The World Snooker Championship starts this Saturday morning where Ronnie O’Sullivan opens proceedings against Finland’s Robin Hull. The Rocket is bidding to make it three in a row here – a remarkable statistic in the modern era and especially with the higher standard of play on the tour. The last player to retain the World title was Stephen Hendry in 1996.
You c an read my preview for sportinglife.com here
O’Sullivan has been on fire this season – notably winning the Masters in a canter and selecting his tournaments to suit. With his head right thanks to Dr Steve Peters, the Rocket wants to surpass Hendry’s record of seven world titles. Steve Davis went on record this week as saying that O’Sullivan, who is 38 could still win a World title well into his forties.
Ronnie O’Sullivan – wants a third consecutive World title
After his success last year he was chalked up at 5/1 to win in 2014 and has been shortened to a best-priced 7/5 (sportingbet). He cannot be discounted because he really wants this and has been practising his socks off in Sheffield as he did last year to prepare for his defence. He usually prevails when focused and the 7/5 has to be worth a punt – especially as he has been handed a decent draw. Although Marco Fu who is his likely quarter-final opponent is capable of beating anyone at the top of his game. But we’ll look to the other half of the draw to find some each-way value.
Judd Trump has had a quiet season but impressed in Championship League when prevailing last month and has a good draw in quarter four too. Opening against Tom Ford he is then seeded to play Stephen Maguire who is probably past his best and only occasionally capable of snooker good enough to compete against the current top players. The 12/1 about Trump (888sport, Ladbrokes) is worth an each-way punt
Neil Robertson has disappointed me recently although much has been made of his 93 century breaks to date this season. But he hasn’t shown the consistent form lately to prevail and his quarter which includes Trump and Mark Allen is tough too so we’ll leave the Aussie alone.
One player I do like at a really big price is Xiao Guodong. The Chinese player who has practiced with O’Sullivan to prepare for his debut at the Crucible works with Terry Griffiths at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester. Up to 25 in the world he has had his best season and reached the final of the Shanghai Masters going down 10-6 to an in-form Ding Junhui.
Xiao Guodong really fancies himself – 125/1 and definitely worth a punt
What you need at the Crucible is to be a bit arrogant and to fancy yourself to do well. Xiao has a cockiness to him which will help him perform in this cauldron-like atmosphere. Many first timers do fall over here – especially if they get behind early on. He does has a tough opener against Ali Carter who has at times impressed me too in this campaign but if can get past the Captain then the draw could open up for him.
He could meet Mark Selby in the last 16 who has really disappointed this season and is not guaranteed to get past last year’s quarter-finalist Michael White. We’ll have a bet on Xiao to win quarter three at 12/1 (General) and a highly speculative each-way punt at 125/1 (sportingbet) to lift the title – purely because he is on the way up and believes in himself enough to win.
In the match betting Kyren Wilson is worth backing against last year’s semi finalist Ricky Walden at 5/2 (General). After Wilson had beaten Graeme Dott 10-7 in the final qualifying round this week Dott remarked that on that form Wilson could do well here and the Scot felt his own game had been decent. We’ll also back Wilson to win quarter two at 28/1 (Boylesports, Ladbrokes) because along with quarter three these are definitely the weaker sections of the draw.
The World Open in Haikou starts tomorrow (Monday) and Judd Trump is coming into form at the right time so is the pick at the generous 9/1 offered by Coral. He went off the radar since his purple patch of 18 months or so ago but he is the only player who can threaten a Ronnie O’Sullivan in form. The Rocket hasn’t entered the event.
Judd Trump – Coming of age and may lift more silverware this season.
Last month Trump reached the final of the German Masters and just last week won Championship League Snooker against top-drawer opposition. So he is a must here and opens in the top quarter against a wildcard for a place in the last 32.
In the second quarter I’ve been especially impressed with the slimline Shaun Murphy who topped the winners group of Championship League Snooker after the group stage. After an indifferent season he is available at 20/1 (Ladbrokes). Well drawn in the early rounds he can go deep into the event.
In the bottom half it is worth having a saver on Barry Hawkins. The World Final runner-up reached the semis in Newport last weekend and made the quarter finals of the UK Championship. Forever improving and has been a much stronger player since his maiden ranking win in Australia at the Goldfields Open in 2012. Available from many sources at 28/1 the Hawk should be back each-way as a saver.