Ok in part one I looked at all the players who could,if all the cards fell right,possibly lift the world title come the first Monday in May.Today I focus on the players who I believe,when we get to the business end of things in the second week,will the main people in contention to become the 2013 world champion.
I suppose there is really only one place to start and that is with the man who comes here as the defending world champion, Ronnie O'Sullivan.When Ronnie won his fourth world championship last year he stated his desire to take a break from the game and unlike the many times we have heard this before,this time he actually followed through with it. This lead to a season long will he wont saga which was only resolved when he announced on the eve of the closing date that he would after all be back to try and defend his world title.
Of course by this stage he had missed the deadline to enter any other tournament so he would be coming in this week with zero match practice.
So the question is this,can someone,who hasn't played a tournament for twelve monthes possibly be sharp enough to compete against battle hardened players who have been competing week in week out? or indeed could the fact that he is coming in fresh actually be an advantage? The one thing we do know is if Ronnie shows up in the same form as he did last year,there is no one who can stop him claiming his fifth world title.
In the absence of O'Sullivan one man has dominated the seasons two other major events when,in the space of 6 weeks Mark Selby lifted the UK Championship and The Masters.What made these two wins all the more remarkable was the fact that,and I think he could probably admit this himself, he didn't play his best snooker to do so.What he did do however was keep battling away and his craft around the table came to the fore when he needed it most.He has also got to latter stages of many other tournaments and it is this consistency that see's him come to the Crucible as the world no.1.
Basically in Selby we have a player who can score heavily and also has the ability to dig out the win even when not playing at his best,why shouldn't he win the world title? Well if there is one reason I feel he might just fall short of the ultimate prize it is,as I see it a tendency to turn a little negative when the pressure is on.I sometimes feel he is playing not to lose rather then playing to win.and this compromises his natural game often to his detriment.I'm not sure over two weeks of hard matches which he will face here,that he can avoid slipping into these habits.
Another player who I have also felt sometimes falls into the "trying not to lose" category is Neil Robertson.When the Aussie first burst on the scene he was out and out potter and one of the best long potters in the game.Over the years he honed a great all round game and has become one of the hardest match players we have.He ended a long ranking event drought in the recent China Open,after narrow defeats in finala to Trump in the International Championship and Ding in the PTC Grand Finals.earlier in the season.In last years championship he was unlucky to run into Ronnie in such superb form in the quarter finals and indeed it could be argued his form up to that point had been even better then when he won the title itself in 2010.This year the draw has maybe been a little kinder to him and were he to reach the semi final he would surely fancy his chances against whoever come through the dogfight that is the bottom quarter of the draw.Make no mistake Robertson is a live contender to lift his second world title.
If you are someone who believes in patterns then the player to follow here is John Higgins who bids to follow up his victories in '07,'09 and '11 with a fifth world title in 2013.This has been an odd season for Higgins as in the early part of it he looked like he had put last seasons horrors behind him with a stirring comeback win to beat Trump in the Shanghai Masters final.He followed this up with a couple of final appearances in PTC events.The turning point seems to have come with two narrow defeats,firstly to Mark Davis in the UK and then to Shaun Murphy in the Masters.What made these defeats different from others in his career was that in both games Higgins was at the table with the chance to win them and let those chances slip.These defeats seemed to hit him hard and it could be the case that as you get older these sort of losses become that little bit harder to recover from.
That said Higgins has often been at his best in his career when people have started to write him off and it would be no surprise to anyone to see him back here at the height of his powers..
From Higgins we go to the man who he beat in the final to win his most recent world title in 2011 Judd Trump.When Trump won his maiden ranking title in the China Open in 2011 and followed it up by reaching that world final beating the defending champion Neil Robertson along the way,he announced himself to the world in the most spectacular way.His attacking style drew immediate comparisons with Alex,Jimmy and Ronnie and it seemed as if he was the new star for the age.Since then his career has been a series of highs,among them the 2011 UK Championship and the 2012 International Championships and lows like losing a 12-9 lead against Carter here last year and his shock defeat to Joyce in the UK last December.
Since then he has largely struggled and come in here with people once again asking questions his application to the game. Of course we must remember he is still only 23 and it would be a surprise if he didn't win a world title at some stage,but then again the same was said when Jimmy lost that epic semi final to Alex Higgins in 1982 and we all know what happened there! That said I do fully expect Trump to be a multiple world champion but I really don't think it will be this year
Last but not least could this be the year that Ding Junhui finally become the first Asian world champion? Anyone who saw just what he produced in Galway recently at the PTC finals would certainly say yes as he produced some fabulous snooker throughout and beat Neil Robertson in the final with a phenomenal 99% pot success rate.What has always impressed me most about Ding is the way he break builds and I can pay him no greater compliment then to say he reminds me of Ronnie and Higgins when he is among the balls.In 2011 he maybe put the theory that he can't handle the pressure of a long tournament when he only narrowly went down to Trump in the semi final.He did lose in the first round last year to Ryan Day but looking at the draw for this years the fact he is in such a difficult section could actually work in his favour as it will focus the mind from the outset.Ding has shown in winning two UK Championship and The Masters that he isn't afraid of lifting the games bigger prizes and I for one would not be shocked to see him go very close here again.
So to wrap up having looked through the betting markets I see what I think are some good value bets
Shaun Murphy to win his quarter,best price 7/2
Ding Junhui to win his quarter ,best price 3/1
The winner to come from the top half , 1/1
And finally who do I think will win?Well this is almost an impossible question to answer because we simply don't know what form Ronnie O'Sullivan is going to show up in after his year out.That said if anyone can come back from such a break and reproduce his best it is Ronnie.This coupled with the fact that although we have seen some good snooker this season we have not seen anyone produce the standard O'Sullivan did in Sheffield last year just makes a price of 6/1 to good to ignore.
There you haveit then,a fifth world title for Ronnie on the way?please let me know what you think,but whatever happens lets hope this World Championship shows the world just what a fabulous sport this is..