ALWAYS one of the most discussed sporting events of the year, Michael Day (daisy8ball) previews the World Snooker Championship for us.
World Snooker Championship | 18th April – 4th May | BBC
It sounds like a typical cliché, but this year's championship is more open than ever. Whilst it's difficult to assess what is a good season now with the calendar having so many events, it is clear how competitive the sport currently is with 10 different winners of major tournaments this season.
Quite obviously though, this 17 day marathon is a completely different kettle of fish. With long matches played over a number of sessions (and in some cases days), it is at times as much to do with psychological endurance than green baize prowess.
It's an old adage that the better player should come through a longer format – I do expect shocks, but ultimately I can’t really see a qualifier going all the way and lifting the trophy this year.
Perennial favourite is the five time winner Ronnie O’Sullivan. ‘The Rocket’ is out on his own at 3/1 with sponsors Betfred, not an unusual pricing for O’Sullivan, but I’d be slightly apprehensive to back him at this marking.
This is despite the Englishman claiming back to back majors at the end of 2014, the Champion of Champions and the UK Championships, but since then there has been a number of tetchy and worrying signs and performances.
O’Sullivan on several occasions in 2015 has come out with a number of vocal outbursts, whether it be about the referee in the World Grand Prix, or the facilities during the Welsh Open – this has been out of character for recent times.
He has also had a tendency to let leads slip (German Masters, World Grand Prix), missed the China Open due to ill health and he could potentially play a red hot Mark Williams in the second round. He's also due a poor Crucible having reached at least the final in the last three years. Sorry for barking on about one man, but I think the value is definitely elsewhere.
He may divide opinion, but no one can question reigning champion Mark Selby’s gritty and determined attitude that saw him lift his maiden World Snooker title last year. He is so mentally strong and a vicious match play animal, the challenges of the Crucible in many ways suit him.
He's also come into very good form over the last three months, winning the German Masters in February and only a fortnight ago he lifted the China Open in Beijing.
Superstition would claim otherwise though. No player has ever won in China, and then won in Sheffield. And no player has ever successfully defended their world title at the first time of asking at the Crucible. This is something known in the trade as ‘The Crucible Curse’. (You’ll hear John Virgo and Hazel Irvine bark on about it a billion times throughout on the Beeb!).
But I think ‘The Jester from Leicester’ can buck those trends. He is in the considerably easier half of the draw, and the other most notable seed sat there, Neil Robertson, is in somewhat of a slump with a run of disappointing results.
Masters champ Shaun Murphy is sat in the top quarter, but I feel he has peaked too early, and he still has a tendency in being ultra aggressive – something that could cost him in long matches here.
In many ways Selby’s toughest challenge maybe the underrated qualifier Kurt Maflin, his first round opponent this Saturday morning to kick off the competition. Coral are offering him at 17/2 to repeat the feat, which I think is an outstanding opportunity.
Judd Trump, in my opinion is also primed to either win the world title or come very bloody close. A former finalist in 2011, the Bristolian has had a great season winning in Australia and Wales, regaining the form that saw him reach the top of the world rankings only a few years ago.
He has a very favourable first round draw, and I can see him certainly winning his quarter section of the draw with Ding Junhui in woeful form.
Sportingbet have him at 13/2 to realise his dream, a price which again I think is slightly distorted due to the current fragilities of the favourite O’Sullivan. The same firm have a Selby/Trump final priced at 16/1, which although speculative, might just be a cheeky little bet. Let battle commence!
World Snooker Championships – Mark Selby to win (17/2 Coral)
World Snooker Championship – Judd Trump to win (13/2 Sportingbet)
World Snooker Championship – Judd Trump to win the third quarter (10/11 Paddy Power)
World Snooker Championship – Selby v Trump Final (16/1 Sportingbet)
Free Bet If Your Player Loses In The Final Frame
Back a player to win his match with Betfair and if he loses in the final frame they'll give you a free bet.