The greatest show on baize returns to the Crucible Theatre as two weeks of World Championship action gets underway on Friday.
There has been a limited amount of snooker action in recent months, for obvious reasons, and that adds another layer of intrigue to the Sheffield showpiece.
The fact that many overseas players were unable to enter the qualifying stages of this event has thrown some unusual names into the mix and it will be interesting to see how some of the lower-ranked players will fare.
Trump Leading the Way
Last year’s Sheffield hero Judd Trump heads the betting and he is the number one seed in the top-half of the draw.
There’s no doubt that the Ace has been housed in the easier section but what remains to be seen is if he will carry the same hunger for the title, now he has tasted success.
On balance, the
5/2 on offer about Trump successfully defending his crown looks on the short side and the Bristol potter can be opposed.
Rocket to Fall Short in Title Bid
It’s always difficult to knock the chances of the greatest cueman of them all but Ronnie O’Sullivan’s draw in a loaded bottom-half looks tricky.
The Rocket is in with the likes of Mark Williams. Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins and that’s just the seeds.
There’s no doubt O’Sullivan can win a sixth World Championship but there isn’t much juice in his price at
4/1 to claim the spoils.
Allen Set for Long Crucible Run
Mark Allen burst on to the scene by making the semi-finals of this event in 2009 and the Pistol could be ready to fire again.
Allen looks to have been handed a kind draw, away from the tough bottom section and he will kick-off against Jamie Clarke.
The Welshman has done exceptionally well to qualify for this event but the fact that the Antrim Ace is
1/25 to win that contest tells you he shouldn’t have too many problems negotiating his way through the opening round.
Jack Lisowski or Anthony McGill shouldn’t hold any fear for Allen in round two and bar Trump and John Higgins, there isn’t anyone in the top-half of the draw to alarm Allen.
Stevens a Dangerous Contender
There’s certainly potential for a few qualifiers to go well this year and one that could outrun odds of
150/1 is Matthew Stevens.
The Welshman is a two-time World Championship finalist and has made the semi-finals on four occasions.
Sure, those efforts were a few years ago now but Stevens’ slip down the rankings is more due to a lack of motivation in the lesser events than some drastic loss of ability.
The Welsh Dragon made the quarter-finals of the UK Championship earlier this year, beating Ryan Day and Mark Selby on the way, and that shows he can still perform at a high-level in major competitions.
Higgins will not be an easy first-round opponent but the Scot is often at his best when match-hardened and the fact there has been so little snooker in recent months probably won’t have helped his chances.
Stevens has the class and Crucible form to trouble anyone in this field and if he was to get on a roll you can be sure he won’t be shy in taking any opportunities that come his way.
*All odds correct at time of writing