With all eyes on the incredible return of Ronnie O’Sullivan after a year away from the snooker table, the question on people’s lips is not who will win the World Championship, but who will The Rocket’s final victim be?
O’Sullivan will face face the winner of Judd Trump versus Shaun Murphy in the semi-final, but those who have backed Ronnie shouldn’t be too concerned, as his record against both men is strong.
The 37-year-old has won five of his last six meetings with 2005 world champion Murphy, and two of the last three with 23-year-old Trump, which goes some way to explaining O’Sullivan’s 8/11 price to win a fifth world championship.
Ronnie’s likely opponent in the best of 35 final is Barry Hawkins, who is priced at 11/2 to claim a remarkable championship win.
Hawkins has produced his best career performance at the Crucible, picking up impressive victories over Ding Junhui and the joint pre-tournament favourite Mark Selby.
The Hawk’s likely semi-final opponent is Ricky Walden. The Chester man is 10/1 to win the World Championship, but Hawkins has won seven of their 12 meetings, including the last two.
The other man who could deny Hawkins a final place is Michael White, making his first appearance at the Sheffield venue.
If White were to see off Walden in their quarter-final clash, Hawkins’ chances would surely grow even stronger off the back of his four wins in five meetings against the 21-year-old.
For those wondering what sort of contest an O’Sullivan v Hawkins final would be; each of the pair’s last three meetings have been won by a single-frame margin.
Ronnie won each of those matches, but Hawkins has beaten the Rocket once before, albeit 10 years ago, and you can never discount a man in this sort of form.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing