Davis has no chance of stopping the Rocket lifting off in Coventry

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The Ricoh Arena opens its doors for the fourth night of the Champion of Champions with the winner of Group 1 to be decided. Four players have been split in two matches with the victor from each facing one and other for a chance to progress to Saturday’s semi-finals. Below is a preview of the second of those clashes.

Of all the players in attendance at the Ricoh Arena this week none can claim to be more deserving of a place in a tournament named the Champion of Champions than Ronnie O’Sullivan. The much-loved maestro, who successfully defended his World Championship crown in typically bloodless style this year is long odds on for his tournament opener against Mark Davis, and rightfully so.

O’Sullivan’s comeback victory at the Crucible back in May – he hadn’t played a competitive match for five months – provided further evidence of his genius at a time where few are left who feel they need to look for it.

It all spells bad news for world number 16 Mark Davis who couldn’t have hand-picked a harder group. If he was to win this match it would likely lead to a showdown with the game’s most in-form player in Ding Junhui, but that looks like a problem the Sussex cuesmith won’t have to deal with.

Along with Shaun Murphy, Davis didn’t qualify for the event like the rest of the field by winning one of the recognised events and instead filled one of the last berths due to his ranking. Three semi-final runs last season at the Australian Goldfields Open, Wuxi Classic and UK Championship rewarded the 40-year-old for his admirable resilience, despite going through some difficult years in the game, and his involvement in events like this confirms a remarkable turnaround in his career.

However, O’Sullivan represents the type of challenge that despite all of Davis’ experience he is unlikely to be able to cope with. The Essex potter was actually slammed in their first ever meeting at the Scottish Open 12 years ago but in their two encounters since, including at Event 1 of the European Tour this year, he has won both and a consolidation of that superiority is on the cards.

O’Sullivan has reached a semi-final, a final and secured a win in half of the six European Tour events this year, and although he suffered an inexplicable defeat to Liang Wenbo when only one frame away from victory in the last-32 at the International Championship, he has shown more than enough in competitions that he has openly said he doesn’t rate to warrant support in a tournament that he openly says he does.

No-one will be retiring early backing odds of 2/7 on The Rocket winning the match and so the advice is to split stakes on the best player to ever grace the baize to win 4-1, at 5/2, or 4-2, at 3/1. Davis has enough about him to get on the board but even in this perilously short format the class of a man, who looks like he is playing a different game to the likes of Davis sometimes, will soon tell.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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