The Betfred.com World Snooker Championship gets underway at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield this weekend.
The event is snooker’s greatest tournament, carrying more prize money, ranking points and prestige than any other. Staged at the Crucible since 1977, it’s a marathon affair which runs for 17 days, and is a true test of the best players’ skill and endurance. Australian Neil Robertson won the title last year and is attempting to break the Curse of the Crucible by becoming the only first-time winner to successfully defend his crown.
So who are the players that we should be watching next week? Sportsnewsireland gives readers the lowdown on the likely winners and losers over the next two weeks:
Mark Williams has to be backed to win the World Championship at 17/2 with Boylesports. The former double world champion had a quiet few seasons before returning to something like his best form last season. He has climbed back up to number two in the world rankings and comes into this tournament in excellent form,having recently won the German Masters. Williams also reached the final of the UK Championship before losing out to John Higgins. With a decent draw in Sheffield,he should reach the semi finals at the very least and will trade much shorter at that point. If both players get that far,Williams should face Higgins in the last four but he will not fear the Scot despite his recent reversal. Either way,it is difficult to see Williams going out before the semi’s.
On the other side of the draw, Ding Junhui is the recommendation at 9/1. The Chinese player has been promising to deliver a world championship in recent seasons and the gods have been kind to him in 2011.Although he is drawn on the same side as Neil Robertson,there is little else to fear in this section. Already the winner of the Wembley Masters this season,the man from the Far East is a classy player on his day and everything looks to have fallen for him this time round. He can make the quarter-finals at the very least and once he build up some momentum,anything is possible from there. At the prices, Ding Junhui is certainly the value bet in his half.
Those that fancy the two selections to make the final, could do worse than take a look at Skybet’s offer of 20/1 on that pairing meeting in the decider. Although it will take plenty of luck along the way, it is not impossible and will give supporters a run for their money as the tournament progresses.
Ronnie O’Sullivan continues to be the great enigma of the current game. The Liverpool player is unquestionably one of the greatest exponents that snooker has ever produced. His form going into this event is anything but impressive, having been knocked out in the first round of his last four competitions. At 8/1 he is better value than he has been for this event in many years but obviously the formbook backs up the current price. It is possible that with less pressure on his shoulders this time around, we could see the real Ronnie in action. As ever,it depends on the players mindset over the two weeks. If he returns to form then 8/1 will look massive by the end of the event but at present it is difficult to recommend a bet. Fans of the player are advised to have a small interest in the 7/1 Boylesports offer on O’Sullivan to make a 147 break. While his overall form may not be good enough to take the title,he is easily capable of a maximum break and the odds are fair.
World Champion, Neil Robertson will have to defy history to become the first maiden winner to successfully defend his crown. While that is a big ask,the Australian is certainly capable of making a bold bid and the 9/4 on offer about Robertson winning the 1st Quarter of the draw is worth taking with Boyles. Robertson should prove too strong for Judd Trump in his opening match and then faces the winner of Marco Fu and Martin Gould in the second round. The former has been woefully out of form this season and Gould may be Robertson’s opponent. It was a close fought 13-12 win for Robertson in last year’s encounter and Gould could pose problems. However, if he gets over this hurdle, the Aussie would have to be fancied and at 9/4 he represents good value.
Mark Williams(15/2 ,Boylesports) and Ding Junhai(9/1,Betfair) to win outright(split stakes)
Williams/Junahi Final (20/1Skybet)
Ronnie O’Sullivan to make 147 break (7/1,Boylesports)
Neil Robertson to win 1st Quarter of Draw (9/4 Boylesports)
Betfred.com World Championship Draw
The complete first round draw
Neil Robertson v Judd Trump
Marco Fu v Martin Gould
Graeme Dott v Mark King
Ali Carter v Dave Harold
Ding Junhui v Jamie Burnett
Peter Ebdon v Stuart Bingham
Stephen Hendry v Joe Perry
Mark Selby v Jimmy Robertson
Mark Williams v Ryan Day
Jamie Cope v Andrew Pagett
Mark Allen v Matthew Stevens
Stephen Maguire v Barry Hawkins
Shaun Murphy v Marcus Campbell
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Dominic Dale
Ricky Walden v Rory McLoed
John Higgins v Stephen Lee