World Snooker Championship Preview: Selby an Obvious Choice but Fu Excellent Value
As far as snooker’s long and winding season goes, all roads lead to the World Championship in April each year.
Here, the 64-man field has an opportunity to join the sport’s pantheon of greats, with the Crucible Theatre a fitting arena for such drama to unfold.
So where is the smart value ahead of the 2017 edition of this great tournament?
When previewing a World Championship we simply have to start with the best snooker player currently wielding a cue, and that is the ‘Jester from Leicester’: Mark Selby.
The 33-year-old is the current world number one and reigning world champion, and has already landed four ranking event titles this term including the UK Championship and the recent China Open.
Going into the Worlds in decent form is a prerequisite for success, and the manner in which Selby navigated his way through the field in China to lift the trophy suggests his game is in fine working order at present.
With seven majors to his name we don’t have to worry about his bottle or ability to perform when the spotlight is shining at its brightest, and as such Selby represents a fair favourite with most bookmakers at a best of 9/2 with BetFred and William Hill.
However a shorter 4/1 with Paddy Power and 10Bet can be found next to the name of Judd Trump but he represents less of an interest to punters. Undoubtedly talented, the left-hander has reached five finals already this term, triumphing in two: the European Masters and March’s Players Championship.
But it is his temperament, and that inability to rein in his natural ‘pot ‘em off the lampshade’ attitude, that could ultimately prevent Trump from achieving what he could/should in the game.
He simply gives too many frames away, and against players like Selby who are willing to grind him down ‘the Juddernaught’ is often found wanting. He’s only reached one final in seven visits to The Crucible, and quite frankly that record alone suggests his price of 4/1 should be avoided at all costs.
The Next Best
The undoubted choice of the public to win this tournament is Ronnie O’Sullivan. The Rocket may be one of snooker’s grand old dukes at the age of 41, but in winning The Masters back in January he served notice that there is life in the old dog yet.
His record in the run-of-the-mill ranking events isn’t great this season, but in the two majors he has lifted the trophy in one and reached the final of the other (UK Championship). So, O’Sullivan is clearly raising his game when the big tournaments come around; intriguing ahead of his attempts to land a sixth world title.
Ding Junhui is, like Judd Trump, another young talent who is yet to fulfil his potential. The Chinaman has only reached a trio of ranking event finals in three years, winning one, and he has only made one major final since 2011; last year’s World Championship decider, where he was beaten 14-18 by Selby.
That lack of activity at the business end of tournaments is enough to put us off Ding for another year.
If you are looking for a Crucible specialist to back then how about Barry Hawkins (18/1 with 10Bet)? The Hawk has one quarter-final, two semis and a final appearance to his name here in the past four years, and lifted the fairly prestigious World Grand Prix towards the tail-end of 2016.
Two former world champions who have shown signs of life this season are John Higgins (18/1 with SportingBet) and Shaun Murphy (22/1 with bet365 and Betway). Higgins hasn’t got beyond the third round of an event since December, but has claimed a pair of titles at the China Championship and Champion of Champions event.
Murphy, meanwhile, reached the last four of the UK Championship and won the Gibraltar Open in March.
But your best each way wager has to be Marco Fu (22/1 with Paddy Power), who has been consistently excellent this season. The Hong Kong king reached the semi-finals of both The Masters and the UK Championship, and ended a three year wait for a ranking event title at the Scottish Open in December. He is in better form than the vast majority in this field.