Snooker fans will be licking their lips ahead of this year’s World Championship, which gets underway at Sheffield’s famous Crucible Theatre on Saturday, writes DAVID MYERS.
The 16-day marathon provides a huge test for the world’s elite, and stamina is very much required. There have been many occasions down the years when a player endures several stamina-sapping matches, only to turn up for the final running on empty – only on Wednesday night did a two-hour final frame qualifier broke the world record for the longest-ever frame!
A glance at the last 10 finals highlights the likes of with the likes of Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Judd Trump, Ding Junhui and Barry Hawkins reaching their first finals, prior to falling at the final hurdle to more experienced players.
Last 10 World Championship Finals
|2016||Mark Selby (2)||Ding Junhui (Q)||18-14|
|2015||Stuart Bingham (10)||Shaun Murphy (8)||18-15|
|2014||Mark Selby (3)||Ronnie O’Sullivan (1)||18-14|
|2013||Ronnie O’Sullivan (1)||Barry Hawkins (15)||18-12|
|2012||Ronnie O’Sullivan (14)||Ali Carter (13)||18-11|
|2011||John Higgins (2)||Judd Trump (Q)||18-15|
|2010||Neil Robertson (9)||Graeme Dott (Q)||18-13|
|2009||John Higgins (5)||Shaun Murphy (3)||18-9|
|2008||Ronnie O’Sullivan (5)||Ali Carter (14)||18-8|
|2007||John Higgins (5)||Mark Selby (Q)||18-13|
WINNERThere haven’t been too many shocks in Crucible finals, with only Shaun Murphy, managing to lift the trophy in 2005 having made it as a qualifier. Bar Murphy, 19 of the last 20 winners were all top 16 seeds – half of the starting line-up – as can be seen in the below table.
Last 20 World Champions
|Yr||Winner||Age||Seed||Form(latest first)||Season best||UK best||World best||World prev year|
|16||M Selby||32||2||L32 W QF||Semi||Won||Won||Last 16|
|15||S Bingham||38||10||L32 SF SF||Won||SF||QF||Last 32|
|14||M Selby||30||3||QF L32 RU||RU||Won||RU||Last 16|
|13||R O’Sullivan||37||1||- - L128||L128||Won||Won||Won|
|12||R O’Sullivan||36||14||QF SF W||Won||Won||Won||QF|
|11||J Higgins||35||2||W QF W||Won||Won||Won||Last 16|
|10||N Robertson||28||9||L16 L16 L16||Won||QF||SF||SF|
|09||J Higgins||33||5||RU L16 SF||Won||Won||Won||Last 16|
|08||R O’Sullivan||32||5||L32 RU L16||Won||Won||Won||QF|
|07||J Higgins||31||5||QF L32 L32||Semi||Won||Won||Last 32|
|06||G Dott||27||14||L16 QF SF||SF||QF||RU||Last 32|
|05||S Murphy||22||(Q)||L48 L48 L32||L32||NQ||L32||NQ|
|04||R O’Sullivan||28||3||QF QF QF||Won||Won||Won||Last 32|
|03||M Williams||29||3||L16 QF SF||Won||Won||Won||Last 16|
|02||P Ebdon||31||7||SF RU L16||RU||RU||RU||QF|
|01||R O’Sullivan||25||4||L32 W L16||Won||Won||Semi||Last 32|
|00||M Williams||26||3||RU QF W||Won||Won||RU||RU|
|99||S Hendry||39||2||QF W SF||Won||Won||Won||Last 32|
|98||J Higgins||22||3||W SF L32||Won||RU||QF||QF|
|97||K Doherty||26||7||L64 L32 L16||SF||RU||QF||Last 16|
The above list of 20 champions provides some vital information into their backgrounds heading into the tournament, and one of the most surprising is how world champions performed in the previous year’s competition – amazingly, only 3 of the last 20 winners made the semi-final or final 12 months earlier. In contrast, all bar the 2005 qualifier, Shaun Murphy, made at least the quarter-finals of this tournament and the UK Championship, earlier during their career.
Another clue can be found via the winner’s current season of their world title, as 18 of the last 20 victors made a semi-final at least, while on current form leading up to Sheffield, 16 winners made a quarter-final during their last three tournaments.
The winner’s seeding also shows that 19 of the last 20 winners came from the top 14, a sequence that was disrupted just once by Murphy in 2005. A closer look shows that 14 of the last 20 winners were seeded 2-7, with the No.1 seed (the defending champion) having a woeful record – only Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2013 won back-to-back titles.
With the history books suggesting this year’s winner should come from the higher seeded players, here is a close-up of each of the world’s top 16 players.
Nickname: The Jester from Leicester
Last 10 Worlds (latest first): W L16 W L16 L32 QF SF QF L32 RU
2016/17 best: Winner x 4 (UK, International, Classic, China Open)
Recent form (latest first): W QF L32
Having already won four titles this season, the defending champion, Mark Selby, is experiencing his best ever campaign and arrives at Sheffield clearly the man to beat.
However, being the No.1 seed for this tournament brings added pressure, and only Ronnie O’Sullivan managed to win the title from the last 20 top seeds to have tried. It’s also worth noting that while Selby arrives in top form having won the China Open just a few weeks ago, only two of the last 20 world champions actually won the final tournament prior to Sheffield – John Higgins in 2011 and 1998. Selby also never won a tournament in either of the seasons that he won both previous world titles in 2016 and 2014, and his followers will be hoping he hasn’t peaked too early.
Verdict: Bids for a third title in four years, but may face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semis, while also having the No.1 seed jinx to overcome.
Last 10 Worlds (latest first): L16 SF QF SF L16 RU – – – L32
2016/17 best finish: Winner x 2 (European Masters and Players Championship)
Recent form (latest first): QF W RU
Another of the top players enjoying a career best season, Judd Trump arrives in terrific form having won two ranking events for the first time in one season, along with three finals. One of those titles came just last month, and he has a decent pedigree at Sheffield with two semis and a final during his last six appearances.
Trump also has a decent draw in the bottom half away from Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan, with a possible last 16 clash against Anthony McGill, whom he leads 7-1 in head-to-heads.
Verdict: Enjoying his best-ever season, while a kind draw gives him one of his best chances of landing the title.
Last 10 Worlds (latest first): L32 W L32 QF L32 L16 – L32 L16 –
2016/17 best finish: Won (Welsh Open)
Recent form (latest first): L16 L16 W
The 2015 world champion, Stuart Bingham, felt the burden of wearing the crown during a disappointing season last time around, but has bounced back well. Indeed, Bingham reached four semi-finals prior to landing February’s Welsh Open, and he could go well if getting past a potential last 16 against Kyren Wilson.
Verdict: In better form than last season, but won’t be easy to win this again at the age of 40.
Nickname: The Dragon
Last 10 Worlds (latest): RU QF L32 QF L32 SF L16 L16 L16 L32
2016/17 best finish: Winner (Shanghai Masters)
Recent form (latest first): QF SF L64
Having failed to get past the last 16 in his first four visits to the Crucible Theatre, Ding Junhui has now reached two quarter-finals, a semi-final and a final during the last six years – a sequence that suggests he could be edging closer to a first world title.
That first final appearance against Mark Selby 12 months ago should put Ding in good stead for another bid, especially as he seems to have found some form of late, though he may need to beat Selby in the semis, if getting past Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarters.
Verdict: Made last year’s final and hitting form, but a tough draw awaits.
Shaun MurphySeed: 5
Nickname: The Magician
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 RU QF QF L32 L16 QF RU L16 SF
2016/17 best: Winner (Gibraltar Open)
Recent form (latest first): QF L16 W
Became one of the youngest winners of this title back in 2005, and made a couple of finals since. Arrives in fair form having won a weakened version of the Gibraltar Open last month when beating Judd Trump 4-2 in the final, but has a very tough draw at the Crucible, which may see him face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16, Ding Junhui in the quarters, and Mark Selby in the semis – a gruelling schedule even before the two-day final.
Verdict: Reliable and should be thereabouts, but has one of the toughest draws in the tournament.
Nickname: The Wizard of Wishaw
Last 10 Worlds (latest): QF L16 L32 L32 L16 W L16 W L16 W
2016/17 best finish: Winner x 2 (China Champ, Champ of Champ)
Recent form (latest first): L16 L16 L64
One of the most experienced players in this year’s tournament having won the title on four occasions, John Higgins can never be written off in Sheffield, despite his advancing years. A winner of two titles earlier this season, the Scotsman was going well until of late when failing to get past the last 16 in his last five tournaments – a similar sequence to his last five below-par Crucible appearances.
Verdict: In the better half of the draw, but recent form a concern and lifting the title could prove tough at the age of 41.
Nickname: The Hawk
Last 10 Worlds (latest): QF SF SF RU L32 L32 L16 L16 L16 L16
2016/17 best finish: Winner (World Grand Prix)
Recent form (latest first): L128 L16 L16
Has enjoyed an excellent time of things during the last four years, making the latter stages of some of the big televised tournaments, but still yet to win any of the majors, as was the case in January’s Masters when 5-1 up in the semis, before crumbling to a 6-5 defeat. Good pedigree at the Crucible having made a final and two semis in the last four years, and February’s Grand Prix win should boost his confidence in getting over the line.
Verdict: Has promised to win a “big one” for some time, but can lack a killer instinct during the latter stages. A nice draw could see him into the quarters safely.
Nickname: Hong Kong Fuey
Last 10 Worlds (latest): SF L16 L16 L16 L32 L32 L32 L16 L32 L32
2016/17 best finish: Winner (Scottish Open)
Recent form (latest first): L128 RU L64
The combination of a second Crucible semi-final last year and a run of decent form of late makes Marco Fu a contender this time around. Having struggled in the ranking events during the first half of the season, Fu then won the Scottish Open, made three other semis, and was runner-up to Judd Trump in his final tournament last month.
Verdict: Hitting form, but is another who finds himself in the tough top half of the draw where Mark Selby could await in the quarters. Still respected at decent odds.
Nickname: The Thunder from Down Under
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 QF SF L32 QF L32 W SF L16 L16
2016/17 best finish: Winner (Riga Masters)
Recent form (latest first): QF QF L64
With a current world ranking of No.9, from No.2 in 2014, the overall view is that Neil Robertson’s game hasn’t been at its peak for some time. Indeed, the 2010 world champion failed to get past the quarter-final stage during his last nine ranking tournaments, and he will need to raise his game by some margin if progressing from the toughest side of the draw.
Verdict: Form has been on the slide this season and would be a surprise if he suddenly bounced back here.
Nickname: The Captain
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 L16 L16 L16 RU L16 SF L16 RU QF
2016/17 best finish: Winner (World Open)
Recent form (latest first): L32 SF L32
A dual runner-up here in 2012 and 2008, though Ali Carter has not managed to get past the last 16 since. He did win the World Open earlier this season, while a semi-final last month suggests he is playing better than a 50-1 shot, but his overall form in both the biggest tournaments, the World and UK Championships (one semi in his last seven appearances), doesn’t offer confidence.
Verdict: Glimpses of form this term, but failed to shine in the big tournaments during recent years.
Nickname: The Pistol
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 L16 L16 L32 L32 QF QF SF L32 L16
2016/17 best finish: Semis x 2 (China Champ, Champ of Champ)
Recent form (latest first): L16 L32 L16
Hit a peak of No.7 in the world several seasons ago and has been consistent since, though his form since reaching a couple of semis earlier this season has gone backwards. His form at this tournament has been nothing special either, with just one semi in 10 visits, and the Irishman may be hoping for a quarter-final appearance at best.
Verdict: Both his recent form and performances here suggest he could struggle to make the latter stages once more.
Nickname: The Rocket
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 QF RU W W QF QF L16 W QF
2016/17 best finish: Winner (The Masters)
Recent form (latest first): L32 QF L64
Since winning the first of his five world crowns in 2001, Ronnie O’Sullivan hasn’t experienced a longer gap of four years without lifting the trophy, and with his last title coming back in 2013, the Rocket could be ready to strike once more. Not that it will be easy at the age of 41, but O’Sullivan has a habit of breaking records, such as when winning the aforementioned title in 2013 having not played a single tournament that season.
O’Sullivan’s form has been in-and-out this season, winning one of the 14 tournaments entered – The Masters – and reaching three other finals. He will also have to do it the hard way from a tough draw, with possible clashes against Shaun Murphy (fifth seed) in the last 16, Ding Junhui (fourth seed) in the quarters, and old foe, Mark Selby (No.1), in the semis.
Verdict: Would have to become one of the oldest winners of the modern era, and has a tricky draw, but you can never write off the Rocket.
Nickname: The Firecracker
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L32 – – – L32 – L32 L32 QF
2016/17 best finish: Winner (English Open)
Recent form (latest first): L64 L16 L128
Having won his first ranking event earlier this season, Liang Wenbo then reached the semi-final of the World Grand Prix to cap a good season, though wining the world crown may be asking too much. The fact his route to the final could include Ding/O’Sullivan/Selby, along with an unimpressive record at the Crucible is enough to suggest he will need to pull out a gigantic effort to get anywhere near lifting the title.
Verdict: Had a good season, but yet to shine here and punters may want to look elsewhere for this year’s winner.
Nickname: The Warrior
Last 10 Worlds (latest): QF – L32
2016/17 best finish: Runner-up (Indian Open)
Recent form (latest first): SF L128 L128
One of the most improved players on the circuit, having jumped from No.70 in the world to No.14 during the last two years, Kyren Wilson has made one final and two semi-finals this season. One of those semis came in the recent China Open, which should ensure Wilson turns up at the Crucible in decent form, and a quarter-final appearance at this venue on just his second appearance last year was an encouraging sign.
Verdict: Still improving and holds a better chance than his 40-1 odds suggest. Lively outsider.
Nickname: Licensed To Thrill
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 QF
2016/17 best finish: Winner (Indian Open)
Recent form (latest first): L64 L16 L64
Having earned the right to be here having enjoyed a career best season courtesy of two ranking titles – albeit two of the weaker tournaments – and three quarter-final appearances, Anthony McGill will be hoping to repeat his 2015 effort here when knocking out Mark Selby before making the quarter-final stage. That victory put McGill on the snooker map, but he may need to beat Judd Trump in this year’s last 16 if reaching another quarter-final.
Verdict: Arrives on an upward curve and remains capable of a shock, but needs to improve recent form.
Last 10 Worlds (latest): L16 L16 L32 – QF L32 L32 QF QF L32
2016/17 best finish: Runner-up (World Grand Prix)
Recent form (latest first): L128 L16 SF
A three-time quarter-finalist at the Crucible, Ryan Day has plenty of experience, but is still awaiting that elusive first ranking title. A first round clash with Mark Selby will be tough, and the draw won’t get any easier should he make it to the last 16.
Verdict: Yet to win a ranking title, and unlikely his first will come at the world championships.
The importance of concentrating on the world’s top 16 players can also be seen via this season’s results, with 18 of the 20 biggest tournaments being won by a top 16 player.
2016/17 major events
|Jun||Riga Masters||Neil Robertson||Michael Holt||5-2|
|Jul||Indian Open||Anthony McGill||Kyren Wilson||5-2|
|Jul||World Open||Ali Carter||Joe Perry||10-8|
|Aug||P Hunter Classic||Mark Selby||Tom Ford||4-2|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||Ding Junhui||Mark Selby||10-6|
|Oct||European Masters||Judd Trump||Ronnie O Sullivan||9-8|
|Oct||English Open||Liang Wenbo||Judd Trump||9-6|
|Oct||International Chmp||Mark Selby||Ding Junhui||10-1|
|Nov||*China Champ||John Higgins||Stuart Bingham||10-7|
|Nov||*Champ of Champs||John Higgins||Ronnie O Sullivan||10-7|
|Nov||N Ireland Open||Mark King||Barry Hawkins||9-8|
|Dec||UK Championship||Mark Selby||Ronnie O Sullivan||10-7|
|Dec||Scottish Open||Marco Fu||John Higgins||9-4|
|Jan||*The Masters||Ronnie O Sullivan||Joe Perry||10-7|
|Feb||German Masters||Anthony Hamilton||Ali Carter||9-6|
|Feb||World Grand Prix||Barry Hawkins||Ryan Day||10-7|
|Feb||Welsh Open||Stuart Bingham||Judd Trump||9-8|
|Mar||Gibraltar Open||Shaun Murphy||Judd Trump||4-2|
|Mar||Players Champs||Judd Trump||Marco Fu||10-8|
|Mar||China Open||Mark Selby||Mark Williams||10-8|
The current world No.1 and defending champion, Mark Selby, features four times in the above list, but the fact defending champions of this title have such a poor record means he is bypassed.
Also ignored is Ronnie O’Sullivan, who won just one of the 14 tournaments entered this season, which equates to a 7% strike-rate. With 7% converted into odds of 14-1, O’Sullivan’s current price of 6-1 to win the world crown don’t appeal, especially as he remains in a tough half of the draw and won’t find it easy aged 41.
Ahead of Selby and O’Sullivan in the market is Judd Trump (4-1), who has a more attractive profile and will avoid the aforementioned pair from the bottom half of the draw. Trump has also been in terrific form, hitting an impressive 57 centuries this season – 13 more than any other player. With a final and two semis during his last six world championships, Trump has proper Crucible experience under his belt, and this may be the year he finally comes of age.
Also in Trump’s half of the draw is Barry Hawkins (18-1), who almost did this column a favour in the Masters several months ago but for throwing away a 5-1 lead in the semi-final. Hawkins has a good record at the world championships, and is respected once more having won his second ranking tournament earlier in the season.
NAME THE FINALISTS
Several bookies have priced up this market, with the 11-1 favourite a Mark Selby/Judd Trump final. However, a look at the records below shows that not many finals featured both the No 1 & 2 seeds.
|Year||Seeds in world finals|
|2016||2-Q (seed 2 beat qualifier)|
The last time both the No.1 and 2 seeds contested a final was way back in 1987 when Steve Davis and Joe Johnson clashed. In fact, of the last 13 finals, 11 had at least one player that was ranked in double-figures or a qualifier, suggesting punters may need to be a bit more adventurous playing this market.
There are several markets revolving around the highest break, 147s and centuries struck during the next fortnight, and for punters looking for to get involved, the following records may provide some pointers.
Highest breaks this season
|Jun||Riga Masters||138 Martin O Donnell|
|Jul||Indian Open||142 Mark King|
|Jul||World Open||144 John Higgins|
|Aug||Paul Hunter Classic||147 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh|
|Sep||Shanghai Masters||147 Stephen Maguire|
|Oct||European Masters||147 Shaun Murphy|
|Oct||English Open||147 Alfie Burden|
|Oct||International Champ||145 John Higgins & China Xu Si|
|Nov||*China Champinship||144 Shaun Murphy|
|Nov||*Champ of Champs||143 John Higgins|
|Nov||N Ireland Open||147 John Higgins|
|Dec||UK Championship||147 Mark Allen|
|Dec||Scottish Open||142 Marco Fu|
|Jan||The Masters||141 Marco Fu|
|Feb||German Masters||147 Tom Ford|
|Feb||World Grand Prix||145 Judd Trump|
|Feb||Welsh Open||144 Mark Davis|
|Mar||Gibraltar Open||145 Jack Lisowski|
|Mar||Players Champ||136 Judd Trump|
|Mar||China Open||147 Judd Trump|
Most centuries this season
|Ronnie O Sullivan||44|
Centuries in World Championships
Highest breaks in World Championships
|2016||143 Kyren Wilson|
|2015||145 S Bingham & N Robertson|
|2014||140 Neil Robertson|
|2013||143 Neil Robertson|
|2012||147 Stephen Hendry|
|2011||138 Ding Junhui & M King|
|2010||146 M Allen & G Dott|
|2009||147 Stephen Hendry|
|2008||147 R O’Sullivan & A Carter|
|2007||144 A Carter|
There will be plenty of interest in whether a maximum 147 will be struck at this year’s world championship, and with a total of 10 having been recorded since Cliff Thorburn’s first in 1983, there is every chance of another perfect 36 balls. The bookies go 5-4 that a maximum will be hit, and 8-13 it won’t, while the highest break to be 145 or higher is 4-5.
David Myers's 2017 World Championship bets (scale 1-5 points):
5pts win JUDD TRUMP (4-1 general)
2pts win DING JUNHUI (14-1 Betfred, Skybet, 12-1 general)
1pt win BARRY HAWKINS (18-1 888sport, 32Red, Unibet, 16-1 general)