham, who captured his second ranking event title at the age of 38. However, it showed no real signs that the outlook for the season favourites has changed. Despite faltering in the semi-finals, both Selby and Ding were in the thick of the competition, as they and their fellow top-five players figure to be throughout the season. With a little bit of further consistency, however, Allen could work his way into the conversation.