As always, as soon as the draw is known, bloggers and journalists come up with their predictions and previews. Here is a small selection.
I have deliberately left out the ones by the betting companies. You will find hereafter the links to the full articles, and full quotes of the excerpts related to Ronnie.
Five-time winner and red-hot tournament favourite O’Sullivan was handed David Gilbert in the first round. Gilbert is a fine player, but that contest could be all about how he handles the occasion and the stage. You suspect that the Rocket will feel it could have been worse.
While all the top 16 members would have been desperate to avoid the likes of Ding and Carter, conversely all the qualifiers would have been praying not to see their name paired with Ronnie O’Sullivan. Apologies, then, to the unlucky David Gilbert, who has the task of taking on the overwhelming favourite for this year’s title. Gilbert won a great battle with Jack Lisowski in the final round of qualifying and earlier in the season reached his maiden ranking event final at the International Championship. So it’s not like the 34 year-old is a complete outsider. Yet, it’s going to be oh so tricky a task for the Englishman. O’Sullivan was sensational upon his return to the sport earlier this year when he emerged victorious at a canter in both the Masters and Welsh Open. The 40 year-old is bidding for a sixth world crown to join the Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on joint second in the all-time list, and his draw, if we’re being honest, has been kind. O’Sullivan can’t meet prime rival Mark Selby until the semi-finals while the likes of Higgins, Trump and Robertson, who aren’t intimidated by the ‘Rocket’, are on the other side of the draw. O’Sullivan grows into tournaments such as these and if he gets past the opening two rounds, like he should, then beware the rest of the field. Still, whether he can sustain it right the way to very end, temperament intact, is always an additional query.
Semi-Final Prediction: Ding to beat Higgins. O’Sullivan to beat Allen
Final Prediction: O’Sullivan to beat Ding
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Dave Gilbert (Sunday 2.30pm and Monday 10am)
Make no mistake, this is one of the tougher draws for Ronnie. I’ve been an admirer of Dave Gilbert’s for many years and of late he’s been achieving results that he should probably have achieved a decade ago. I like the way he plays the game and his way around the table, he’ll be a test for Ronnie. The Rocket hasn’t been seen since he lost to Holt in the Grand Prix but was at his majestic best at the Welsh Open. They’ve even shifted a load of comps back to the UK next season to keep him happy, something that he isn’t always in Sheffield. As ever, we’ll know quite quickly how he is feeling, last year I think we all knew he wouldn’t win, the shoe incident and the chalk on the table tomfoolery were clues enough. I think he’ll probably be a different animal this year, he’s been putting in the hours and is obviously the man they all have to better, if he’s on song, who can stop him? Oh yes, and stand by for BBC Gilbert O’Sullivan puns, you have been warned.
Predicted Winner: O’Sullivan 10-4