Article by Adam Brown. Mark Selby photo by Monique Limbos.
Who can survive the physical and mental demands that are put upon them throughout the 17 days and lift the trophy on May 4th 2015, in what I believe is the most open World Snooker Championships there has been for years.
All the records suggest Mark Selby has a mountain to climb if he is to defend his world title this year. The famous ‘Curse Of The Crucible’ is the biggest obstacle for Selby as no first time champion has come back to the Crucible the following year and successfully defend their crown.
Another obstacle in front of Selby is his winning of the China Open two weeks ago, as no player has ever won both the China Open and World Championship in the same year. However Selby loves the Crucible and his determination and will to win are perfect qualities to go the distance.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is once again the strong bookies’ favourite and has quietly gone under the radar compared to years gone by. Ronnie’s form is slightly concerning and his defeat to Judd Trump at the World Grand Prix showed that he can be beaten in main finals and has chinks in his armour.
However O’Sullivan usually saves his best form for Sheffield and will be tough to beat over the longer format. He is also looking to equal Reardon and Davis's record of Six World Titles and leave himself one behind the great Stephen Hendry.
Other contenders? Judd Trump is in red hot form right now, he has slowly got better as the season has gone on and has perhaps peaked in time to win his maiden World Snooker Championship title.
Australia's Neil Robertson has had a quiet year by his standards and has suffered a few first round exits in tournament; however the 2010 World Champion knows how to win in Sheffield and if on top form, will be very difficult to beat.
10 years after his first success, Shaun Murphy probably has the best chance he has ever had to claim a second title. His demolition of Neil Robertson in the Masters Final was a strong indication of how confident he is feeling and could add a second Crucible crown to his ever growing list of achievements.
Former World Snooker Champions John Higgins and Mark Williams have been back to winning form this season and are more than capable of putting a run together and adding to their collection of world titles. Ali Carter and Barry Hawkins have both made the final in past few years so is it possible they can do it again? Can Ding Junhui overcome his poor record at The Crucible to become the first player from China to reach the world final and possibly go on to win it? Will Marco Fu and Stuart Bingham get what their dedication and hard work deserves?
Whatever happens and whoever wins, it promises to be an excellent display of snooker and 17 days of intense drama and a number of twists and turns will take place before crowning the 2015 World Snooker Champion on May 4th.
World Snooker Championship 2015 - Match Previews
Mark Selby (1) v Kurt Maflin
This first match has potential to be tough for the defending champion. Maflin beat Steve Davis very easily and came through a tight decider against Fergal O’Brien in the qualifiers and is up to a career high 38 in the World Rankings. However I think Selby will be ready to defend and should dispatch the Norwegian comfortably. My Prediction: Mark Selby
Stephen Maguire (16) v Anthony McGill
Stephen Maguire will have to be on his game if he is too win this all-Scot clash. Anthony McGill is improving year by year and has put some strong performances against good players this season. Maguire is due a good tournament in Sheffield and although it will be close I think he will just edge this match. My Prediction: Stephen Maguire
Joe Perry (9) v Zhang Anda
Zhang is the lowest ranked player left in the World Championship and has a tough opening match against Joe Perry. Perry recently won his first ranking event last month and has a good record at The Crucible and should edge out Zhang who performed valiantly on his last appearance at the World Championships, narrowly losing to Stephen Hendry. My Prediction: Joe Perry
Shaun Murphy (8) v Robin Hull
Shaun Murphy is my pick for the entire event and I think he will get off to a solid start against Robin Hull. The Finnish player drew Ronnie O’Sullivan last year and has another draw here. He will have to be on top form to have any chance. My Prediction: Shaun Murphy
Barry Hawkins (5) v Matt Selt
Not an easy start for Barry Hawkins. He has had an up and down season but is much more comfortable at the Crucible then many other venues in the UK. It has taken Ronnie O’Sullivan to beat him the last two years and although Selt will be tough to overcome, I expect Hawkins to win. My Prediction: Barry Hawkins
Mark Allen (12) v Ryan Day
Another cracking match. Ryan Day is slowly claiming up the rankings again and has the top 16 in his sights. Mark Allen has the potential to have a great tournament but may find this opening match very difficult. My Prediction: Ryan Day
Ali Carter (13) v Alan McManus
Just seeing Ali Carter here is a massive positive and I feel he will have prepared properly for this tournament and will be up for this match. Alan McManus is a tough competitor and very gritty, however a lot of people will hope Carter can get through and I think he will. My Prediction: Ali Carter
Neil Robertson (4) v Jamie Jones
Can’t see anything past a win for the Australian. While Jamie Jones is very talented, I think Neil Robertson will be totally focused on trying to win a second crown and will win easily. My Prediction: Neil Robertson
Ding Junhui (3) v Mark Davis
Ding won’t be happy with this draw and I think he will struggle to get over the line here. He never seems comfortable at The Crucible and I think he will suffer an early round exit. Mark Davis is playing very well and despite losing to Ding in the China Open, he will just squeeze through to round two. My Prediction: Mark Davis
John Higgins (14) v Robert Milkins
The closest match in terms of the rankings as Robert is ranked No 17 in the world. The 4 time champion Higgins Is back into some form after claiming the Welsh Open crown but has a real tough encounter here. Milkins has beat Neil Robertson in a first round match two years ago, however I think he will just lose out to the Wizard of Wishaw. My Prediction: John Higgins
Marco Fu (11) v Jimmy Robertson
Not many people will have heard of Jimmy Robertson as he makes his second Crucible appearance but he has a tough task overcoming Marco Fu. Fu goes through tournaments unnoticed sometimes and he will want to get off to a solid start and I think he will with a win here. My Prediction: Marco Fu
Judd Trump (6) v Stuart Carrington
The one man in the draw Stuart Carrington wouldn’t have wanted to get was Judd Trump. Trump is on fire at the moment and is rightly one of the favourites here. I think he will come up short for the tournament I expect to win easily here and book his place in round two. My Prediction: Judd Trump
Ricky Walden (7) v Graeme Dott
An excellent match up which really is a toss of a coin. Dott has previous at The Crucible winning in 2006 and when scoring heavily is tough to beat. Walden has been to the semi finals before and has a decent record in Sheffield. However I think Dott will grind it out but don’t be surprised if it’s a deciding frame. My Prediction: Graeme Dott
Stuart Bingham (10) v Robbie Williams
2nd appearance in a row at the Crucible for Robbie Williams after losing to Neil Robertson last year. He has another tough draw here; however I think this could be the biggest shock of the round as Robbie is more than capable and I always feel Bingham never quite puts it together at the World Snooker Championships. My Prediction: Robbie Williams
Mark Williams (15) v Matthew Stevens
No doubt this is the tie of the round and has final frame shoot out all over it. Mark Williams is almost back to his best and playing really well, but 2 runner ups for Matthew Stevens in the past means he knows how to get it done here. But Williams is match sharp at the moment and will just edge out Stevens but it could be a cracker. My Prediction: Mark Williams
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) v Craig Steadman
Crucible debut and Steadman draws ‘The Rocket’. It might take the pressure off Craig a little as he has nothing to lose and he has a very impressive win over World No 16 Michael White in qualifying. Ronnie should have too much for Steadman here though and I expect him to ease through. He will take some stopping and a potential semifinal clash with Judd Trump sounds mouth-watering. My Prediction: Ronnie O’Sullivan
For all the results, updated draw and live scores from the World Snooker Championship, head to Snooker.org