Click here for the full first round tournament draw.
Click here for part 2 of the first round preview.
Match 1 - Neil Robertson (1) v Judd Trump - Sat 16th 10AM & 7PM
Even if Judd Trump hadn't triumphed at last weeks China Open this probably would of still been the tie of the round but now it is probably the most exciting opening match since O'Sullivan v Maguire in 2005. Neil Robertson will still be the favourite but I expect many punters to be taking their chances on Judd in this one. The youngster looked very impressive in China in dispatching Mark Selby in the final 10-8 (including 3 century breaks) and could cause a major upset here. But Neil has gone the distance before and reached the semi's in the previous year and it still makes him favourite in my eyes but he won't win by a comfortable margin. Robertson to win 10-8.
Match 2 - Marco Fu (16) v Martin Gould - Tue 19th 10AM & Wed 20th 10AM
Here's another match I am quite looking forward to, a repeat of their tie from last year's world championship first round tie in which Martin came through 10-9. Martin's season has probably been better overall than Marco's, reaching the finals of the PTC finals and PTC event 6 and qualifying for many venues where as Marco reached the finals of the Masters but did little else of note and sees himself down to 22nd in the rankings. I am going to back the Pinner Potter to win here, Martin has been playing really well recently and impressed in getting through to the PTC Grand Finals Final and will be desperate to set up a re-match with Neil Robertson in the second round, but don't write off Marco either though, he will be wanting to get back into the top 16. Gould to win 10-7.
Match 3 - Graeme Dott (9) v Mark King - Tue 19th 2.30PM & Wed 20th 2.30PM
An interesting tie this one as just last year Grame Dott was the qualifier and Mark King was the seeded player! Graeme has managed to continue the momentum of reaching the World final last year with a string of solid performances in ranking events and finds himself knocking on the door of the top 8. Mark King though didn't seem to get on well in the PTC events and finds himself down to 25th in the rankings. Graeme seems to thrive under the pressures of the Crucible and could be the dark horse of the event, I expect him to win with reletive ease but Mark won't go down without a fight. Dott to win 10-7.
Match 4 - Ali Carter (8) v Dave Harold - Sat 16th 2.30PM & Sun 17th 7PM
Not one of the most exicitng ties of the tournament but could be one for the purists. 1993 Asian Open champion Dave Harold hasn't done much of note this season but plays some tough match-play Snooker and his opponent; Shanghai Masters champion Ali Carter will need to be careful not to get dragged down by his play. It shouldn't be too much trouble for the Captain though as he seems to thrive at the Crucible in the past few years and should get through comfortably against Dave. Carter to win 10-5.
Match 5 - Ding Junhui (5) v Jamie Burnett - Sun 17th 10AM & Mon 18th 10AM
This match could be harder for Masters champion Ding Junhui than some people might think. Jamie impressed in beating many players ranked higher than him including Jamie Cope and Mark Davis to reach the Shanghai Masters final last year and is a real tough match player. Ding though has never gone past the second round of the worlds and will be looking to impress here and has been looking immensly strong in winning the Masters and reaching the China Open semi final. Could it be his year finally? Ding to win 10-7.
Match 6 - Peter Ebdon (12) v Stuart Bingham - Mon 18th 7PM & Tue 19th 7PM
Hard to predict this one between the two tour veterans. Both players have had a resurgence of late with both of them provisionally in the top 16 at the moment with some solid performances over the year, most notably Stuart's in reaching the UK Championship quarter-finals by beating Ronnie O'Sullivan and Marco Fu and Peter reaching the World Open semis. Both players will need to win to guarentee their spot in the top 16 so it will be a hard fought affair, and even though Peter has had more experience here recently I fancy an upset from Stuart. He has performed so well in qualifiers recently and is full of confidence. Bingham to win 10-9.
Image courtesy of World Snooker
Match 7 - Stephen Hendry (13) v Joe Perry - Sun 17th 2.30PM & Mon 18th 2.30PM
Both players will be relatively happy with drawing each other here I think. Both Hendry and Perry have been struggling for consistancy this season and didnt get on well in the PTC events. And with Hendry being up to 20th on the provisional rankings would have to reach at least the quarter-finals I reckon to get back into the top 16. And with a possible Mark Selby clash in the next round it won't be easy for him and could see himself having to qualify for tournaments for the first time in over two decades. Being under this sort of pressure could swing it for Joe but Stephen seems to save his best for the Crucible and I would expect him to come through. Hendry to win 10-8.
Match 8 - Mark Selby (4) v Jimmy Robertson - Wed 20th 7PM & Thu 21st 1PM
I could think of a number of players that Sussex's Jimmy Robertson would want to be drawn with on his Crucible debut and I don't think that Mark Selby would be one of them. With Selby having reached two finals and a semi-final in the last few months he has been playing consistant Snooker but seems to have trouble finishing matches in the one-table situation. Jimmy will be understandably nervous in his first big television match especially as its at the big one but he didn't look to phased at the Snooker Shoot-out a few months back so maybe it won't affect him that much, but the heavily experienced Selby should still make it through. Selby to win 10-6.
The second part (bottom half) of the draw will follow shortly which features the big three of O'Sullivan, Higgins and Williams and the likes of Stevens, Allen, Maguire and Murphy so it will be a hard fought section of the draw.