2011 World Snooker Championships
There’s been plenty of excitement in the first week of the World Snooker Championships at the Crucible with three of the matches going the full distance and the surprise first round elimination of the reigning champion.
There was always the potential for a giant killing in the opening match with the 2010 champion Neil Robertson facing the in-form Judd Trump. Trump emerged the 10-8 victor and has been cut to 11/1 to win the title; odds which will surely fall again should he beat Marco Fu’s conqueror, Martin Gould in round two.
Other than Robertson, the most high profile casualty of an intriguing week’s snooker was sixth seed Stephen Maguire, beaten in the deciding final frame by Barry Hawkins. Hawkins’ break of 92 in the nineteenth frame gave him his first win at the Crucible and the 31 year old is into 66/1 for the title.
Hawkins’ opponent in round two will be Mark Allen – another player who had to come from behind to win a final frame epic. My outside tip for the title, Matthew Stevens, led 9-6 before Allen’s super recovery saw him take the last four frames to edge out the 2000 and 2005 finalist.
Arguably the performance of the tournament so far was from Mark Selby, who thumped Jimmy Robertson 10-1 in his opening match. Selby now plays seven time champion Stephen Hendry who also had to win a deciding frame to book his place in round two. I can see Selby beating the Scot in the next round before a potential match with Ding Junhui or Stuart Bingham, by which time the 11/2 available on the 27 year old may look great value.
Three former champions also had comfortable routes into the last sixteen of the tournament. Whether Ronnie O’Sullivan genuinely believes he can win the title is questionable, but he saw off Dominic Dale with relative ease. O’Sullivan has a tough challenge next, however, as he faces 2005 champ Shaun Murphy who demolished Marcus Campbell 10-1. If the real O’Sullivan turns up it could be a memorable match; if he doesn’t, the 12/1 on Murphy to win his second title will surely tumble.
Mark Williams is the 5/1 third favourite for the title and looked comfortable in his 10-5 win over Ryan Day. Williams faces Jamie Cope next, although to progress to the final the Welshman is likely to have to beat O’Sullivan or John Higgins. That could be a tall order, even for the two time champion.
I tipped Graeme Dott at 28/1 as one to watch this year and the Scot faces Ali Carter in a second round match that looks too close to call. I backed Dott at 28/1 and if he can get past Carter he’ll face an unseeded player in the quarter finals, and will see his odds fall to single figures.
It could be the closest World Championships in years. The bookies can barely separate the top five in the betting and with a number of dangerous outsiders also in the mix, there look set to be plenty of twists and turns in Sheffield before the final on the 1st and 2nd of May.