ALWAYS one of the most discussed sporting events of the year, Ed Acteson (@EdActeson) previews the World Snooker Championship for us.
World Snooker Championship | 16th April – 2nd May | BBC
The finale of the snooker season commences in Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre this weekend, with 32 players scrapping for the biggest prize in the sport; the World Championship.
Predictably, the focus will be on five-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan who starts the tournament as overwhelming favourite with a best price of 15/8 (Betfair) available. If he arrives motivated and in form it is tough to make a case against him, though I’m willing to try.
The long matches here generally ensure that class prevails and there haven’t been many surprise names etched on the trophy over the years. In fact Stuart Bingham’s fantastic comeback against Shaun Murphy last year was arguably the biggest shock since Graeme Dott won in 2006.
However, despite nobody possessing more class than Ronnie, I actually think the format might work against him.
‘The Rocket’ is prone to meltdowns, has openly expressed his disdain for the length of the matches and I can see him sulking if things begin to go against him. Realistically, if this theory proves inaccurate, he’ll probably win, but at 15/8 I don’t trust his mentality and with no each-way value, I’m looking elsewhere.
With such a short favourite, the prospect of facing Ronnie will have been factored into every other competitor’s price and as such there are some appetising bets available. Where better to start than with reigning champion Stuart Bingham?
There were absolutely no question marks over the credibility of his win in 2015 where he boasted victories over O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy en route to a maiden title at the venerable age of 38.
After patchy early season form, it looked as though Bingham was struggling to come to terms with the added pressure of being world champion. However, he looks to be regrouping at the right time having recently reached the semi-finals of The Masters, the quarter-finals of the China Open and finishing as runner up at the World Grand Prix.
Sportingbet’s 35/1 on Bingham retaining his title is a borderline insulting price. He was only marginally bigger last year at 50/1 but now has the experience of winning plus a significantly easier draw.
In a worst case scenario, he’ll have to beat Ali Carter, Stephen Maguire and John Higgins to reach the semi-final; three great players who are past their best. As such I’ll also play the 9/2 (Sportingbet) on him winning that quarter.
Elsewhere in the top half, I like the chances of Judd Trump at 7/1 (Ladbrokes). His tendency to wear ridiculous spiked shoes shouldn’t detract from an abundance of talent and it might be a pick between the ‘Juddernaut’ and Neil Robertson for the second quarter.
On recent form though, Trump edges it for me and should be confident having won the China Open two weeks ago. In the lower half of the draw, O’Sullivan looms ominously in the 3rd quarter but I’d like to focus on Mark Selby and Mark Allen in the 4th.
Selby’s form this season has been solid if unspectacular. He is, however, world number 1, a former world champion and a five-time major winner. None of those occur without formidable talent and the Jester from Leicester is underrated at 10/1 (Ladbrokes).
He has a strange tendency to either reach a final or crash out early but, in a dream quarter, he has the chance to gather momentum. Sure, Ronnie could await him in the last four but Selby won that fixture in the final two years ago and can do it again.
The biggest threat to Selby’s chances could be Mark Allen who is arguably an even bigger culprit than Judd Trump of having failed to convert ability into success.
However, his performance in the Champion of Champions tournament earlier in the season, where he was a losing finalist, convinced me that he still has the potential to win something big.
Allen is equally likely to dismantle opponents with his supreme potting ability as he is to frustrate his supporters with reckless safety play but on his day he is unplayable and there are far worse 25/1 (Ladbrokes) shots available. At the very least, he won’t be boring.
World Snooker Championship – Stuart Bingham to win outright (35/1 each-way Sportingbet)
World Snooker Championship – Judd Trump to win outright (7/1 Ladbrokes)
World Snooker Championship – Mark Selby to win outright (10/1 Ladbrokes)
World Snooker Championship – Mark Allen to win outright (25/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
World Snooker Championship – Stuart Bingham to win the 1st Quarter (9/2 Sportingbet)
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