Betfred.com World Snooker Championships 2018: The Big Preview
It's the big one.
It's the event that every snooker fan the world over looks forward to. There are even people that book annual leave during this time so they can watch every ball.
Yes, I am talking about the 2018 Betfred.com World Snooker Championships.
This Saturday at 10:00am will see the first balls struck as defending champion Mark Selby gets proceedings underway against Joe Perry.
Before I go on let us take a look at the draw.
First Round Draw
- Mark Selby v Joe Perry
- Mark Allen v Liam Highfield
- Kyren Wilson v Matthew Stevens
- Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones
- John Higgins v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
- Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski
- Luca Brecel v Ricky Walden
- Judd Trump v Chris Wakelin
- Ding Junhui v Xiao Guodong
- Anthony McGill v Ryan Day
- Marco Fu v Lyu Haotian
- Barry Hawkins v Stuart Carrington
- Mark Williams v Jimmy Robertson
- Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins
- Ali Carter v Graeme Dott
- Ronnie O’Sullivan v Stephen Maguire
Some tasty matches there to whet anyone's appetite for snooker.
The Big Preview
I am now going to give you my thoughts about each of the 16 first round matches with my own little prediction to boot. Feel free to slate my picks via email or in the comments!
The matches are listed in the order of their first session.
Match 1: Mark Selby v Joe Perry
As is the honour of the defending Champion, Selby will be the first to complete his match as session one starts in the morning and his match will play to a finish in the 7pm session on Saturday.
Selby is one of the best ever players over the long distances in my opinion so I can't look beyond the Englishman. He should cement his place in round two and be able to have a couple of days rest.
Prediction: Selby 10-5
Match 11: Marco Fu v Lyu Haotian
Also in the morning session is match number 11.
Hong Kong's Marco Fu has always been a solid player and has enjoyed the Crucible in the past. Fu has been a semi-finalist twice and reached the last 8 in 2017. However, he has recently had three months out with eye surgery and this tournament is his first one since the operation.
This will be a tough test for Marco as he comes up against the 20-year-old Chinese World Number 68 in Lyu Haotian. It is his Crucible debut but after getting through three matches in qualifying he will not want to let this opportunity slip.
Prediction: Lyu Haotian 10-7
Match 3: Kyren Wilson v Matthew Stevens
Match 3 starts the afternoon session.
Kyren Wilson is having by far his best season. He has reached the final of two ranking events and was also runner-up at The Masters in January. The 26-year-old has reached the quarter-finals in his last two Crucible campaigns and will be looking to go much better this time out.
The longer matches however could prove to be his stumbling block and his opponent is a wily old fox in Welshman Matthew Stevens. Stevens has fallen down the rankings over the last few years but will still be a formidable opponent over the longer distance and has bags of experience at The Crucible.
Prediction: Kyren Wilson 10-8
Match 16: Ronnie O'Sullivan v Stephen Maguire
Probably the player most snooker fans really want to see. Ronnie O'Sullivan with start his attempt to win a 6th world title in the afternoon session on Saturday. He has really set the standard at times this season with five ranking event wins and a further two runs to the last 8. When his head is in the game he is unbeatable.
Stephen Maguire may consider himself a bit unlucky to have to have gone through the qualifiers. Currently ranked 18 he has actually been to a final this season and also has two semi-final finishes. Always a good player to watch but lacks consistency.
Prediction: Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-5
Match 15: Ali Carter v Graeme Dott
This match completes Day one.
Carter has not had the best of seasons if truth be told, he has slipped to number 15 in the World and his only notable run was a semi-final at the China Championship.
Since he reached his second World final in 2013 he has actually not been past the second round since.
Dott is another player I admire, not the most exciting to watch but as a former World champion he certainly knows how to win over the longer matches. Coming through qualifying last week may also mean he is a bit more match sharp. Reached the final of both the German Masters and the Shootout this season.
Prediction: Graeme Dott 10-6
Match 2: Mark Allen v Liam Highfield
Mark Allen has slipped to number 16 in the World Rankings so was sweating being seeded in this tournament. It has been a pretty uneventful year in terms of ranking events with only one final and one semi-final.
However, it has also been a breakthrough year having lifted his first triple crown event at The Masters in January, this should give him a boost to get past the inexperienced Highfield.
Although having been around since 2010 Liam Highfield is making his Crucible debut this season and will be bolstered by his run to the quarter finals of the Indian Open earlier in the season.
Prediction: Mark Allen 10-3
Match 4: Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones
Shaun Murphy is another of those players that are never really beaten. Renowned for his cue action and break building he has developed the tactical side of his game.
2018 has been an OK year with Murphy having reached four ranking finals, only to have lost them all. His only victory came in the non-ranking Champion of Champions event.
Jamie Jones is making only his third appearance at The Crucible but will have huge confidence going into his first round match after having whitewashed Liang Wenbo 10-0 in the final qualifying round. If he can get a few early frames on the board he could be a threat.
Prediction: Shaun Murphy 10-4
Match 12: Barry Hawkins v Stuart Carrington
Hawkins always seems to raise his game for The Crucible, especially when you compare other results from the same season.Over the past five season he has been one of the most consistent seeded players having got to the last 4 on three occasions and the final back in 2010.
2018 has been a steady year where he has lost in two finals.
Carrington is a bit of an unknown to me, he has played at the Crucible twice before but lost in the opening round both times. I can't see the record changing this time around.
Prediction: Barry Hawkins 10-3
Match 9: Ding Junhui v Xiao Guodong
An all-Chinese affair in this first round match. Ding on paper looks to have the easiest quarter of the draw so should be expected to reach the last 4. He has already won a ranking event this season and also lost in the final of the World Grand Prix.
Has been good at the Crucible over the last two years so seems to enjoy the atmosphere and longer matches.
Xiao Guodong has had probably his most consistent season, a season that has seen him climb back up to 25 in the rankings, however, other than a runner-up spot at the 2014 Shanghai Masters he has not quite reached his potential.
Prediction: Ding Junhui 10-4
Match 7: Luca Brecel v Ricky Walden
It has been a breakthrough year for young Belgian Luca Brecel, he finally reached some of his early promise with a ranking event victory at the China Championship. In addition he has also had a semi-final run this season.
His World Championships record has not made great reading so far though with only two previous appearances ending in defeat in the first round.
Brecel faces a tough opponent in Ricky Walden, formally ranked inside the world top 6 he has slipped down the rankings and finds himself at number 27 at the start of this event.
He has played a lot of tournaments over the last two seasons but nothing more than a run to a quarter-final has been to shout about. Consistency is the key though and he rarely loses in the first round.
Prediction: Ricky Walden 10-9
Match 6: Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski
Bingham is one of only two players to have won both amateur and professional World Titles when he lifted the Crucible crown in 2015. Since then he has gone on to be a very consistent performer on the tour but doesn't quite lift the trophies that his form suggests.
Earlier this season he received a ban due to betting breaches and has managed two quarter-finals since his return. Has been ranked as high as number 2 but needs to get some consistency back.
Lisowski, now 26, has reached a career high ranking of 30 this season bolstered by his best ever professional season. He has reached a first semi-final at the Shanghai Masters and two runs to the last 8 at the English Open and most recently the China Open.
Prediction: Stuart Bingham 10-7
Match 13: Mark Williams v Jimmy Robertson
Mark Williams is one of the games absolute legends and has this season enjoyed a real resurgence in form.
He has lifted both the German Masters and Northern Ireland Open ranking events, seen himself climb back to number 7 in the world and also picked up the 6-red world title.
Williams will present a very tough challenge for Robertson who will be making his fourth Crucible appearance, previously having never gone beyond the first round.
A quarter-final at the German Masters this season is his best ranking event result to date.
Prediction: Mark Williams 10-2
Match 14: Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins
The 2010 World Champion has won the Scottish Open this season but more importantly he recently reached the semi-finals of the China Open. Important because it is the last major ranking event before the Crucible and can give an indicator of form.
Milkins is an old hand on the circuit but has never been beyond the second round in any of his previous seven Crucible appearances. It should be a straightforward win for the thunder from down under.
Prediction: Neil Robertson 10-1
Match 5: John Higgins v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
So much has already been said about John Higgins, one of the games true greats and a four time world champion. Now at the age of 42 he is still ranked inside the top 5 and has had two tournament victories this season. Last years beaten finalist but could be a struggle for him to reach the same round this time.
Thai player Thepchaiya Un-Nooh is in his second stint as a professional and at 33 makes his Crucible debut against one of the games best ever match players. Last season reached two ranking event semi-finals but has not got anywhere near close to repeating that form in the 2018 season.
Prediction: John Higgins 10-2
Match 8: Judd Trump v Chris Wakelin
the final match in the first round see's European Masters winner Judd Trump take on Crucible newbie Chris Wakelin.
Trump really should have too much fire power for Wakelin and although he has struggled at the Crucible for the last two seasons he has had a very consistent year with a tournament win, a runner-up spot and five runs to the semi-finals including the Masters in January.
Wakelin on the other hand has never got beyond a quarter-final in a ranking event and his best result this season is a run to the last 16 at the Paul Hunter Classic and Northern Ireland Open.
It is about time Judd Trump lived up to his early promise and starts to fulfill his potential. This could be his year.
Prediction: Judd Trump 10-3
Have Your Say
That is my effort at a bit of predicting the first round results but I do like a bit of discussion and debate so please feel free to fire me an email or drop a message in the comments.
It goes without saying that the next 17 days are going to feature some fantastic snooker. It is hard to look past Ronnie O'Sullivan for a sixth world crown but it does depend on which Ronnie turns up.
The championships are broadcast live on the BBC and Eurosport.