9.4.07

WHO'S GOING TO WIN?

Someone asked me the other day who I thought would win the World Championship. There was a time, not so long ago, where I could answer that with a reasonable degree of certainty.

Not anymore. Snooker is in a state of flux, with fewer tournaments meaning fewer players in form, some of the established elite lacking motivation and more and more younger cuemen fancying their chances.

The Crucible victories of Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott have boosted the confidence of other lower ranked players who now believe the top guys are there for the taking. Indeed, a top four player hasn’t won a ranking title since the 2005 Irish Masters.

So what about this year’s 17-day snooker marathon? Here’s my semi-final prediction:

Mark Williams v Neil Robertson
Shaun Murphy v Stephen Hendry

This has been arrived at by studying the draw, although sticking pins in it will probably prove to be as accurate (last year I went for John Higgins, a first round loser)

I’ll explain my working out. Firstly, Williams seems an odd choice bearing in mind he hasn’t won a match in 2007. But at least he’ll be fresh and, contrary to what you may have heard, he is practising hard. He’s the sort of player who can click into gear and look a million dollars, and he’s won the title twice before.

Williams is in the same quarter as Dott, who I think will reach the quarter-finalss. The Scot is certainly playing well enough to defend his title, as he showed in China recently, but has a tough couple of opening matches, starting with Ian McCulloch, who beat him 10-9 at the same stage two years ago. If Dott comes through that he’ll play Anthony Hamilton or, more likely, Marco Fu, a semi-finalist last year and playing some solid stuff of late.

I think Williams would just about shade a quarter-final against Dott, but this is based on nothing other than idle conjecture – please don’t blame me if you have a bet and it doesn’t come off.

Robertson is arguably the player of the season but finds himself in the most brutal section of the draw: Ryan Day to play Ronnie O’Sullivan or Ding Junhui. The Aussie could easily lose to Day but I’d fancy him to beat O’Sullivan, whose mental attitude hasn’t been right all season. Being around Ronnie this year it’s clear he isn’t the same person who won the 2001 and 2004 world titles.

That said, I expect him to see off Ding, who himself is struggling a bit after his Wembley meltdown. I felt he needed a good run in his home event to restore some lost confidence, but his defeat to Barry Hawkins means he heads to Sheffield with some questions to answer about his temperament.

The other dangermen in the top half would seem to be Stephen Maguire and Higgins, neither of whom have shown much form this season.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Joe Perry beat Maguire and Michael Holt could conceivably cause an upset against Higgins.

Watch out, too, for Fergal O’Brien against Hawkins, who must still be reeling from his 6-5 semi-final defeat to Jamie Cope in Beijing.

The bottom half of the draw would appear to be slightly easier, but still brimming with quality.

Murphy arrives at the Crucible with the Malta Cup under his belt and should have too much for debutant Judd Trump and the winner of the veterans match between Steve Davis and John Parrott.

In the quarter-finals, Murphy would most likely play Ken Doherty, though Matthew Stevens can’t be written off at Sheffield.

Hendry starts off against Dave Gilbert, who I wouldn’t completely write off, even though I expect the seven times winner to come through.

I expect Hendry to face Peter Ebdon in the quarter-finals and feel sure it would go very close. I just feel Hendry will start playing well at some point and where better than the place he made his own backyard in the 1990s?

However, Ebdon is such a tough player and is a useful man to back if you’re looking for value in the betting.

And who could be this year’s Murphy or Dott? Possibly Mark Selby who has a reasonably favourable draw.

However, the real dark horse could be Mark Allen. He has a very tough opener against Ken Doherty but the draw opens up a little after that. He is fiercely confident and if it all comes together will take some stopping.

So anyway, Williams v Robertson and Murphy v Hendry. What happens after that?

I’d suggest Robertson and Murphy would contest the final and that it would be a very exciting shoot-out, which Murphy will just shade.

With how much confidence do I make these predictions: zero, but that’s the fun of snooker these days – the only way to find out is watch what happens.

11 comments:

Chris said...

Very interesting, Dave. It would, to my mind, be something of an injustice for Shaun to win again when you consider the really great players who have only won once opr never and he has not proved himself a great player yet.

As you say there are so many fluctuations in form these days it is so difficult to predict. Hendry has been awful at times this season and Higgins can be superb but he is not consitent enough for my money to go through all the rounds. The same goes for Doherty. I am not sure that Ronnie can keep his head together for the whole tournament. If he could then you wouldn't bet against him.

Intersting point about Mark Allen but it is his first time in the event and the special atmosphere of the Crucible as well as the physical and mental effort required to win can come as a bit of a shock to first timers. I just can't pick a winner this time but if really pressed I would go for Ronnie but with no real confidence.

Anonymous said...

It's very brave of you Dave as it is getting tougher each year to predict a winner of the first round matches let alone rounds 2 and 3 also!
The only "guaranteed" winners of round one I can see are:
Doherty,Stevens,Davis and Ebdon.
I'd pick the semi finalists as:
Ebdon v Murphy and Dott V O'Sullivan
However I have no confidence that either Dott or O'Sullivan will make it to round 2!
I hope there is a last hurrah from Hendry but cannot see it myself.
Let's hope it's a good one.

DJ

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I predict:

Maguire v O'Sullivan +
Doherty v Ebdon

I hope there are plenty of shocks - which would render my predictions useless!

If O'Sullivan has his 2004 winning hat on, he'll make. But nothing is easy in Ronnie's world and, since the departure of Ray Reardon on Team O'Sullivan he has struggled in Sheffield. I doubt he will have a mentor backstage - but does he need one...now!

Maguire is my longshot. He has played badly all season, but like every other player in the tournament, they tend to produce the best at the Crucible. We'll see.

If Maguire doesn't produce in the top-half, Williams will. Although, he is coming up against an in-form Joe Swail, who dumped the Welshman out of the World Championships seven years ago (?) Also, didn't Williams say in the press that he isn't that bothered about the game now and that only winning a third World Championship would aid his career now.

Bottom-half is certainly the easier to predict. A titanic battle - similar to the UK Final - will see Hendry dumped out by Ebdon, with Doherty picking off his opposition in his half of the draw.

On another note, did Mark Allen and his snooker-playing girlfriend win the doubles in a tournament they were playing last week? He'll be worn out by the time Sheffied comes around.

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

No, they lost in the quarter-finals

It was won by Joe Perry and Leah Willet

Anonymous said...

But, she did win the singles title the week before, so she cannot complain.

I don't know whether Snooker Scene has a story about this, but i thought i would share it with everyone. Thanks, Joe

A Conservative club in Stockport has voted to ban women from playing snooker - in case they damage the table.

The Manchester Evening News reports that members at Great Moor were invited to relax a 68-year policy of barring females from playing.

But they voted against bringing equality to the games room - although women are allowed in to watch.

One member claimed it was considered that women playing snooker is 'undignified' and could distract the men.

The club is legally entitled to have a men-only policy because it is a private members' club.

Do such bans exist in your area?

Surely in this age of equal opportunities men and women are welcomed equally everywhere.

Dave H said...

I think these people are an embarrassment to the sport

Anonymous said...

I agree!

Maybe you should have a question of the month feature on this story in the next issue (or a petition) of Snooker Scene...

Thanks, Joe

Anonymous said...

Great to see your predictions and other predictions Dave. I will have a go as well, why not! I'll go for the semi-final line-up:

Dott v O'Sullivan
Ebdon v Stevens

and I'll go for a O'Sullivan v Stevens final, with Stevens finally breaking his Crucible duck!

Craig

Dave H said...

Ebdon's the dangerman, certainly

Anonymous said...

Without doubt, 'there's something about him', as I recall Steve Davis saying one time when predicting him to beat Stephen Lee in the deciding frame of a second round match a few years ago.

Andy said...

Hi All!

This prediction stuff is good fun so why not have a go, ...I've been getting is wrong for the last 20 years anyway! :-)

Dave, as you say, it's got to be one of the hardest ones to predict yet!

I was really impressed with Dott in China and fancy him to get to the semis at least.

The biggest match in the first round is clearly Ding - Ronnie. I think Ding might have his snooker head on for Sheffield and see him beating Ronnie (who's going to retire again when he gets beat - only joking! :-) ). Once Ding gets past Ronnie I can see him going all the way to the final.

I think Doherty's got a really good draw and can see him beating Stevens, Murphy and Selby on the way to the final.

Hendry's form hasn't been so good for a few years now. For me he just doesn't look solid on his shots like he did back in the 90s (I've got the vids to prove it!), so I think Selby will beat him in the quarters.

That leaves a KenDinger of a final!! Ding won't beat Hendry's record at the first time of asking so Ken's going to win his second World Crown and reclaim the number one spot.

I mean, Ding winning at his first attempt, ...that would be like a rookie F1 Grand Prix driver getting 3 podiums in his first 3 races and winning a GP in his first year wouldn't it!!! Silly idea!

Here's looking forward to a good 17 days.

Andy