Live on Eurosport: Sat 10.00: Former Talksport man Charlie McCann previews the upcoming World Snooker Championships.
The highlight of the snooker year the World Snooker Championships starts at the Crucible Sheffield on Saturday morning with holder Aussie Neil Robertson beginning his defence against the hugely talented Judd Trump. Bristol-based left-hander Trump is now ranked 14 in the world following his maiden title when he defeated Mark Selby 10-8 in the China Open final in Beijing at the beginning of the month.
Trump was only 14 when he became the youngest player in history (beating Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record) to hit a maximum break and he is just beginning to find his feet amongst the sport’s elite. Some will suggest that his aggressive attacking game is ideal for Robertson but I’m not convinced.
The world Champion couldn’t have had a more difficult first round opponent and in the back of his mind he will be well aware of the appalling record first time winners have when they return to the Crucible. Legends of the game including Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry have left Sheffield prematurely on their return as a first-time winner and I think Robertson will go the same way.
We at bet 4/9 Robertson and 7/4 Trump in the battle of the left-handers and I think the 7/4 for inform Trump is too big.
Ding Junhui has not made the quarter-finals in five attempts at the Crucible but won his first Masters title when thrashing Hong Kong’s Marco Fu in the first all-Asian final 10-4 at Wembley Arena at beginning of the year. Liverpool fan Ding is now based in Sheffield and showed his current well-being when reaching the semi-final in the recent China Open. Although he suffered a 6-3 reverse at the hands of Mark Selby in the last four I believe this could be his year. He could face a rematch with Selby in the last eight and that would be a game to savour and one I believe could be pivotal to the destination of the crown.
World number 3 Selby “The Leicester Jester” came of age when he won the 2010 Masters beating O’Sullivan in the Lions Den that is the Wembley Arena. He was a beaten finalist at the Crucible back in 2007 when losing 18-13 to John Higgins and reached the last four again last year when he again beat O’Sullivan in the quarter final before a surprise defeat at the hands of Scot Graeme Dott 17-14. Although he lost 10-8 to Trump in the China Open final he did have eight breaks over 50 and he has a massive chance.
John Higgins, Champion in 1998, 2007 and 2009, and winner of more than 20 ranking tournaments is our 5/1 market leader at and the number 1 seed should have too much for a revitalised Stephen Lee in round 1 before meeting the winner of Ricky Walden and Rory McLeod in the last 16. O’Sullivan or Shaun Murphy are his likely opponent in the last eight and I think the bottom half has more strength in depth than the top.
Dual winner Mark Williams (2000 & 2003) plays Ryan Day in an all-Welsh 1st round clash. Williams had four century breaks despite losing 5-4 to Stephen Lee in Beijing and Lee was then too good for Day who had beaten an out of sorts O’Sullivan in round one. I expect a big tournament from Williams who is seeded to meet Stephen Maguire in the last eight.
Shaun Murphy was the lowest ever ranked winner of the title (45) back in 2005 and he has been back to his very best in recent months. Beaten semi finalist in Beijing he was the winner of the inaugural Players Tour Championship in Dublin last month and is likely to meet The Rocket in round two.
O’Sullivan a three-time Champion but not since 2008 only got as far as the first round when beaten 5-2 by Ryan Day in China Open and who knows which Rocket will turn up? The greatest natural talent to hold a cue he is 6/1 to win a 4th title and that could look enormous come the 2nd May but has he still got the desire to give his very best for 17-days? I wonder.
Outright market: each way ½ 1, 2:
J Higgins 5/1
M Selby 6/1
R O’Sullivan 6/1
M Williams 8/1
N Robertson 9/1
S Murphy 14/1
We will be betting in-play throughout the 2011 World Snooker Championships. I think either Ding or Mark Selby will be crowned champ on May 2nd. What about you?
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