The culmination of the months and months of snooker we have seen this season is the World Championship Final and this year Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hawkins take to the baize for what is now the only two day final left on the calendar, over the traditional 35 frames.
Back in the day this signalled the end of the season and a time when the potters could pack up their cues for a few months and head for sunny faraway places until the nights grew colder and the mornings darker and the new season started up again.
But that isn’t the case these days and the end of season break is now barely enough time for a long weekend in Skegness since Bazza waved his magic wand and made all these tournaments appear, to mixed receptions from the players.
The new season begins in earnest on the 27th May, yes May, this month, May. This is far too early in my opinion but it is then that the Wuxi Classic qualifiers kick off with surely a hugely depleted field and in between this time we have Q-School where amongst other hopefuls the 2013 Snookerbacker Classic Champion David Gray hopes to win through to the main tour. For anyone that thinks they can stomach any more snooker this month you can take a look at the new calendar here.
But before this post threatens to become another rant about there being too much snooker these days let’s instead concentrate on the matter in hand and that is, can Ronnie win his fifth world title to eclipse his lifelong rival John Higgins tally or will the unlikely finalist and huge underdog Hawkins shock the snooker world with a famous victory against all odds?
Well, the obvious answer is that it will take a shock of Joe Johnson-esque proportions, perhaps even greater, for Barry to do so. It was a huge deal when the dapper red-shoed Bradford potter and Joe Jogia lookalike made history by defeating Steve Davis way back in 1986 but there is that little matter of history having a tendency to sometimes repeat itself when you least expect it, but in layman’s terms this is not so much David against Goliath as David against Goliath and his Dad and big brother.
Hawkins reaction to winning last night was a joy to behold, he looked like a kid who had just been woken up in the middle of the night and told he was going to Disneyland as he struggled for words before finally saying ‘things like this don’t happen to me’ in one of the great Crucible quotes this year.
He is sure to have won people over on the strength of that line alone and his general demeanour after his victory over Ricky Walden, who may take a while getting over his final session performance. The fact that the name Barry Hawkins was briefly trending on Twitter as news of his victory came through is possibly one of the most unlikeliest tales to emerge from what has been an otherwise largely forgettable world championship so far.
Barry is more than aware how big his task is but is going in with the mentality that he can win. He said “Everybody loves an underdog and I was a massive outsider before the start of the tournament. Hopefully people will warm to me and the neutrals are on my side. Ronnie is an unbelievable player but I have to just try and concentrate on what I am doing. In the final I will just go out there in the frame of mind that I can win. If I don’t then there is no point in me even turning up. I have got nothing to lose, but there is still pressure. I don’t mind that – if there is pressure it shows that you care and that you want to win.”
To see what the less animated defending champion Ronnie had to say after beating Judd click here.
In terms of the betting, both semi-final recommended bets landed including the maximum one on last night’s match so I hope a few of you made a bit on those. For those who followed the outright staking plan it’s crunch time as the 4 points recommended on O’Sullivan a couple of months ago at 9/1 reaches it’s climax.
I will admit to laying a very small section of the possible winnings off before yesterday afternoon’s session against Judd and I will be keeping a very close eye on this match in running. If I detect that Joe Johnson’s spell has been weaved on Barry I will lay some more off, but for now I will sit tight and hope Ronnie takes the early initiative to allow me to lay a tiny part of it at silly odds this afternoon.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Barry Hawkins (15)
|Ronnie O’Sullivan||Barry Hawkins||Northern Ireland Trophy 2008||Quarter-final||5-4|
|Ronnie O’Sullivan||Barry Hawkins||Kilkenny Masters 2007||Final||9-1|
|Ronnie O’Sullivan||Barry Hawkins||Grand Prix 2005||Semi-final||6-5|
|Ronnie O’Sullivan||Barry Hawkins||Irish Masters 2005||Round 2||5-4|
|Ronnie O’Sullivan||Barry Hawkins||Welsh Open 2005||Semi-final||6-4|
|Barry Hawkins||Ronnie O’Sullivan||Scottish Open 2002||Round 2||5-3|
It’s five years since the two finalists have met and as you can see and would probably expect, Ronnie has a very good record in the head to heads. But take a look at the scores, three deciders and two close ones (one of which Hawkins won on the pairs first ever encounter), with only one demolition job which is possibly skewed by the fact it was Barry’s first ever final as a professional in 2007, after six years on the tour. But does this have any bearing on what will happen here?
Well, Hawkins will know that Ronnie is beatable as he’s done it before, he will take confidence from his semi-final performance which saw him gradually improve with every session, he might also know that despite the fact he appears to be in cruise control Ronnie is yet to be really tested in any match, Judd and Ali both got close to doing this but Ronnie, sensing the threat knuckled down and pulled away keeping his lead in both matches throughout with some incredible safety play and solid break building. It’s also interesting to note that nobody has ever won the world championship having never been behind in a match and I’d hazard a guess that nobody has done it winning the first frame of all their sessions either, Ronnie can achieve both if he keeps these records in tact here and once again add his name to the history books.
So what about a bet then? Well for the reasons I have stated above I won’t be having one at the start of the match, if Ronnie takes the first session 6-2 or better he’ll go close to 1/20 I reckon and at that point I will lay some off. But for those looking for a bit of interest in the match I would have pitched the handicap at -8.5 for this, but most bookies have pitched it at -6.5, indeed some have gone as low as -4.5. The bet I would recommend would be there to be less than 29.5 frames in the match at 10/11 with Skybet, this covers a comfortable win for Ronnie and an unlikely Joe Johnson romp job and ride to glory for Hawkins, in terms of a score it would be the one below.
Selection: O’Sullivan to win 18-9 (Best Price 10/1 at Apollobet)
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