We’re in for one of the most open and exciting World Snooker Championships in a long time says John Parrott and he wasn’t even being sarcastic. In an exclusive column, the 1991 World Champion looks ahead to fascinating fortnight at the Crucible.
This is the most open World Championships I’ve ever seen. There’s a dozen players who could win it and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.
The changes to the tour schedule have made it more difficult to predict because everyone is getting the chance to play themselves into form. When there were less events, players were getting knocked out early on and not playing much competitive snooker. It was easier to look at the form book and see who was playing well and who wasn’t. But now, week in week out, we’ve got different winners. It’s making picking a winner more difficult, but it’s great for the entertainment.
Not for the first time in his career, Ronnie O’Sullivan (5/1) is going to the centre of attention. I’ve been told he’s been practicing very hard and is in good shape. But practice and matchplay are two very different things. He’s going to be very rusty when it comes to performing in the glare of the spotlight and that’s got to be a concern for anyone backing him to win world title number five.
A lot will depend on his first round match and how much pressure he’ll be under. All he needs to do is get himself over the line by winning the first game and his confidence will grow. There’s no easy draws in the World Championship, but he’s done alright by landing Marcus Campbell, particularly when you look at some of the names he might have got. Marcus is a very good player, but his highest break in qualifying was just 52 and he hasn’t shined very often in front of the TV cameras.
If Ronnie gets past that first game, who knows, but it’s asking a hell of a lot to be out for that long and to go and win. There’s been some issues away from the table for Ronnie and that’s entirely his business, but the bottom line is he’s coming back to the Crucible, the place will sell out and it will be buzzing whenever he’s playing. That can only be good for snooker. If he wins without having had his cue out of the case in a competitive match for the best part of 12 months, it will be one of the all-time great achievements in the history of the World Championships.
When it comes to picking a winner, I’m finding it very tough. Even looking beyond Ronnie as some people will be tempted to do, you’ve got the nucleus of ten or so who could easily do it. Neil Robertson, Mark Selby, John Higgins, Judd Trump, Stephen Maguire, Shaun Murphy and a whole host of other experienced players who know how to win tournaments. They all seem to take turns beating each other so it’s hard to pick one name out of the bunch and say ‘yeah, he’s definitely the one to beat’.
The one I’m going for is Neil Robertson. He’s in the bottom half of the draw and there’s a reason that’s called the ‘half of doom’. It’ll be tough, but after Adam Scott winning the Masters, Australian sport might be on a bit of a roll. He’s in the harder section of the two, but if he gets through that, he’ll be battle-hardened for the latter stages and then it’ll be hard to stop him.
My more speculative bet is Shaun Murphy. It’s strange saying it about a guy who has already won a World Championship, but it’s about time he started playing properly here. The draw hasn’t been too unkind to him He’s got O’Sullivan, Trump and Higgins on his side of the draw and each of them could be vulnerable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him reach a final and maybe even win it.