Snooker’s biggest names will pack plenty of question-marks into their luggage as they converge on the Crucible for the start of this year’s World Snooker Championship on Saturday.
Each of the major names can stake a significant claim for getting their hands back on the trophy – but they also present telling reasons why we should look elsewhere for this year’s champion.
Here, the PA news agency assesses the title chances of the five biggest names in the sport – and some of those who stand prepared to cash in if they fall.
Selby, a four-time and defending champion, is the undisputed master of the long-form game, and one of increasingly few players for whom his stamina is not in question. But Selby has struggled this season amid a candid admission of mental health issues, casting his quest to claim a fifth career world title into sharp perspective.
O’Sullivan might insist he has little interest in equaling the seven titles of his great rival Stephen Hendry, but has shown snatches of form this season that suggest he is as driven as ever to go all the way. A fully focused O’Sullivan has to be a favorite for the crown – but 17 days is an awful long time for the ‘Rocket’ to stay the course.
Robertson has been the best player this season, winning four titles including the Masters and the Tour Championship. But it remains a remarkable fact that he has not returned to a Crucible final since his solitary title win in 2010. The Australian is no fan of the long-form Crucible slog, and that could count against him when the going gets tough.
The swashbuckling manner of Trump’s maiden title win in 2019 suggested many more were on the cards. But another ‘triple crown’ title has eluded him since, and inconsistency this season has seen him pick up just one title win at the Turkish Masters, and surrender his number one ranking of him. Little about his current form of him suggests a second crown is on the cards.
So long as eight-time finalist Higgins in the draw, he will pose a threat. The dogged Scot has enjoyed another successful campaign and reached five finals, but defeats in all five of them – including losing the Tour Championship 10-9 to Robertson after leading 9-4 this month – have got to hurt. Another near miss could be on the cards.
Chinese pair Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong will head to the Crucible in good heart, with Yan in particular looking well-placed for a strong run. Luca Brecel’s hopes of continuing his breakthrough campaign are hindered by a tough quarter, while fifth seed Kyren Wilson could be the man to ease through to the final stages comparatively unnoticed.