The Crucible is already proving to be as dramatic a venue as it has ever been and with the World Championship second round now ready to unfold there is no sign of the nail-biting action abating. Below are previews of the first of the last-16 clashes from Day Six.
Ladbrokes have already been forced into going odds-on about Ronnie O’Sullivan winning a sixth World Championship following second favourite Ding Junhui’s premature departure in the first round and he is no better than 1/9 to see off Joe Perry in the last-16.
If the Rocket could ever be described accurately as workmanlike it was in his first round clash with qualifier Robin Hull where he eased to a 10-4 win but he should expect a much tougher examination against former semi-finalist Perry.
The 39-year-old won his first ranking event in his 22-year career at the beginning of the season and backed up that performance by reaching the semi-finals of the Welsh Open, defeating 2012 champion Mark Selby 5-1 in the last-eight.
The world number 15 showed his class in the last round by winning seven frames to Jamie Burnett’s one as he overturned an overnight 6-3 deficit to progress.
Unfortunately, Perry, like many others have struggled when facing the greatest talent to play the game – in 12 previous meetings O’Sullivan has lost just twice.
That personal domination includes their last four encounters and although in their last extended match, over best-of-17 frames at the UK Championship six years ago it was Perry who emerged triumphant there is no doubt that his opponent is a completely different animal now.
Unlike as recently as three years ago where O’Sullivan would be liable to implode at any moment it is now inconceivable that the 38-year-old would stop applying himself fully and that new found determination combined with his talent leaves this challenge beyond Perry.
The handicap gives O’Sullivan a 5.5 frame deficit to make up, meaning he would have to win 13-7 or better and although that does appeal at 5/6 another market looks the safer option.
One of the features of O’Sullivan’s new game face has been the quick, un-dramatic starts he has been making, quickly settling and being able to put pressure on his opponent from the outset.
As a result, the 8/11 that the champ is ahead after the first four frames at 8/11 looks very attractive.
Both Mark Selby and Ali Carter had to make trips to the well to see off their first round opponents and it’s difficult to see how their second round clash won’t go very close to the wire.
Carter, a finalist in both 2008 and 2012 at the Crucible, was facing a best-of-three scenario after seeing Xiao Guodong level at 8-8 but the Captain held his nerve despite admitting he will need to improve.
Selby was even closer to an early exit after surviving a final frame shoot-out against a determined Michael White and the world number two deserves credit for regaining his composure after seemingly losing it having conceded four frames in a row.
There have been 26 meetings between the two and it isn’t a surprise to see that the more successful Selby has had the better of it with 16 victories and a draw.
However, the three-time Masters champion has not been in the same form as last season when he lifted two major trophies and he won’t be able to blow Carter away.
There is a temptation to back Carter to make the quarter-finals but he has also struggled this campaign and so the advice is to invest in the match containing plenty of frames.
In all of their past duels only twice have they contested matches over a distance of best-of-17 or more and both times (9-7 Selby 2011 Wuxi Classic and 13-12 Selby 2007 World Championship) there has been little between them.
The price of 6/5 on their being over 22 frames in this best-of-25 clash looks more than fair.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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