World Snooker Championship preview
It’s that time of year again when 32 of the world’s leading snooker players head to Sheffield for the World Snooker Championships. With no one individual dominating the sport it’s as open a field as the Crucible has seen in recent years.
Can the number one seed and reigning champion John Higgins retain his title? Or will a new name be added to the Crucible hall of fame?
After six months out of the sport, John Higgins has enjoyed a great couple of years. After returning from suspension in late 2010 he followed up his wins at the UK Championship and the Welsh Open by taking the world title for the fourth time. Higgins was the 5/1 favourite when the tournament started last year and can be backed at 8/1 this time around.
2010 champion Neil Robertson is a 15/2 chance and the Australian is in good form after his win at the Masters early in 2012. Seeded six, the 30 year old is likely to have to overcome Mark Williams or Ronnie O’Sullivan to reach the semi-final, but I fancy his chances.
Mark Selby is available at 9/1 and looks to have a relatively straightforward route to the quarter finals. The Leicester born player’s world ranking has gradually been improving over the years but it’s worth remembering that he’s only won two major ranking tournaments in his career. He did reach the World final in 2007, though.
Of course, when considering the favourites for the World Championship it is impossible to rule out Ronnie O’Sullivan. Arguably the most talented player of his generation, the Rocket has never quite lived up to his huge promise, despite winning three world titles.
O’Sullivan is 7/1 for the title, and faces his old adversary Peter Ebdon in round one. Ebdon has twice beaten O’Sullivan in Sheffield and the 41-year-old goes into the tournament in a rich vein of form, having won the China Open last month. It could be a tricky opening match for the 14th seed.
It’s also worth mentioning last year’s runner up Judd Trump. The current UK champion goes into this tournament as the 5/1 favourite and the 22 year old could well go one better this year.
There are four Chinese challengers in this year’s World Championships and Ding Junhui looks to have the best chance of success. Seeded seven, the 25 year old was a semi-finalist at the Crucible last year and has had a decent run over recent months. He reached the quarter finals of the UK Championships, the semi finals of the China Open and won the Welsh Open as well as losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the Premier League.
At 11/1, Ding Junhui offers great each-way value.
Belgian teenager Luca Brecel will become the youngest player ever to appear at the World Championships after he beat world number 31 Mark King 10-8 in the final round of qualifying. The 17 year old is 150/1 to take the title but will have to go better than the four previous 17-year-olds to appear at the Crucible, who all lost in the first round.
Seven-time world champion Stephen Hendry will compete at the Crucible for a 27th consecutive year after beating Yu Delu in the final round of qualifying. The 43 year old is 100/1 to take his eighth title but could cause an upset by beating 16th seed Stuart Bingham in round one. If he does win, Hendry is likely to face fellow Scot John Higgins in round two.