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Following the conclusion of the China Open, won by a resurgent Mark Selby, the seeding for Snooker’s World Championship has been clarified. Defending Champion, Selby, as the No. 1 seed sits at the very top of the brackets with Ronnie O’Sullivan as the No.2 at the very bottom.
If you do fancy the top-two ranked players meeting in the final, which on face value looks perfectly viable, do consider it is 31 years (Davis vs Johnson in 1987) since this scenario last happened.
Ding Junhui, as the No. 3 seed is in the bottom bracket. Judd Trump, No. 4 seed, has the prospect of meeting Mark Selby in the semi-final at the top. The remaining seeded players who are in the main draw are: John Higgins, Barry Hawkins, Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy, Kyren Wilson, Neil Robertson, Marco Fu, Stuart Bingham, Luca Brecel, Anthony McGill, Ali Carter and Mark Allen. That’s a total seven World Champions.
Of course, 16 more players are needed to make this competition happen and they will have to earn their place in the draw proper by winning three qualifying matches staged between April 11 and April 18 at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
The pool of 128 players all vying for one of the hallowed places in the World Championship main draw includes 113 tour players and 15 amateurs. Players ranked 17–80 in the world rankings are seeded in qualifying, amongst them are an additional three former World Champions: Ken Doherty (1997), Peter Ebdon (2002) and Graeme Dott (2006).
The oldest contestant is 55-year-old Jimmy White, the youngest is 16-year-old Jackson Page who posted a 128-break at the recent Gibraltar Open.
All-in-all the Sheffield World Championship qualifiers feature a veritable box of broken biscuits combined with a few liquorice allsorts and, despite all games being a ‘best of 19’ format, there are sure to be some real upsets.
Matches of interest for snooker fans include:
Five-time ranking event winner Stephen Maguire vs Allan Taylor
Snooker legend Jimmy White vs Sam Craigie
11-time women’s World Champion Reanne Evans vs Dominic Dale
Current women’s World No.1 Ng On Yee vs Matthew Selt
Up and coming Chinese ace Yan Bingtao vs teenager Jackson Page
Ryan Day vs Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo
Former World Champion Peter Ebdon v Thai veteran James Wattana
Qualifying Round 1 Tips:
But from a punting viewpoint, here’s what we have come up with…
Ken Doherty (-4.5 frames) to beat Josh Boileau – 8/11 handicap market
It may be 10 years since Ken Doherty last won a ranking tournament but the ‘Darling of Dublin’ remains active on the Tour – most recently making the fourth round of the Gibraltar Open – and he was a semi-finalist in this season’s Riga Masters.
He should easily brush aside 22-year-old countryman Josh Boileau who has not progressed past the opening match in his seven conventional ranking tournaments this season (he was a second-round casualty in the one-frame ‘Shootout’ event).
Peter Ebdon (-2.5 frames) to beat James Wattana 19/20 handicap market
With a combined age of 95 these two have plenty of experience. Wattana left his best game behind in the mid-90’s and plays courtesy of an ‘invitational tour card’. He has only made it beyond the second round of a ranking tournament four times in the past 12 years and has lost during the World Championship qualifiers on his last ten attempts.
Ebdon won a ranking event as recently as 2012 (the valuable China Open) and remains fully active on the Tour, playing 14 ranking tournaments this season. Clearly nothing like the force of old, but he has qualified for the final phase of the World Championships in 24 of the last 26 years.
Peter Ebdon is a strong fancy in a match that looks like a mismatch to me.
The above matches take place on Friday and Saturday.
* The draw for the first round at the Crucible will take place at 10am on Thursday April 19