I took this, good isn’t it? To see my other Crucible snaps just click on the picture (Instagram)
I’m back from The Crucible now and ready to hit the arse dent in the sofa hard for the next 12 days, or hopefully (read on) just the 10, to enjoy the rest of this great championship.
We’ve seen big names fall already and my fancy for the final Neil Robertson is the biggest casualty so far. As I write Judd is up against it too and will need a great comeback against the man who has been inexplicably featured on all the venue posters from the start despite having to qualify, Liang Wenbo, to make it in to the last 16.
Ronnie is for whatever reason not speaking to the press, which as ever generates a story in itself. My own feelings about it is that it’s a familiar and rather distasteful pattern of his behaviour that seeks to focus all attention on himself when it might otherwise be focused on others, but I might be being unfair to him there.
The far more interesting news of course was Steve Davis retiring, just the day before Ronnie stole the headlines. People of a certain age, including myself, know what a complete legend he is and was. We lived through the years of his dominance and all sought to be the ‘next Davis’. Only one person succeeded in doing so and he’s now firmly established behind the microphone at the BBC. If you didn’t live through this time in snooker, you can recapture it through endless You Tube footage or alternatively get a full-on dramatised and slightly romanticised hit of what a crazy time it was for the game by watching The Rack Pack, which I reviewed and linked to here earlier in the year. It is well worth 1 hour, 26 minutes and 6 seconds of your time.
Anyway, as ever I digress and waffle on without a care. The second round is upon us and there are 8 matches that need my urgent attention, so here goes.
For head to heads, click on the match.
Ali Carter v Alan McManus
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, I want Ali Carter to win this championship and if he makes the final I will be back in Sheffield as part of Team Carter. It will reflect in the bets I put up so if you choose to ignore this match preview and move on, I shall not hold it against you. Ali came through a fantastic battle against the reigning champion on Saturday, lots of people I saw asking on social media at one point who he was talking to during the decider, well, actually it was me. He casually strolled over at one point when the frame was at it’s most tense and asked what I fancied eating later in the evening, that is a story I can probably dine out on for a bit should he go on to win it. He faces the man he beat in the first round last year Alan McManus, Alan is playing better this year than he was last and Ali should not take him lightly, he kept him at arms length in their match last time and he will need to do the same here. I think this match will suit Ali, he tends to thrive when it becomes tactical and no doubt this will be, I fancy him to win with a bit in hand, hopefully he won’t make this any more difficult than it might otherwise be.
Prediction: Carter 13-9.
Recommended Bet: 4 points on over 1 century at 11/10.
Ricky Walden v John Higgins
Higgins played superbly in Round 1 and came away from it saying he felt better about his game than he has for at least 5 years at The Crucible. Ricky on the other hand came through a frankly turgid battle against Robbie Williams in a match which left us all wishing that there didn’t have to be a winner. This is a new round and Ricky may have got his howler out of the way, but if he plays like that again here he’ll lose, and lose very heavily. Higgins to me looks like a man on a mission and set to face Ali in the quarter final. Ricky did beat John in China so they do have recent form, but on a purely horses for courses level, it has to be Higgins here in a canter, he looks very dangerous just now.
Prediction: Higgins 13-8.
Recommended Bet: 5 points on Higgins (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 1 point on Higgins (-6.5 frames) at 9/2.
Judd Trump v Ding Junhui
Judd came through an epic encounter with Liang and produced a spirited fightback to win, showing bags of character and even afterwards treating his supporters to a drink. Ding was also pushed by Martin Gould but came through to set up this mouth-watering tie. The head to heads are dead level at 5-5 with only a few frames between them, however over the best of 25 last season at the Quarter Final stage Judd absolutely walloped Ding and these kind of defeats can leave mental scars on the defeated one so you’d think Judd goes into this with every confidence. He’s Hendry’s tip for the title and if anyone knows when a player is in the right frame of mind to win here it’s him. I’d stick with Trump here but I do think it will be closer than it was 12 months ago.
Prediction: Trump 13-10.
Mark Williams v Michael Holt
Snooker’s very own Mills and Boon match up takes to the biggest stage of them all. I have encouraged these two to hug instead of shake hands at the start of the match so we’ll see if that happens, maybe the bookies might price it up. Both had strong first round performances and Holt is clearly now an altogether different player to what has gone before. MJW was almost flawless against Graeme Dott, he had some running but even without taking this into account he was as good as he’s been in a decade and afterwards confirmed quite a few times that he was happy to be in the next round. Holt was magnificent against Robbo and this has to go down as his best career performance, once again the Dai Lama, Terry Griffiths, seems to be working his magic of the mind on Holty. Michael can take heart from the fact that even pre-Terry he comfortably beat MJ in Germany on their most recent relevant meeting and I just fancy he might step up to the challenge again, either way, this one will be close, of that I am certain. May the bromance begin.
Prediction: Holt 13-11.
Recommended Bet: 2 points on Holt at 5/2.
Anthony McGill v Marco Fu
Great wins for both in the first round with performances to match leaves them each with a big chance to make an impact in the next round against likely opponent O’Sullivan. McGill seems to be thriving here again and people in the know are not surprised, he is after all, definitely the best player to come out of Scotland in the last 15 years. Marco was epic against Ebdon and scored so heavily, he did however come away with a mention of how he’s been here before and played well first round only to hit a second round wall. They will both be looking at this as a winnable match and a chance for a crack at The Rocket so for that reason I think it could get close and very twitchy. McGill however has a very confident way about him and his temperament is a big asset, that’s why I’ll take him to progress and in the next round, give Ronnie one hell of a game.
Prediction: McGill 13-10.
Recommended Bet: 2 points on McGill at 13/8.
We’ll catch Ronnie totally orrrrfff guard.
Barry Hawkins v Ronnie O’Sullivan
As head to heads go, this is pretty one-sided. The first time these two met was in Scotland in 2002, Barry won. Since then he has lost every time so that is 14 years, two World Championship meetings and one Masters Final drubbing to try and somehow reverse. This match puts me in mind of that old Blackadder quote, where when questioned about going ‘over the top’ to fight the Germans in the field armed only with sticks for the umpteenth time and never changing tactics, General Melchett replies that the brilliance of the tactic is that they’ve already done it countless times and failed and therefore it’s the last thing the enemy will expect them to do again. So can Barry reverse the inevitable? Well, to put it bluntly, no. Ronnie has a way with certain players, usually ones that he feels need putting in their place, Barry is one of them. Sorry Hawk.
Prediction: O’Sullivan 13-5
Recommended Bet: 2 points on O’Sullivan (-7.5 frames) at 14/5.
Mark Allen v Kyren Wilson
Another potentially fantastic tie here as the much improved Kyren seeks to reach is first Crucible quarter final. Kyren beat Mark on his way to his ranking success in Shanghai earlier in the season and since then he’s never really looked back. He is easily the most improved player of the season and given that he’s still fairly new on tour, after this he is likely to be ranked in the top eight in the world, some achievement. Mark of course will as ever be difficult to beat, bags of bottle and I’m sure a frustration that he’s not yet managed to go really deep in this will no doubt fire him up. I’d say that the winner of this match will progress again in the next round to make the one-table situation, but it’s such a tough call. Looking at the odds, I think Kyren is a shade too long and is worth a punt.
Prediction: Wilson 13-11
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Over 21.5 frames in the match at 10/11.
Sam Baird v Mark Selby
Two matches between the two so far and both went to deciders, albeit in best of sevens. Sam is at last coming of age and he is a player that we all know is capable of making that breakthrough, perhaps he is this year’s surprise package. The Jester grappled in his usual never-say-die way to get the better of Rob Milkins in the first round but was given a lot of chances in the first session and was allowed to more or less win the match then. His self-imposed break from snooker is still the subject of discussion and plenty are saying that he doesn’t look right, but try telling opponents who remain glued to the bottom cushion for shots on end that. I think this could possibly be an upset, but the sensible part of me slaps myself for thinking that. At the prices I think Sam is worth a small interest, but this is Selby, he’s granite when things get tough and I think if this does go close he’ll draw on lessons learnt from his defeat to McGill last time, no curse this year so that is one burden lifted. For the record however, I don’t think his name is on the trophy this year, he’s not playing anywhere near as well as he was when it was.
Prediction: Selby 13-10.
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Baird (+6.5 frames) at 9/10. 1 point on Baird at 7/1.
RECOMMENDED ACCA: 3 points at over 13/2 with Marathon Bet on – McManus (+4.5), Higgins (-2.5), Holt (+3.5) and Baird (+6.5).