Ronnie ready to re-write history
Easter weekend means only one thing for snooker fans - the start of the World Championships.
From 20th April, 32 of the world’s best players, featuring the top 16 and 16 qualifiers, will aim to finish the season in style by winning snooker’s greatest prize and a cheque for £500,000.
But who will be crowned World Champ on 6th May?
Ronnie rolling back the years
It’s no surprise to see who heads the list of names tipped to lift the trophy on May 6th. Yep, you guessed, Ronnie O’Sullivan, is the overwhelming favourite at 9/4 for the showpiece event, looking to win a sixth world championship of a career that shows little sign of slowing up.
The 43-year-old, in fine fettle and enjoying an incredible season after winning three ranking events including the UK Championship and the Tour Championship, has recently reclaimed the much-coveted tag of world number one - the first time in nine years he has been top of the rankings.
Back to his ruthless best, ‘The Rocket’ looks well set to equal the haul of legends Steve Davis and Ray Reardon and move one behind great rival, Stephen Hendry with a sixth world crown.
Judd has eyes on the prize
Looking around at who can match O’Sullivan isn’t easy. But perhaps this is the year Judd Trump finally comes of age on the biggest stage of them all?
The 2011 runner-up, joint second favourite at 5/1, put his idol to the sword in the final of the Masters back in January, emphatically seeing off O’Sullivan 10-4 at Ally Pally with his vibrant brand of ‘naughty snooker’.
Having ticked off his second ‘triple crown’ title, the left-hander will now have his eyes on winning that elusive first world championship.
Neil in it to win it
Competitive to the core, it’s likely ‘Thunder from Down Under’ Neil Robertson, will feature in the latter stages. The Aussie, also priced at 5/1, has held the title once, winning back in 2010 as a 28-year-old set on taking on the world.
Another world crown has since failed to materialise and time is running out for Robertson to be considered one of the game’s true greats.
The left-hander does come into the tournament in good nick though having just secured his third ranking event of the calendar year out in China.
The man for the occasion?
Mark Selby will be the first to admit he’s played nowhere near his best snooker this season, a fact that has led to the 35-year old losing his status as world number one for the first time in four years.
But such is the mental strength of the ‘Jester from Leicester’, it’s hard to write him out of contention completely.
Selby’s game suits the longer format as was proved with his back-to-back wins in 2016 and 2017, and his very first Crucible crown in 2014. He’s more than capable of turning his season around in the best possible fashion.
Capable of gatecrashing the party?
It seems strange to be talking about potential winners without mentioning the defending champion.
‘Welsh potting machine’, Mark Williams surprised us all - and himself going by his celebrations - last year by defying the odds, made more remarkable for the fact it was fifteen years on from his last world title win.
21/1 suggests he isn't fancied to repeat the feat by the bookies but as he proved twelve months ago, Williams, on his day, is more than a match for anybody.
Outside those mentioned, recent winners include three-time champion John Higgins (21/1) Stuart Bingham (23/1) but the chances of either adding to their respective titles are seen as slim following an inconsistent twelve months.
Betting tip for the Outright Winner
It has to be Ronnie, doesn’t it? He’s in sublime form, got the t-shirt and, most importantly, seems to be back in love with the game.
He’s the GOAT in the eyes of many already but he can make things official in the record books by moving one ahead of Stephen Hendry’s long standing haul of 36 ranking titles with a sixth Sheffield crown.
At the top of his game and still intent on breaking records, O’Sullivan, at 9/4, is the man to back.