The Betfred World Championship got underway this weekend as Snooker’s top stars descended on the famous Crucible Theatre. The most illustrious event on snooker’s calendar, the World Championship will grace our screens for the next two weeks until the final on the 1st of May.
Mark Selby is the defending champion after beating Ding Junhui in last year’s final, but with so many players coming into the competition in good form, he will have to be at his best to defend the trophy. Ronnie O’Sullivan is in attendance as he attempts to reel in Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles – the Rocket has five to his name at the moment. The likes of Judd Trump, Marco Fu and John Higgins arrive in good form having had decent seasons so far, while Neil Robertson, Barry Hawkins, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy and Kyren Wilson show the strength in depth through the field.
Mark Selby and Judd trump share favouritism at odds of around +350 , while Ronnie is just behind at +550 with SkyBet. It’s +1400 the field behind the first three, and there are good reasons to have punt on O’Sullivan securing yet another title.
Despite not playing regularly, Ronnie still has more ability than any of his rivals if he’s on his game. That’s a big if, and the maverick player admits himself that he needs to be ‘fired up’ to reach the heights that we all know he can. Perhaps he found that fire when he picked up the 7th Masters title of his career earlier this season, and similar motivations may bring out the best of him over the next two weeks. At the time of writing he has a slender 5-4 first round lead over Gary Wilson, but has already hit the first 100+ break of the tournament. He already hold the record for century breaks with 869 or so to his name, and the target of 1000 is a tantalising prospect. He also has Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles to chase after, and although he is now one of the veterans of the game, there are still targets to aim for.
The part-time approach to the game does make Ronnie as unpredictable as ever, but when he brings his A game to the table there are few who can live with him. At odds of +550 he has to be backed. Fans of snooker would surely kick themselves if he took the title and they passed up odds like that.
There are plenty of viable each way bets for the title, including the likes of Marco Fu, John Higgins and Neil Robertson, but we’ll take a chance on the Hawk, who has a very good World Championship record. Hawkins missed the China Open, which gave him plenty of time to prepare for this tournament, and he has a great record here having reached quarters, two semis, and one final in the last four seasons. That shows that he has the experience and the temperament to go far in the competition, and his position in the fourth quarter of the draw means he cannot meet O’Sullivan or Selby until the final.
He would most likely have to navigate a way past Judd Trump if he’s to get that far, but at the odds he’s worth a punt. Trump, Bingham, Kyren Wilson and Higgins represent difficult opponents in the bottom half of the draw, but this is the World Championship, and any player with pretensions of winning will know the class of opponent they have to beat to get there.
Ronnie O’Sullivan to win the World Championship
15th April – 1st May
Barry Hawkins to win the World Championship – Each Way
15th April – 1st May