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Thursday, 30 April 2015

World Championship Semi Final Preview.

Well after all the drama of yesterday,four men remain in with a shout of claiming the title,but they may not be four we were expecting.

Shaun Murphy v Barry Hawkins.
What a difference a year makes,last season Murphy was Mr Consistent,reaching the latter stages of many tournaments,without ever really looking like winning any of them,this term though we have seen a different player as was apparent in his Masters triumph and that old determined stomp around the table is back.

To reach this semi final he has played some really top quality snooker here that has possibly gone below the radar,with the headlines been made by others.His victory over McGill though showed he is cuing as well as he has at any stage since he lifted the crown here in 2005.

Hawkins on the other hand has endured a nightmare season,but as so often in the past ,he has discovered his best form here and his victory over Robertson last night can only have given him him even more of a boost.

This one could go very close,but I just think Murphy might have too much in the end and win something like 17-14 or 17-15

Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham
Judd Trump has been doing what Judd Trump can do in this tournament,thrilling the crowd with some extraordinary snooker. As we have seen this season,though Trump now has an all round game too and will undoubtedly feel he has every chance of going one better than he did here in 2011 when he was runner up to Higgins. The bookies certainly think so too ,as they have made him a very short favourite to claim a first world title.

I'm sure Trump was expecting to be facing off against his great rival Ronnie O'Sullivan here,but Stuart Bingham had something to say about that and he produced a string of big breaks to end Ronnies hops of a sixth title here last night.

Trump would do well not to think too far ahead of himself here,as Bingham has shown what a dangerous opponent he can be when he gets going in a match.That said though Trump in this form is a very different proposition to an O'Sullivan playing below his best and it would be an even bigger shock if Bingham were to get through here. 

For that reason I think this one may not be as close as the other semi final & I expect Trump to win comfortably 17-9 or 17-10

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

World Championship Day 12

A dramatic days action at the Crucible has left us with four players still in the running to become the 2015 champion,but before we look forward to that lets look back at what was beyond doubt the day of the championship so far.

The best place to start is with not just the best match of this tournament so far,but maybe the best match we've seen in many a year here.

Barry Hawkins started out today with a 5-3 lead over Neil Robertson,but noone could have predicted the classic we were going to have.Hawkins had reached that lead having won the last four of the session yesterday and he continued that run to extend his lead to 7-3 here. He seemed to have Robertson right under it,but when he missed a simple red Robertson pounced to close to 7-4.That missed red then took on more significance as Robertson also won the next three to level at 7-7.The next frame was a long and fascinating affair that after 72 minutes play finally went to Hawkins,but also resulted in play been stopped early to allow the afternoon session to begin.

Into tonight then and one of the highest quality sessions of snooker we are ever likely to see.

Robertson got the ball rolling with a fabulous 141 to make it 8-8 ,before Hawkins responded with runs of 104 & 108 to lead 10-8 only for breaks of 90 & 65 from Robertson either side of the interval drew thins level again at 10-10

This really was phenomenal stuff and the high quality continued as Robertson edged ahead again,this time with a 142 & Hawkins responded with a 109 to make it 11-11 .This was by now fast becoming a match that would live long in the memory and it got the finale it deserved as the next two were shared to make it 12-12. In the decider both player had a chance,but it was Hawkins who got the first real opportunity to win the match and he held his nerve to clinch a fantastic 13-12.

For Hawkins this result showed once again his bottle for the big occasion & indeed his knack of producing his best at the Crucible,but its impossible not to feel some sympathy for Robertson who has lit up this championship and may have beaten anyone else in draw on this form.

Its says a lot for the quality of that match that it has stolen the headlines from Stuart Bingham who on the other table tonight brought Ronnie O'Sullivans quest for a sixth title to an end with a gritty display.

Bingham had the upper hand in this one coming into todays second session.leading 5-3,but Ronnie appeared to have weathered the storm to lead 8-7 with a frame left in the afternoon session.Ronnie seemed set to win that one as well but he broke down on 68 and Bingham dished to level at 8-8.

Into the third session and Ronnie again took the lead at 9-8,but amazingly that would be the last frame he would win as runs of 74,88,51,85 & 66 gave Bingham a famous 13-9 win.

So there will be no sixth title for Ronnie this year and after his defeat in last years final as well it now seems that time for him to beat or equal Hendry's record of seven may have run out.

For Bingham though he can look forward to a first semi final where he will face Judd Trump who completed his match with Ding Junhui this morning in the blink of an eye,getting the frame he needed to complete a 13-4 win.

In the other quarter final Shaun Murphy finally saw off the challenge of Anthony McGill winning the end 13-8. McGill though can certainly hold his head high and I have a feeling that this will be the point where people will remember seeing him for the first time as he goes on to much success in coming seasons.

There we have it then with four men just the 35 frames from lifting the crown. Full preview will be u in the morning.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

World Championship Day 11.

The quarter finals in the world championship are generally where you start to see who among the players who have gotten this far are genuine title contenders and if that is the case today Judd Trump announced himself as perhaps the favourite to lift the crown come Monday.

On paper at least his match with Ding Junhui looked like it may be  classic to rank along side their semi final battle in 2011,but the one caveat to that was that Ding couldn't afford a poor start like he had had in his opening two matches.That though was exactly what happened as Trump roared out of the blocks to lead 6-0.Ding to his credit kept his hopes alive,winning last two of session to end the morning 6-2 behind.

Ding needed a good start tonight to build on that ,but Trump was simply unplayable as he surged further ahead,finishing with back to back centuries to stand one away from a place in the semi final at 12-4.

Shaun Murphy is also in pole position for a place in the semi final,but he still has some work to do  holding a 9-7 lead over Anthony McGill going into tomorrow afternoons final session.This had been nip and tuck all day as having finished the morning at 4-4 they reached the interval in the night session tied at 6-6 after a couple of lengthy frames.From here though Murphy hit one of his hot streaks,winning the next three to lead 9-6. McGill needed the last of the night to just stay in touch and to his credit he got it to leave his one still very much in the balance.

In matches with only one session completed Ronnie O'Sullivan & Neil Robertson both have a little bit of work to do trailing 5-3 to Stuart Bingham & Barry Hawkins respectively.

Ronnie had started in superb fashion with a century on the first frame,but although he also added another before the interval the score was still only 2-2.After the break that irritability that has seemed to be bubbling beneath the surface for Ronnie here all tournament reared its head again & Bingham took advantage to win last of the session to lead 5-3 overnight.

Robertson has been in phenomenal form here and lead 3-1 going to their interval,but Hawkins has a brilliant Crucible  record in recent years and reeled of all four frames after the interval,without Robertson potting a ball to lead the Aussie 5-3.

Monday, 27 April 2015

World Championship Day 10 / Quarter Finals Preview

As expected Shaun Murphy (13-5 Joe Perry), Judd Trump (13-8 Marco Fu) Ronnie O'Sullivan (13-5 Matthew Stevens) & Neil Robertson (13-5) all went through today with the minimum of fuss to complete the Last eight line up and what an interesting set of matches we have in store over the next two days.

Anthony McGill v Shaun Murphy
In many ways the story of this championship so far has been the emergence of Anthony McGill and his victory over defending champion Mark Selby in the last round showed just what a talent this young Scot is. Its not just ability on the table that has endeared him to people here,but also the fact that he seems to be really enjoying what he is doing.Add to this a real all round game and we're looking at someone who without question will be challenging for titles in the coming seasons.

The question here is can he continue to ride the crest of the wave and make a challenge for this title.If he is he is going to have to get past a former champion in great form.

It could be argued this season that Shaun Murphy is playing the best snooker he has since he won the title here in 2005. This was really apparent in his Masters victory in January and he has reached this stage only conceding eight frames in his first two matches.I'd certainly expect this one to be a lot closer than that,but i just feel Murphy will have too much for McGill this year and I think he'll got through.
Prediction: Murphy 13-10McGill

Barry Hawkins v Neil Robertson
There is little doubt the most impressive player so far in this championship has been Robertson who has breezed through the first teo rounds here without breaking sweat.Of course he was helped by two opponents who were playing well below their best ,but  among the balls he has looked phenomenal.

Hawkins on the other and had had an extraordinary championship form nearly throwing away his first round match to clinching a victory against Allen in the next round having looked second best throughout.Looking at this one you must also consider Hawkins great Crucible record in recent years,but really I just think Robertson is playing to well and will win this comfortably
Prediction: Robertson 13-6

Ding Junhui v Judd Trump
Here we have undoubtedly the tie of the round and if it matches their epic semi final here in 2011 we are in for a real treat.After a season of disappointment Ding has started to look like his old self here this week and there are few easier on the eye when it comes to constructing a break than him.

Trump on the other hand come here on the back of a season where he has seemed to grow as a player and has done nothing here to discourage those who believe this may well be his year.

This one is really too close to call,but the one thing that from a form line that may sway it is the fact that Ding has started his first two matches here quite slowly before finding some form and if that were to happen here you feel Trump may well be gone out of sight.For that reason I just give it to Trump but it may well be very close.
Prediction Trump 13-11

Stuart Bingham v Ronnie O'Sullivan
So we come to Ronnie and after two rounds just how is the "Rocket" playing.Well its hard to know as he has been put under very little pressure.At times he has looked near his best,but perhaps most worrying for his supporters is an irritability that seems set to blow at anything that goes wrong.

Its probably equally difficult to say just how Bingham has played after he came through a real slog in round one before beating a physically wrecked Graeme Dott with ease in round two.

I have to admit though,if Ronnies state of mind here is suspect under pressure I don't expect it to be tested in this one.
Prediction Ronnie O'Sullivan 13-6

Sunday, 26 April 2015

World Championship Day Nine

The 2015 championship reached the halfway stage today and although no match was down for conclusion today,it is going to take something quite spectacular tomorrow to stop any of the four players who currently lead from reaching the last 8.

Ronnie O'Sullivan won seven of the eight frames this afternoon to all but put his match with Matthew Stevens to bed leading now as he does 12-4. Of Ronnie himself.he still look a little irritable at times,but he showed here,particularly in frames 12 & 13 with back to back centuries,that he is starting to hit the ball well.

Another man who has been hitting the ball as well as anyone in this championship is Neil Robertson and he may be a little disappointed that he hasn't given himself the day off tomorrow,but credit to must go to Carter who won the last two frames of the afternoon to close 11-5.

Shaun Murphy too would have been thinking of a day off tomorrow when he lead Joe Perry 10-1,but Perry won two of the next three to make it 12-3 and then won the last of the night to avoid the indignity of losing with a session to spare to end 12-4

Judd Trump is also very much on course for a place in the last 8 leading Marco Fu 10-6. Starting out tonight Trump had lead 5-3,but quickly made that 9-3 by taking the first four of the session. Fu to his credit though,was better after the interval  and managed to keep a glimmer of hope going into tomorrow winning three of the next four to close four behind at 10-6.

There is no morning session tomorrow and there might not be much of an afternoon or evening session if these matches go to form.I hope Dennis remembered to bring his goggles for an exhibition. 30th anniversary black ball finish anyone?

Saturday, 25 April 2015

World Championship Day Eight.

This years championship is a week old today and in the light of Selby's exit last night we may have seen today a few players who might just be fancying this  now,start to manoeuvre themselves into position.

The first of these os Ding Junhui who came through a real test against John Higgins today.Starting the morning 9-7 in front,he made the most of a Higgins miss to dish with 63 and also took the next to move four clear at 11-7.Higgins just couldn't seem to get going as he would have liked here but dug deep to take the next to close to  11-8.Ding though was beginning to look his old self among the balls and with an 89 in the 20th frame he moved to within one of the quarters at 12-8.

Ding really should have won the next,but a bad kick on the pink when in and some more bad luck later allowed Higgins get one back to 12-9.Again in the next it looked all over  when Ding left Higgins needing snookers on the last red,but unbelievably he went in off getting out of the snooker and worse still left Higgins a free ball.Higgins though made a mess of the clearance,something that would never have happened in his prime,and Ding got the pots he needed to seal the 13-9 win.

So a season of struggle could yet have a happy ending for Ding,who probably came here with the lowest level of expectation around him he has ever had.That may just have suited him as he he tries to claim the one big prize that has so far eluded him. You would say he will need to start off better than has here in his first two matches,but once he's got going in his games he has looked as comfortable among the balls as he ever has.

For Higgins sadly he will look back with disappointment at a session today where he never really got going ,but as the saying goes,time or tide waits for no man and it may just be the case that at this stage of his career Higgins just doesn't have it to challenge for this great championship again.

The tie of the round so far though was the tussle between Barry Hawkins & Mark Allen.

Allen held a 5-3 overnight advantage overnight and they shared the first four to leave it 7-5.Hawkins closed to 7-6 before what looked a pivotal moment in the next when Hawkins,having gotten the three snookers he needed missed the easiest of blues to give Allen a two frame lead again at 8-6.

Allen then took the next to go 9-6 and he seemed set fair for a four frame lead in the next when Hawkins needed a snooker on the blue,only for Barry to get it and clear to make it 9-7.This gave the match a completely different perspective coming into the final session,but you still had the feeling Allen would get over the line.

On resumption the first four frames were shared again to move the score along to 11-9,but from here something in the match changed.Hawkins started to up his game and after drawing level at 11-11,he took the lead for the first time with a break of 102.A tense 24th frame followed,but there was to be no decider as Hawkins potted the black to seal a 13-11 win that until the last few frames never looked likely.

In other results Stuart Bingham quickly put the finishing touches to his match with Graeme Dott,getting over the finish line in style with a 104 to seal a 13-5 win.

In matches that started today,Ronnie O Sullivan recovered from a slow and rather grumpy start against Matthew Stevens,coming from 2-0 to lead 5-2,before Stevens took the last of the session to keep in touch at 5-3  & Neil Robertson kept up his ultra impressive form from the first round to take a 6-2 lead over Ali Carter.

Friday, 24 April 2015

World Championship Day Seven.

Day seven at the Crucible and there is really only one place we can start.

Defending champion Mark Selby crashed out of the tournament tonight,going down 13-9 to Anthony McGill in as big a shock result as we've seen here in a long time to prove the Crucible curse for first time returning champions remains alive and well.

These two played out a highly entertaining first session yesterday which ended level at 4-4,but it was McGill who started the better this morning.taking three of the first four to lead 7-5 at the interval.A run of  83 from Selby closed him within one again at 7-6,but McGill dominated the next three frames to end the session 10-6.

So the question going into the final session was could the young Scot playing at the Crucible this year for the first time finish off the job or would Selby do,well a "Selby" and dig himself out of trouble. With all this in mind the first frame was always going to be crucial and it was Selby who made the early running with a series of great shots,only to carelessly run out of position when among the balls. From here McGill produced as magnificent a break 68 as you could see under pressure to go 11-6.

A 67 in the next closed Selby to 11-7,but another immaculate break,this time a 87,from McGill moved him th the hill at 12-7. Selby is a fighter though and he pulled the next two back to keep his faint hopes alive at 12-9.The problem for him though was that no matter what he did McGill was always at some stage going to get a chance to win it and he was playing too well to let it slip by if it came.Thats what happened in the next as McGill closed out a famous victory with a run of 82 and seal his 13-9 win.

The biggest victory of his career so far then for McGill and I think what will have impressed people the most was the way he looked around the table,always comfortable,smiling and actually seeming to be enjoying what he was doing.Add to this undoubted ability and I think we can be sure,regardless of how the rest of this tournament goes,that here is a young man who we will be hearing quite a lot of.

For Selby,he will feel disappointed that he couldn't put up a better defence of his title,but this has been on the whole a disappointing season for him.I know that sounds strange to say of someone who won two ranking titles,but on closer examination how well did he play to win those? He now has a couple of months to reflect on things and I'm sure next season he will be back to the tough a granite Selby we are used too.

In other action today DIng Junhui has completely turned things around against John Higgins to hold a 9-7 lead going into their final session in the morning having started this afternoon 5-3 down. Higgins will no doubt be regretting not taking control of this game last night when he lead 5-1 and he will be even more frustrated by the number of unforced errors he produced this afternoon.He is a four time champion here though and if he can find his game in the morning we could be in for a grandstand finish to this one.

Another Scot in much graver trouble is Graeme Dott,who must somehow find his very best form if he is to trouble Stuart Bingham here as he trails the Englishman 11-5 overnight.

Also in the early stages of their second round encounter re Mark Allen & Barry Hawkins with the Ulsterman holding a 5-3 lead after the early skirmishes,

 The day though belongs to Anthony McGill.Well done young man.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

World Championship Day Six.

Day Six of the championship finally saw the conclusion of the round one matches as well as the first shots fired over the bows of round two.

Starting out today with a 7-2 lead I'm sure Judd trumps thoughts were of a comfortable afternoon hoping to finish it off before the interval,but Stuart Carrington had different ideas and started like a man possessed here,taking three of the first four frames with runs of 97,74 & 70 to close to 8-5.It was play like this last week that earned him his debut here at the Crucible and his regret here will be that he didn't find it earlier when he may  well have made a real match of it.AS it was it was too little too late as Trump won the two more he needed to clinch a 10-6 win.

Trump is many peoples idea of a winner of this event and his performance here will have only given his fans even more reason to believe this may be his year.The same could also be said for the suppoters of Shaun Murphy who put the finishing touches of his match with Robin Hull in style,running out a 10-3 winner,

Of the second round matches that started today Mark Selby is level with Anthony McGill 4-4 after a very entertaining first session and John Higgins leads Ding Junhui 5-3

So 16 players now remain in with a chance of collecting that famous trophy come May 4th and really we are no nearer knowing which of them it will be.Purely on performances in that first round you would say Robertson,Murphy & Trump are all cuing as well as they can,but how hard were they pushed? There are in all probability six who you would consider as a realistic potential winners. Its going to be a fascinating weekend.

Round Two                                     Predictions
Mark Selby v Anthony McGill   (Selby 13-10)
Joe Perry v Shaun Murphy         ( Murphy 13-7)
Barry Hawkins v Mark Allen      (Allen 13-9)
Ali Carter v Neil Robertson         (Robertson 13-5)
Ding Junhui v John Higgins         (Higgins 13-10)
Judd Trump v Marco Fu              (Trump 13-9)
Graeme Dott v Stuart Bingham    (Dott 13-11)
Matthew Stevens v Ronnie O'Sullivan  (O'Sullivan 13-6)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

World Championship Day Five.

Day five at the Crucible and I think its fair to say this wont go down as one of the tournaments more competitive days.

First up this morning Ronnie O'Sullivan completed the job he started yesterday against Craig Steadman,finishing with a 10-3 victory. Yes its true that if Ronnie is to win a fifth title next weekend he will have to play better than he did here,but that said it was apparent  early on that he wouldn't have to play better than this to win this match and he did look at times in fine rhythm.

Next up for Ronnie is Matthew Stevens who quickly put his match with Mark Williams to bed starting the afternoon with a 7-2 and quickly getting the three he needed to round off a 10-2 win.

In the other match finished today Joe Perry saw off Zhang Anda with what in the end was a 10-4 scoreline,but it briefly threatened tonight to become a lot closer than that. Perry had established an 8-1 lead this morning ,but Zhang to his credit came out all guns blazing to win the first three tonight to close to 8-4.The next frame was a real tense affair that went to the colours,but it was eventually decided when Perry potted a superb long blue and followed it with the pink & black to go 9-4.With that ended any hopes of a comeback and Perry put it to bed in the next to seal the 10-4 win.

Elsewhere two of the real contenders for this title finally got their first round matches underway in impressive fashion as both Judd Trump & Shaun Murphy hold 7-2 leads over Stuart Carrington & Robin Hull respectively

They play to a finish tomorrow where we also see the start of Round two with Mark Selby starting out against Anthony McGill and,in what on paper looks the tie of the round Ding Junhui begins his tussle with John Higgins.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

World Championship Day Four.

One of the real beauties of watching sport is the unpredictability that each event brings.Last year Ding Junhui came to the Crucible very much the man in form having collected five ranking titles through the season,but crashed out to Michael Wasley,This time around he comes here on the back of an awful season ,but there may just be signs that he is starting to find his game again.

In the first session of his match with Mark Davis he was all at sea early on trailing 4-0,but it had seemed he'd weathered the storm escaping from session 4-3 and so it proved today as Davis had no answer for Dings heavier scoring,with the Chinese running out a 10-7 victor.Just how much he was concentrating was apparent in frame nine when it was only after potting the thirteenth red and playing up for the blue that he realised he had actually been on for a 147.

Speaking in terms of Ding having a tough year though does pale into insignificance when you think about the health battles off the table that Ali Carter has faced since he last graced the games biggest stage.The welcome he received here from the Crucible crowd I'm sure will stay with him for a long time and once again  he showed his liking for the place with a comfortable 10-5 win over the dogged Scot Alan McManusThe damage here was done early on when he extended his 5-3 overnight advantage to 7-3 and from there never looked back.

One of the seeds I had thought might be vulnerable here was Mark Allen who has fallen off the radar in recent months following an excellent first half of the campaign.Here he faced Ryan Day & it was the Welshman who took the early initiative to lead 3-1. From here though Allen found his best form to reel off nine frames on the bounce to ease through to the second round 10-3.

Elsewhere in matches that started today Ronnie holds a 7-2 lead over Craig Steadman after a bizarre  session that started with a failed maximum attempt from O'Sullivan and ended with him wearing tournament director Mike Ganley's shoes!

The this evening we had the rematch of the 2000 final here between Mark Williams & Matthew Stevens,Suffice it say that this session didn't live up to the standard we saw then as both players struggled,but Stevens strgulled the better to take an overnight lead of 7-2.

So there you have it a day of failed Maximum attempts ( although its debatable if you can call it a failed attempt when the player doesn't realise its on) & shoes swapping. What can day five bring!!

Monday, 20 April 2015

World Championship- Quick Round Up Of Action So Far

Well the world championship is three days old and anyone wondering what makes this tournament so special need wonder no more after some of the drama we've seen so far.Before I get into that though,I must apologize for lack of blog action over weekend,I was laid low by a bug that I will spare you the details of,but now thankfully seems to be behind me.

Anyway back to the snooker and first up on Saturday we had Mark Selby take on Kurt Maflin..If Selby is defend his title here this year he is going to have to defy any number of so called curses,but the main stumbling block may well be that he simply isn't playing well enough.Now I know that is always a dangerous thing to say with Selby as he so often finds a way to win from nowhere in matches,but as I said in my preview,that surely catches up with you eventually.

The tale of the tape in this one  was Selby going into an 8-4 lead before Maflin won five on the spin to go to the brink at 9-8.Maflin did have chances to close it out in the next two frames,but it was not to be as Selby did what Selby does,snatching victory from jaws of defeat to go through 10-9.

His opponent in the next round had to come through a thriller of his own,but Anthony McGill did just that to confirm his status as one of the games up and coming stars,beating fellow Scot Stephen Maguire 10-9.

McGill had the upper hand in this from the get go and smooth progress looked likely when he move into  9-5 lead.Maguire though suddenly started to find something and fought back to level at 9-9.Here McGill showed remarkable nerve to roll in a break of 122 to seal his place in second round.

The other  dramatic deciding frame match we've had involved Barry Hawkins & Matt Selt.That looked unlikely when Hawkins moved 9-4 clear this morning,but he seems to make a habit of letting big leads slip and Selt produced some stunning snooker to level it at 9-9.Hawkins must have been thinking "not again".after letting a 5-0 lead over Nigel Bond at the UK somehow become a -6-5 defeat,but here he held himself together to take his one at his second bite of the cherry in the decider.

The evidence of recent months has been that John Higgins had started to find some real form again and here he produced possibly his best performance at the Crucible since he lifted the title in beating Robert Milkins 10-5

The performance of the championship so far though has come from Neil Robertson who eased past Jamie Jones 10-2 with a heavy barrage of scoring the Welshman just had no answer to which included three centuries.

Elsewhere Graeme Dott came through a real topsy turvy encounter with Ricky Walden 10-8,Marco Fu beat Jimmy Robertson 10-6 & Stuart Bingham eventually fell over the line to beat Robbie Williams 10-7 in quite awful second session.

In matches to a finish tomorrow Ali Carter leads Alan McManus 6-3 & Mark Davis leads Ding Junhui 4-3 after a lengthy afternoon session saw them only complete only 7 of their 9  frames.We also have entrance of a certain Mr O'Sullivan in the afternoon session

Thursday, 16 April 2015

World Championship 2015 Preview

After a season of, mixed results for some of our biggest stars,the return to the winners circle for an all tine great,and two new members of the ranking titles club the eyes of the snooker world once again focus on the Crucible for 17 days of drama on the baize.

So who will claim the title.Well I suppose there is only place to start and that is with our defending champion Mark Selby. Its been a strange old season for Selby.He really seemed to struggle in the early part of it,but victories in both the German Masters & the China Open will have him coming here with every confidence he can be the first first time returning champion to retain the title.The thing for me though is,even in those two tournaments he won,Selby did not play brilliantly the whole way through.Now there is an argument that  this is just the Selby way and what makes him unique is his ability to still dig out the victories,but I'm not sure you can win a world title depending so heavily on your " B"game,so for that reason I don't see him being the man to break the "Crucible Curse"

What then of the man he beat in last years final,.the five time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan? On the face of its it hasn't been a bad season for Ronnie as he claimed a second Champion of Champions title and  fifth UK Championship with thrilling victories over Judd Trump in both,but there have been signs since the turn of the year that all is not well with "The Rocket".On several occasions he has seemed quite angry.most noticeably at the Welsh Open and he also withdrew from the recent China Open apparently due to the return of the glandular fever that laid him low a few years back.It has also been recently reported that he has cut down n his sessions with Dr Steve Peters,but I understand they have resumed in the last few weeks.

So we're back to the eternal question,Which Ronnie will show up in Sheffield next week? Well I have no doubt that had he won a sixth title last season that Ronnie would be collecting his seventh come May 4th,but with that defeat and everything that has come since he may well be a a little vulnerable here.That said though,the draw has been kind enough to him and if he is anywhere near his best he really shouldn't have much trouble until at least the semi finals.What happens from there is anyones guess.

That brings us Ronnies potential semi final final opponent Judd Trump.These two have met this season in three epic finals,with Judd finally getting the better of things in the recent World Grand Prix. When Judd burst into everyones living rooms with his swashbuckling run to the final in 2011 comparisons were been immediately been made with the games other great crowd pleasers,but up to this year I had always seen him as more of a "White" than an "O'Sullivan".What we have seen recently though has forced me to revise my opinion a little as he has shown when in the mood that he also possesses a strong safety game.Bearing all this in mind he may well give this championship a good run this year.

Hoping to put an indifferent season behind him here will be 2010 champ, Neil Robertson.It seems a long time ago since Robertson won the first ranking title of the season taking the Wuxi Classic and although he did a PTC in Poland and reached a couple more finals he has largely struggled for the consistency we've come to expect from the Aussie..The one plus for him here is a kind enough quarter of the draw and it may allow him time to play himself into the tournament.

Also hoping to find something in Sheffield will be Ding Junhui,who after a record breaking season last time around has had an awful time of it over the last twelve months.He show signs of a return to form in China the other week,but he has been handed a very tough first round opponent in Mark Davis and even were he to win that he is in a very tough quarter of the draw.All in all I don't see this as the year of the first Chinese World Champion.

Of the others worth mentioning there are a few players who would need a strong tail wind to lift the title,like former champion Shaun Murphy who played superbly to lift the Masters in January,but would need to,at the very least,rediscover the form he showed for that fortnight in 2005 to be troubling the engraver this time. You can also throw into that category former winners John Higgins & Mark Williams,both have shown glimpses of their very best form in the last few months,but I just don't think at this stage either man still has the game  to add to their totals.

There are others there of course who will be thinking that this is the year that they will be adding their name the the Crucible roll of honour,but I would be majorly shocked if the winner came from outside any of the names mentioned above.

As for who I think will win it? I believe this may be Trumps year.

Recommended bets 
Judd Trump to win the title : 6/1
Value First Round Lucky 15: Graeme Dott (8/5) Anthony McGill (11/4) Ryan Day (2/1) Mark Davis (9/4)

First Round Draw
Mark Selby v Kurt Maflin
Stephen Maguire v Anthony McGill
Joe Perry v Zhang Anda
Shaun Murphy v Robin Hull
Barry Hawkins v Matt Selt
Mark Allen v Ryan Day
Ali Carter v Alan McManus
Neil Robertson v Jamie Jones
Ding Junhui v Mark Davis
John Higgins v Robert Milkins
Marco Fu v Jimmy Robertson
Judd Trump v Stuart Carrington
Ricky Walden v Graeme Dott
Stuart Bingham v Robbie Williams
Mark Williams v Matthew Stevens
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Craig Steadman


Sunday, 5 April 2015

China Open Final Selby Canters to Final Success.

Mark Selby will head to Sheffield to defend his World title  in a fortnight brimming with confidence after claiming the season penultimate prize with a comfortable 10-2 over Gary Wilson in todays China Open final.

This win,his second ranking title of 2015 following on from his triumph in the German Masters in February and his sixth ranking in total, couldn't be coming at a better time for the Leicesterman who had been struggling for form for much of the season.

What we saw here this week was typical Selby,not the prettiest to watch at times,but,as always it was backed up with the dogged determination we have come to expect and to be fair his form did improve in the semi final & final.

Of the final itself,well it may well have been a lot closer had Wilson,playing in his first ranking final,made the most of some early chances,but it was Selby who gradually pulled away,taking an 8-1 lead out the the first session the highlight of which was a tournament high break of 145.

From here it was always going to be an early finish and Selby quickly put it to bed when play resumed,running out an easy 10-2.

For Wilson,he will be disappointed he couldn't make more of a fight of it ,but he is a player certainly going the right way with his career and he can look back on a superb week that saw him beat home favourite Ding Junhui 6-5 in the semi final.

His attention,like  that of the rest of the snooker world will now turn this week to the World Championship qualifiers which begin on Wednesday.