The atmosphere for Ronnie O’Sullivan’s entrance into the Crucible this morning will surely feel more akin to a world final but when the cheering stops and the snooker starts it will quickly become apparent whether the defending champion has it in him to threaten for title no.5 this year.

It’s been said all week, by Peter Ebdon and others, that he’s playing well in practice. Of course he is. Everyone is. But this isn’t practice, it’s intense competition.

The last player to defend the world title was Stephen Hendry in 1996. The last defending champion to get past the quarter-finals was O'Sullivan himself - 11 years ago.

In Marcus Campbell, O’Sullivan has a stubborn, experienced opponent but not a dangerous young prospect playing fearless snooker. At least Ronnie knows what he’s going to get with the Dumbarton man.

O’Sullivan has beaten Campbell four times in four meetings. The Scot is a tough match player but if O’Sullivan starts to score then a shock defeat seems unlikely.

There should be a sweepstake on how quickly it is mentioned that Campbell once beat Hendry 9-0. It remains a remarkable scoreline but there are caveats.

The first is that it was untelevised. The second is that Hendry was struggling at the time. The third, and perhaps most significant, is that it was 14 and a half years ago.

In fact, Campbell has played much better these last few years than he was back then. He’s got himself into the top 32 late in his career and was a semi-finalist in a ranking event for the first time at this season’s Wuxi Classic. Just last month he reached the quarter-finals of the China Open.

One of the advantages he has is that he practises with other hardened Scots – John Higgins, Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott.

O’Sullivan has generally talked down his chances this week while most other players have been talking them up. I think he’ll win today but it’ll be interesting to see what sort of performance he produces. If it’s vintage O’Sullivan it could really put the frighteners up the rest of the field.

The other match this morning sees Ricky Walden, winless at the Crucible from two previous appearances, against Michael Holt, who reached the second round in 2005.

Two former champions are in action later when Shaun Murphy winner in 2005, faces Martin Gould, a very dangerous qualifier, and Mark Williams, world champion in 2000 and 2003, tackles young Welshman Michael White, who will be hoping to emulate his good friend Jamie Jones, a surprise quarter-finalist last year.

Also, Barry Hawkins takes on Jack Lisowski, a really attacking and aggressive player of whom great things are expected.

Many future world champions bombed out in the first round on their debuts – Steve Davis, Hendry, O’Sullivan, Higgins, Murphy and Neil Robertson to name a few.

Others, such as Ebdon, made sensational debuts. A lot of people are tipping Lisowski to do some serious damage but I’m sure he won’t be taking Hawkins lightly.

The snooker is all over the BBC and Eurosport for the next 17 days. Whether you are playing, officiating, spectating at the Crucible or with your feet up in front of the TV at home, I hope everyone enjoys the World Championship. It remains a really special and exciting event and this is a great time of the year for the world of snooker.


Peregrine Besthorne said...

People I wanna see do well:

- Ronnie
- Trump (let's hope he can be arsed this time)
- Ebbo
- Gould
- Lisowski and all the other debutants, I guess
- Allen

People who in actuality will probably do well:

- Robertson

People who probably won't do well:

- The poor prisoners at Gitmo who will be forced to watch Robertson's matches.

Anonymous said...

Echo all that David, can't wait.
More pressure than ever on Ronnie. Nothing but victory will do. That said, he does operate best and even relishes the challenge of being under the most intense scrutiny.
One thing, I really hope the director applies a simple approach to the tv pictures, let's the player's skill do the talking and resists pushing bottoms on his console to switch cameras like he's playing an Xbox.

Anonymous said...

Here we gooooooo!

Anonymous said...

7-2 come on ronnie looking great in the balls as usual !! I predicted 10-3 should of put some money on it what were the odds on that score line dave ?

Anonymous said...

Lisowski's first frame.
Flawless clearance to clinch it.
Left himself high on the black to play an exhibition shot. Plenty of top to bend the white.
LOST on the director.
Again, more important to switch camera to focus on black coming toward the pocket.
A little bit of knowledge, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Commentary quotes from today:

"Well Stephen what do you think about x?"


"Well Stephen what do you think about y?"


Anonymous said...

BBC, Willie & Dennis....

Willie - "blah..blah...blah..yes, and Jan is one of our better referees...."

Wait til Michaela gets ahold of you son !!

I'm off to Eurosport !

Anonymous said...

What the freakin hell happened to live coverage ?????
8pm Sat night...BBC2 leaving O'Sullivan match for programme about nature in British Columbia.
Eurosport, freakin motorcycling.
And no red button option on BBC.
Freakin joke !!!!!

Anonymous said...

Nice one Ronnie!

Ron said...

Mental note: crush Carter again next week and go on to succesfully defend title.

Anonymous said...

Why were the commentators all saying ronnie is back to playing near his best? Even after watching only a couple of frames.

Very shaky start in my opinion for him, he was miles out on some of his long shots and even in the balls he wasn't great (for him).

Only Marcus let a few frames slip early on, Ronnie was there for the taking.

Anyways, his has time to settle now, hope he gets through probable match with carter.

Anonymous said...

Re 804 you clearly have a computer so if you live in the uk goto bbc online else pay a couple of pounds and get Eurosport online for a month

Anonymous said...

Ronnie administered a trouncing to Campbell yesterday to denounce everything Braveheart has to offer.
I don't understand the national outcry to his return, maybe the public would rather watch a bespectacled geek win the whole shebang.


Hi David. Great to see O'Sullivan back, looking, and playing so well. Great clearances, in session one. A century, in session two. A good 10-4, win. Michael White, did well, to lead williams, 5-4.

walden, played great, including a 140 break, to lead Holt, 8-1.

Hawkins did well, to lead Lisowski, 6-3.

Murphy did well, to lead Gould, 5-4.