World Championship: Ten contenders to win Crucible title
The World Championship is the pinnacle of the snooker season and all eyes will be on the Crucible when the 2019 tournament gets under way this weekend.
Mark Williams was crowned champion last year and proved there can be plenty of value in the World Snooker Championship odds, having arrived in Sheffield as a 20/1 shot.
Ahead of the 2019 World Championship, here are the top 10 contenders and their outright betting odds.
Crucible favouritism used to come with an asterisk for O'Sullivan, his success or otherwise often dictated less by his opponents and more by which mood he decided to show up in. The bad news for his rivals is that five-times winner O'Sullivan now seems as settled as ever.
What a brilliant finish to a match..👏-- Eurosport UK (@Eurosport_UK) November 17, 2018
Ronnie O'Sullivan facing defeat flukes the final red before clearing up to win by two points on the black.. pic.twitter.com/nCz0Usd5RR
After claiming a record seventh UK crown in December, he vowed to keep playing - and winning - for another decade. Without that asterisk, he will prove hard to beat.
When Trump reached his first world final in 2011 - followed swiftly by the UK title the following year - pundits were quick to hail the arrival of the next big thing.
But Trump, now 29, has generally struggled to impose himself upon the game's top order but his 10-4 victory over O'Sullivan in the Masters final in January has put him back in the limelight for another shot at the big time.
Robertson looked like a multiple champion in the making when he claimed Crucible glory in 2010. Two UK titles duly followed but the Australian's career then somewhat stalled for a while.
A semi-final appearance at The Masters, where he lost to Trump, suggests he could be backed in the snooker betting for a second crown in 2019 and his World Snooker Championship odds were cut after winning the China Open earlier this month.
So imperious when easing to his second consecutive world title in 2017, the world number one followed up with an unexpectedly poor campaign in which he exited all three of the 2018 'triple crown' events in the first round.
Still, memories of his Crucible domination still burn bright and provided he can avoid an unexpected early upset, he ought to be threatening again at the business end.
Wilson's uninterrupted trajectory makes him a real contender for the 2019 world crown. The 27-year-old Kettering cueman has reached the Crucible last eight for the last three years in succession, was runner-up at the 2018 Masters and was edged out by O'Sullivan in the Champion of Champions event.
This year's Masters performance was not as good but he won the German Masters in February - the third ranking title of his career. He has shown both the nerve and stamina to shine in Sheffield and for Wilson it truly does look like a case of not if, but when.
The former four-time winner seems to spend most of his time these days bemoaning his dismal form and contemplating retirement. It would be easy to forget that Higgins has featured in the last two Crucible finals, and remains an undoubted star of the long-form game.
That said, Higgins has a point - his 2018 has been poor by his usual standards and it is safe to reach the conclusion his once great powers are on the wane. Looks one to avoid in the World Championship betting despite his appetite was back after the Christmas break.
After flattering to deceive for so long, there is a real sense that the talented Northern Irishman is experiencing lift-off.
An excellent 2018 brought victory in the Masters and the Scottish Open a week after losing in the UK Championship final to O'Sullivan, who was not merely doling out platitudes when he predicted Allen's first world title would soon follow.
There is every chance it could happen in 2019, with Allen looking the value bet in the World Snooker Championship odds.
Williams would have you believe he has absolutely no hope of claiming a fourth world crown. When he rolls into Sheffield he will tell you he has hardly practised and has instead spent most of his season on holiday.
First take williams they call me 😎 pic.twitter.com/UjzU0ZQ7Ug-- MARK WILLIAMS M.B.E (@markwil147) November 24, 2018
Paradoxically, the reigning champion's even-more-relaxed attitude is paying dividends - with nothing to lose, he can't help winning. He still has the game and he could go close again.
Arguably, none outside those who have won the title boasts a better game for the Crucible than Hawkins. He has reached at least the last eight in each of the last six seasons and will probably do so again.
But barring a victory at the Macau Masters in October, the 2018 season has not been Hawkins' best, and it is fair to say that for all his fine qualities, his best chances of winning a first world title have gone.
Expected to break down the doors for a flood of bright new Chinese talent to follow, Ding instead remains his nation's biggest star in the game.
He's having to fight off a reputation as a bit of a nearly man, having not won any of the three majors since 2011, and a string of mid-round exits through 2018 did little to suggest he stands on the verge of that long-awaited maiden world crown.
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