World Championship Preview: Who is in the frame to stop Selby success

World Championship Preview: Who is in the frame to stop Selby success

Mark Selby has won the last two World Championships but hasn't enjoyed the most encouraging season.

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

With all 32 players now confirmed and the opening game just days away, we take a look at who will be looking to etch their name on the famous World Snooker Championship trophy.

The reigning champion - Mark Selby

No snooker player on the planet has been as successful as world number one Mark Selby in the last four years. The Jester from Leicester has won three world titles during that period but has struggled for form this season.

It took until November for Selby to progress past the quarter-final stage in any competition before he won the International Championship. However, he was only seventh on the season points list until victory at the China Open at the start of April propelled him to number two for the season. 

The verdict: Not this year, semi-finals for Selby

The form player - Ronnie O'Sullivan

The most decorated player on the snooker circuit, Ronnie O'Sullivan has been almost untouchable this season. The Rocket has made no less than seven finals this season, winning five of them.

The atmosphere and intensity of the Crucible will not be a burden for O'Sullivan after winning five global titles between 2001 and 2013. He goes into the competition as the tournament favourite.

The verdict: Can we really look past him as a champion for the sixth time?

The fan favourite - Mark Williams

2000 and 2003 world champion Mark Williams has enjoyed a renaissance in his snooker this season, rolling back the years. The 43-year old has been consistent throughout the season, winning the German Masters and Northern Ireland Open to rise to third on the season points list.

Yet it is Williams' personal circumstances that have captured the hearts of the snooker world. Williams' wife has been in and out of hospital leading to an emotional tribute after that Northern Ireland Open success.

The verdict: Unfortunate to be on the same side of the draw as O'Sullivan - a disappointing quarter-final exit

The villain - Stuart Bingham

The 2015 world champion has not won a competition this season and had his campaign tainted by a gambling ban that was enforced between November and January. However, he did reach both the European Masters and Romanian Masters finals either side of his period on the sidelines.

The verdict: Out in the opening rounds

The young star - Luca Brecel

Seventh on the season points list, Belgium's Luca Brecel enjoyed an impressive start to the season but has since dropped off the pace. Victory at the China Championship was followed by two semi-finals but he has not made it past the second round in the last six events.

The verdict: Second round at best

The veteran - John Higgins

John Higgins has been involved with six World Championship finals over the last two decades, winning four of those. He was runner-up to Mark Selby last year but cannot be discounted again this season.

Successes in the Welsh Open and Indian Open have been underpinned by victory in the Championship League and the Scotsman will be pursuing more glory at the Crucible.

The verdict: A potential quarter-final tie with Judd Trump could be his downfall.

 

The Far East hopefuls - Ding Junhui and Marco Fu

China are still waiting for their first world champion and 2016 runner-up Ding Junhui still looks the most likely candidate. He won the World Open and made the World Grand Prix final but has endured a relatively quiet season.

Yet the season has been even more of a disaster for Hong Kong's Marco Fu. Sitting a lowly 58th on the season ranking list, Fu is enduring a worse run of form than the three qualifiers from the Far East, Xiao Guodong, Lu Haotian and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

The verdict: Semi-finals for Ding but a potential opening round exit for Fu depending on the draw. Guodong will provide a stern test for his opponents.

The bridesmaids - Judd Trump, Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins

Every year for the last six, Judd Trump has been fancied to lift his first global crown but he has not yet been able to live up to his promise. He stunned the world to finish runner-up in 2011 and has made no less than 11 semi-finals this season but only converted to a victory in the European Masters back in October.

Ali Carter has not enjoyed the same sort of form but has Crucible pedigree, losing twice in finals to Ronnie O'Sullivan. Meanwhile, 2013 runner-up Barry Hawkins has reached three finals this season but lost them all.

The verdict: Another final defeat for Trump but early exits for Carter and Hawkins.

The former Crucible champions - Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott

A champion in 2005 and twice runner-up since, Shaun Murphy has enjoyed a consistent season to settle fourth in the ranking points without really setting the circuit alight. He has been involved in six finals at different levels but only won the Champion of Champions.

Whilst 2010 world champion Neil Robertson went off the boil after Christmas since winning the Hong Kong Masters and Scottish Open, Graeme Dott has come to life, reaching two finals and easing through qualification.

The verdict: Surprise early exit for Murphy and not much better for Robertson and Dott.

The outsiders - Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, Anthony McGill, Ryan Day and Stephen Maguire

Kyren Wilson is really starting to show his potential after reaching three finals this season. However, he lost them all including the Masters to surprise winner Mark Allen.

Anthony McGill has endured a challenging season but finished in the top 16, whilst Ryan Day and Stephen Maguire eased through qualification. Day has won 15 of his last 16 games.

The verdict: Wilson to reach the quarter-finals, whilst Day could cause a few upsets. Early trips home for Allen, McGill and Maguire.

Don't forget the rest...

Upsets are all part and parcel of the sport and several players will be looking to thwart the World Championship hopes of some big names. Seven players outside the top 50 have qualified, including Liam Highfield, Stuart Carrington, Matthew Stevens, Chris Wakelin and Jamie Jones with the latter destroying Liang Wenbo 10-0 in the third round.

Ricky Walden and Joe Perry have a wealth of experience between them, whilst Robert Milkins, Jack Lisowski and Jimmy Robertson all provide interesting prospects.

Players to avoid: Joe Perry and Jack Lisowski.

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