And so my first round preview concludes with more predictions...

I would never claim to have any great insight into the inner workings of a snooker player’s mind but it seems to me that Williams put a great deal into getting back to world no.1 and has now tailed off a bit, perhaps because the only way after accomplishing what was a terrific feat was down.

Since losing the Shanghai Masters final last September, Williams hasn’t looked the same. He’s still dangerous of course but his performances haven’t been as impressive as they were last season.

So perhaps this one could be the big first round shock that nobody can see coming. Well, if it is, I haven’t seen it coming either.

Liu has done really well to qualify. He has that deadpan way about him which makes his emotions hard to read.

But his lack of experience must surely be a factor. He played at the Crucible four years ago but doesn’t have much table time under his belt in the big arenas.

Williams doesn’t seem to rate his own chances of progressing much further but I think he’ll come through this one.

PREDICTION: Williams to win 10-5

Make no mistake: this is a rotten draw for O’Sullivan. However, it isn’t a good one for Ebdon either.

Aside from his debut in 1993, when he was just 17, O’Sullivan has only lost twice in the first round and he played great both times: five centuries against David Gray in 2000 and a maximum against Marco Fu in 2003.

All the talk will be about their infamous quarter-final in 2005 in which Ebdon – and let’s be clear about this – employed spoiling tactics, slowing down the pace of play to a crawl.

O’Sullivan was unable to cope with this. You could argue this is part of the test of a snooker player. Others would maintain that a break of 12 in five minutes is simply beyond the pail of what is acceptable. Whichever your view, that match hangs over this one like a raincloud.

However, Ebdon has not beaten O’Sullivan since that night in four meetings and the key difference this time is that O’Sullivan will be mentally prepared for what is going to happen.

He wasn’t seven years ago. He was 8-2 up and coasting. What happened surprised and unnerved him.

This match is not as long and if he can get on top of Ebdon early on then it would be a much tougher ask for Ebdon to come back.

But it’s not just Ebdon’s pace of play that is the issue. The point is, he is playing great stuff right now. He’s back to somewhere near his best and his confidence is high.

This is all on O’Sullivan. Is he playing well enough? Is he mentally prepared? He needs to dig in, will he?

I think he will. We saw at the German Masters what he could do when he really, really tries.

This is the Crucible. There is no reason not to make another supreme effort.

PREDICTION: O’Sullivan to win 10-7

Gould played some really good stuff to become a top 16 player for the first time this season. Since then he seems to have, perhaps subconsciously, been looking over his shoulder.

This is something many new top 16 players have struggled to cope with, but he is low on confidence and that is not the state of mind you want heading to the Crucible.

When Gilbert started the qualifiers last week there was talk that, because of a bizarre loophole, he would be better losing his first match as he would then be out of the top 64 and get a two-year tour card through his place among the top eight tour qualifiers from the PTC order of merit.

Well, that may have been true but this is the World Championship and every player is going to give it everything. Gilbert’s Crucible debut in 2007 saw him lead Stephen Hendry 5-1 before losing 10-7.

He has done the hard work already by qualifying and can exploit any nerves from Gould, who is playing at Sheffield for the first time as a seed, not a position he seems to have taken to so far this season.

PREDICTION: Gilbert to win 10-8

Robertson is my tip for the title this year. He is a player who excels in every area of the game. He’s a great potter, heavy scorer, has an iron safety game, understands tactics and psychology and has a big match temperament.

Robertson’s only real weakness is his preparation. He hasn’t elaborated, but admits to not having given the run-in to his title defence last year the proper respect.

I’ve had the feeling all season that he has been eyeing these 17 days in Sheffield. Of course, all players do but they don’t all have the Australian’s strength of character.

He’s a proven winner at the Crucible and he doesn’t have the baggage this year of trying to defend the crown.

Doherty had his day in the Crucible sun in 1997 and was the star of the 2003 championship, if not the winner.

The genial Irishman is far more inconsistent these days. I think he can certainly cause Robertson problems but over a match of this length I’d expect the form man to come through.

PREDICTION: Robertson to win 10-4

Day is always potentially dangerous but has gone backwards since his appearance in the Crucible quarter-finals in 2008 and 2009.

Ding blows hot and cold but was impressive at the Crucible last year where he eventually lost an epic semi-final to Judd Trump.

Ding seems nicely settled now in his private life. He lives in a house in Sheffield with his girlfriend, Apple, and maybe this relaxed home life will help him bear fruit come May 7.

He’s certainly good enough. He’s as good a break builder as there is. But he’s also inconsistent and there’s plenty of time for things to go badly wrong at the World Championship. Sometimes you have to dig in and rely on your B game.

He has to be favourite to come through this, although Day is by no means a pushover.

PREDICTION: Ding to win 10-7

Cao has done really well to qualify and his temperament must be good to win deciders against Dave Harold and Tom Ford but it’s his misfortune to run into a player who has always been high in confidence and who now has the silverware to back it up.

I think Allen will have a really good run here. He seems to relish playing on the biggest stages and has a Crucible semi-final and two quarter-finals under his belt from these last three years.

There’s no reason why, given his experience, confidence and form, he shouldn’t be a justified favourite for this one.

PREDICTION: Allen to win 10-4

There’s usually a riveting 10-9 in the first round and this could be it.

Stevens was among the four or five leading world title contenders in the first half of the last decade. Like Stephen Lee, he has regained his place in the world’s elite top 16 but, unlike Lee, he has not pushed on since.

Fu always seems to play great or not much good at all. This maddening inconsistency means he is out of the top 16 again even though he belongs in there for many, myself included.

If it goes close I’d fancy Fu. And I think it’ll go close.

PREDICTION: Fu to win 10-9

A week ago, Selby was unable to play due to the trapped nerve in his neck which saw him withdraw from the China Open.

This is not the ideal preparation for the World Championship and he is still receiving treatment. Even if the physical pain goes away he can be forgiven for having mental doubts.

He also has a very tough first round opponent. Hawkins beat Stephen Maguire in the first round last year and was a frame from beating Mark Allen in the last 16.

Hawkins needs to play well again but the intrigue surrounds Selby. Is he really in a fit state to play?

More to the point, given the build-up, could he last the full 17 days? The omens are not good for him even if he wins this first round encounter.

PREDICTION: Selby to win 10-8


Kiss Zsolt said...

Hello (again)!

If You want to read in my opinion:
Williams to win 10-5.
After the two 2nd place, this season is bad for Mark J. But he is a class act, who can raise his game, if he needs.
Liu is very good in World Quals, but this is the crucible. 4 year ago, he played great 1st session against Ronnie (from 0-3 down, only 4-5 down).

O'Sullivan to win 10-6.
This is the match of the last 32. Class of the styles. Ronnie's head is much better than 2005. Surely Ronnie learned from the 2005 WCH quarter.
Ebdon's form is back. His head is always good for the tactical battles.
The key is Ronnie's answer to Ebdon's game.

Gould to win 10-9.
This match will be very quickfire. Gould and Gilbert are very attacking player.
The question is 'Can George believes his victory?'. And if he has a big ahead (like 2007), how to handle in this situation.
Gould was disappointment after his 1st round defeat against Hendry in China Open, because he missed a very easy red.
All in all, in my view, this match will be very close.

Robertson to win 10-6.
After Masters victory, Robertson's form is not very good.
Doherty is a very good fighter.
The key is Doherty's safety game, plus Robbo's long pot success.

Ding to win 10-6.
Day made great comeback against Greene in the last qual. round. This victory maybe give him confidence, but in 2005 (against Higgins) and 2006 (against Ronnie), he couldn't hold his nerve.
Everybody said that this year will be Ding's year. Maybe high pressure will be on Ding.

Allen to win 10-3.
I think this match will be the one-sided 1st round match of this year's world championship.
Cao has 2 good win (Harold+Tom), but I think the question is the match: 'how many frames can Cao win?'.
This match will resemble the Allen-Ford in 2010.

Fu to win 10-9.
In 2011, Stevens led Allen by 9-6, but Allen won 10-9.
Fu is very good fighter and he played great match against Jogia in world qual.

Selby to win 10-7.
hopefully Selby's neck will OK in this match and we will see great battle.
Hawkins - like Carter or Day - can't win some big matches in his life plus Selby's season is very good.
I can't see, how Hawkins can beat Selbyin best of 19 frames match.

Anonymous said...

A very interesting set of predictions Dave. I made my own predictions yesterday and have just compared them with yours - all but two are the same and those which are the same we only differ in frame score by the odd frame in each case! I opted for Gould to edge Gilbert, principally because of his ability to perform at the Crucible. I take your view though that he hasn't performed particularly well this season and maybe Gilbert's good form coming into the Championship may well be the critical factor in this match. A close game nonetheless!
I also felt that Stevens might edge Fu, again because of his record at the Crucible and because he tends to perform better in the longer matches. Another close one as well.
And then of course there's O'Sullivan vs Ebdon! Well I think that O'Sullivan has looked good this season and his work with his sports psychologist does seem to be paying off. He's kept it together mentally at points in matches where previously he might have thrown in the towel. He's also rediscovered his long-potting ability and coupled with his lethal close-game this makes him as ever a serious contender. The deciding factor for me is his desire for a fourth title. If he's really hungry to win another world crown then I can't see Ebdon winning, although I do predict a close match. Hopefully there won't be too many 5-minute breaks of twelve to watch but I don't think Ebdon will give a care what anyone thinks and will employ whatever tactics he feels give him the best chance of winning. The question is though is O'Sullivan mentally prepared for the inevitable - I think so! Ronnie to win 10-8.

Jimmy said...

I think Chuang is going to give Williams a closer challenge than the 10-5 predicted.

John McBride said...

Arguably, Ryan Day is the one qualifier no one wanted. Having said that, I don’t think Ding would have been one of the qualifiers any of them would have wanted either. This’ll be a good tight match & as ever, whoever wins the most closely fought frames, will come out on top as both are exceptional break builders & I expect there to be plenty of 80+ breaks in this match.
I can’t see Marco Fu beating Matthew Stevens.
As for the Ronnie O’Sullivan v Peter Ebdon match, Ronnie O’Sullivan has matured considerably since the 2005 match however that doesn’t necessarily mean that because of this, Ronnie will win. I was on Peter Ebdon when he won the worlds @ 33’s & I was also on him again @ 28’s when Graeme Dott beat him in the final & I see the same Peter Ebdon this year as I did then. Peter Ebdon is a quality player too. If, as you say Dave, Ronnie came out on top early on it would be tougher for Peter Ebdon, but Ronnie needs to be playing at his best to do this. Even if Peter is 6-3 down at the MSI, Peter will still be well involved. A mouth-watering matchup, it has to be said.

Anonymous said...

on ros v ebdon ron needs 2 take the chances he gets and put them away quickly, if not and he plays like v selby in the welsh it will be meat and drink 4 plebdon

kildare cueman said...

Ros and Ebdon will come down to O'Sullivan's form on the day.
If he plays well he'll have no trouble from Ebdon but if he's missing easy balls, he could be on the way home.
I think Ebdons resurgence might work in O'Sullivans favour. He'll relish the challenge and he generally seems to play well when up against players who were top pros when he was starting out, i.e Ebdon, Hendry, Doherty and White.
I think O'Sullivan is in the quarters barring the shouting.

I agree with your summation of the Fu/Stevens game. Expect Stevens to play breathtaking snooker until the winning line approaches, then start to falter. Fu needs to be no worse than 6-3 down at the interval, then he will have every chance.

I think Higgins will be very poor in his opener, and against a plodder like Perry or M.Davis would probably be sent home. Fortunately for him he drew the lunatic that is Liang Wenbo, and will get loads of chances to make 25s and 30s and will probably be enough to see him through to rd. 2.

Anonymous said...

Ebdon will defeat O'Sullivan.
At the first sign of distress Ronnie will go into kamikaze mode and threaten to retire.
Ebdon will claim to be oblivious to his own slow play and may break into floods of crocodile tears as he reflects on his own plight.
The pantomime starts at the weekend and the usual suspects are in attendance.

Anonymous said...

As a big snooker fan for many years i do hope ros wins thru, in my opinion there is only ros, trump, allen and williams are worth watching. The rest altho good players are slow/negative ebdon selby dott and possibly robertson, the are are others like murphy maguire and ding who are capable but i can take or leave and of course higgins who shudnt even be there, heres hoping the flair players get thru!

Ryan Wride said...

Mark Williams v Liu Chuang I think, despite MJ's poor form since the Shanghai Masters, will be one of the more one sided games. Chuang obviously played well to beat Jimmy White and Jamie Cope in the qualifiers but, Williams won't give him the opportunities that those two did.

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Peter Ebdon as David said will always have the raincloud over it, following the infamous quarter final in 2005. Going back to that match, I agreed with John Parrott following the match that the referee should of interviened. But that was then, this is now and I'm picking Ronnie to win regardless of Ebdon's tactics following his fighting spirit in winning the German Masters. An old Ronnie at 4-0 down to an Andrew Higginson, who was playing well, would have gave up but he came back and won and then 6-3 down to an inspired Stephen Maguire in the final showed true fighting skills and heart.

Martin Gould v David Gilbert could be a very nervy affair with a lot on the match for both players and envisage it being close. Since reaching the top 16, Gould has struggled and I think he'll struggle again with the anticipation o being a seed - so I'm going for a Gilber victory.

Neil Robertson v Ken Doherty. Robertson has been my tip for the Championship since his impressive win at the Masters, even though he's had poor results since. I think he wants to prove a point for his loss last year and I think Ken will feel the full brunt of it and be back in the BBC studio quickly.

Ding Jun Hui v Ryan Day could be closer that the formbook suggests as I believe Ryan's win over Gerard Greene and Fergal O'Brien's subsequent loss to David Gilbert has secured Ryan his top 32 ranking, so there won't be that added pressure for Day. Day has had some big wins and performances at Sheffield and it wasn't that long ago he had back to back quarter finals but, over 19 frames and 2 sessions I think Ding will edge it about 10-8.

Mark Allen v Cao Youpeng I think will be the most one sided opening round match. Youpeng must have some bottle to beat Dave Harold and Tom Ford in final frame deciders in the qualifiers but, Mark Allen on the big stage is a different proposition - especially with the added confidence he gained from winning the World Open and having his best career performances over the longer distances at Sheffield and the UK Championship.

Matthew Stevens v Marco Fu, along with Graeme Dott v Joe Perry could be the match of the round. It really is 50/50! I'm going to pick Fu, purely because Stevens, despite regaining his top 16 ranking, hasn't won the big matches the last few seasons. Losses to Mark Allen here last year from 9-6 up and to Ali Carter in the 2010 Shanghai Masters from 4-1 up. Fu is an all round class act, who should be in the elite 16.

Mark Selby v Barry Hawkins. Hawkins is a player who I feel always struggles against those ranked above him, a good top 32 player but a return to the top 16 is beyond him. Despite the injury scare to Selby, I think he will turn a close opening session into a 10-6/7 victory.


Anonymous said...

I hope that Ken Doherty will loosen his matchbox.

Anonymous said...

I fancy Doherty to run Robertson a lot closer than many are predicting.

Anonymous said...

Question: can O'Sullivan still drop below 16th in the rankings? And WHEN Ebdon defeats him, which round does he need to reach to have a chance to climb upto 16th?

Anyway, it won't matter that much, I'm predicting Higgins vs. Trump and Robertson vs. Ding Semi-finals and a Trump vs. Robertson Final, in which the Aussie will prevail.

kildare cueman said...

I agree with you 1.50. If Doherty plays well he has every chance.
Everyone seems to be tipping Robertson but I'm not so sure.
The year he won it, he had a relatively easy run of opponents. I stress relatively, as I know theres no easy opponent at the crucible.
If O'Sullivan and Robertson both reach the quarters, which they both should barring surprises, I think O'Sullivan will come through. He is simply a better player and will be trying like a demon to win this year as it could be his last chance to catch Higgins in WCs won.
Should the Aussie come through that tussle he will most likely face Allen, Ding or Selby, of whom all three wouldn't be much more than evens against him.
He has it all to do I think.

Anonymous said...

@ kildare

okay, these are all opinions here, but I've had it with this "easy run of opponents" for Robertson in 2010.

- Fergal O'Brien
- Martin Gould (against whom he was 11:5 down, and I've seen it, there wasn't much Neil did wrong in those first two sessions)
- Steve Davis (yes nobody expected him to beat John Higgins, but this is the Crucible and as you stated "If Doherty plays well he has every chance. " - and Steve Davis didn't?)
- Ali Carter
- Graeme Dott

is an easy run?

Neil Robertson is a proven title winner, he was before and after winning in 2010.

jamie brannon said...

O'Sullivan has never threatened retirement in the arena, but a poster above seems to think he might at the first sign of distress.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't put money on anyone in that quarter of the draw, although the player who comes through it will be playing so well you'd fancy them to go on and win it.

Anonymous said...


ur onesided match was a drame

allen lost the match in the most annoyning manner.

for all the world he stole the frame on the black only to see the white ball in off

Hats off, Cao
biggest shock of the WC so far