World Championship 2018 – Round 1 Preview

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Previews are in fashion this time of the year, so here is mine…

Mark Selby v Joe Perry

Having watched Joe Perry playing this week in the EIS, I know that he’s playing well, he’s very solid. Nothing fancy but very efficient. He is a tough draw for any seed, even for Mark Selby. Mark Selby played well toward the end of the China Open at the start of this month and he claims that his confidence is back for it. If his form and confidence are indeed back, he should win this match; I certainly don’t expect a one-sided affair, but Mark should have too much for Joe over a best of 19. The only question for me is whether Mark will really show up in the form he found in Beijing. The reason for raising that question is this: earlier this season Mark went to China to defend his International Championship title, and succeeded. He had a very poor start of the season before that event, and everyone thought he had turned the corner. However, the poor form returned almost right away. Mark Selby to win by 10-7

Mark Allen v Liam Highfield

Liam Highfield is a very capable player whose career has been held back by health issues. He played very well at the EIS. Mark Allen hasn’t really played that well since his Masters triumph: he hasn’t got past the last 16 in any tournament since that win. Being the Masters Champion may also add an extra level of expectations on Mark, who has not always coped that well with it. Can Liam Highfield cause an upset? If this wasn’t the Crucible and if Liam wasn’t a debutant, my answer would be yes: he’s good enough. As it is, I doubt it. Mark Allen to win by 10-6

Kyren Wilson v Matthew Stevens

It’s good to have Matthew back at the Crucible. He played solid last week. Still I believe that Kyren will be too much to handle for Matthew, who, in addition, has history of losing matches from well in front. Kyren will not give up, even if he goes behind, and he will apply pressure on Matthew at the slightest sign of weakness or indecision. Therefore I expect Kyren to win by 10-5

Shaun Murphy v Jamie Jones

Remember the World Championship 2012? This was a first round match back then and it was Jamie Jones who came out the winner by 10-8. He then went on to reach the quarter finals. Can we see a return of the “Jones Kid”? Well it’s certainly a possibility if he keeps playing the way he did at the EIS. Also, there is a question mark over Shaun’s fitness. He hasn’t said anything about the state of his neck and shoulders since the China Open (where he probably shouldn’t have gone because long haul flights do no good in such injury cases). It might mean that he’s OK, or it might mean that he doesn’t want to give his opponent an advantage by admitting he’s not 100%. We will only know during of after the match. Because of this uncertainty I will make no prediction.

John Higgins v Thepchaya Un-Nooh

“Theppy” scored very heavily against Alfie Burden in the last round of the qualifiers. Can he put John Higgins on the back foot with a barrage of high breaks? It’s a possibility. However this is Thepchaya first time at the Crucible and it will all depend on how well and fast he adapts. Higgins is a predator at the table, if you show any weakness he will pounce mercilessly. If Thepchaya goes off to a good start and plants doubts in Higgins mind, he’s got chance, he certainly has the game when on form. The problem though is that Thepchaya hasn’t much of a B game and he’s up against an all-round master over two sessions. Can he hold it together? I’m not sure. Higgins to win by 10-5

Stuart Bingham v Jack Lisowski

Now this is an interesting one. Watching Jack at the EIS there were two things that struck me: he now has a more than decent safety game and he’s more patient than he used to be. That, combined with his natural talent makes him a very dangerous opponent to anyone. Stuart Bingham also appeared to be in great form over the last months. This should be an entertaining match, and a close one. My prediction: this match going 10-8 either way.

Luca Brecel v Ricky Walden

Ricky when on form is champagne. Is he on form? He certainly is back playing more than decent stuff without being quite at 100% of his abilities yet. But Ricky has been here before and there will be no intimidation factor. Luca has been very poor to say the least since his China Championship triumph. There have been all sorts of reasons offered for it: injuries, and cue issues. But then, serious slumps after an excellent run have been a bit of a pattern in Luca’s career so far. There was no real sign of improvement at the China Open. Ricky Walden to win by 10-3

Judd Trump v Chris Wakelin

Chris Wakelin is another debutant. He was truly impressive in the qualifiers. He faces Judd who should be well rested, as he didn’t go to China earlier this month. But will he be match sharp? He certainly didn’t impress me lately in competitions. Even in the Championship League Snooker – a tournament tailor made for him – this time he failed to make it to the winners group. All season Judd had an alternance of seemingly brilliant performances and unexpected defeats, often from ahead. At least this time he doesn’t come here having been boasting about it being “his year”. But he will be under pressure and the memories of last year defeat to Rory McLeod – from 4-0 up – will be present surely. It will be all about how Chris handles the Crucible special setup and atmosphere. So here is my (bold) prediction: Chris Wakelin to win by 10-7

Ding Junhui v Xiao Guodong

Ding couldn’t possibly have a better first round draw: he’s a God in China and plays a Chinese player. Xiao has only beaten him once, and that goes back to 2009. Enough said. My prediction: Ding wins by 10-6

Anthony McGill v Ryan Day

Ryan has the momentum. He’s won three events this season. He looked confident and at ease at the EIS. Mc Gill has been inconsistent this season, and not great actually in the second half of it. Despite a stand-out whitewash of John Higgins in Llanduno I think he’s vulnerable here. Prediction: Ryan Day to win 10-6

Marco Fu v Lyu HaoTian

Marco arrives in Sheffield having not played a competitive match since the Masters in January, and claiming that despite the surgery his eye is no better or worse. It’s hard to see him winning under those circumstances, even if his opponent is a 20 years old debutant. Lyu played really well last week and showed a lot of maturity, something he was lacking when he first qualified as a pro (quite normally considering how young he was). Lyu has quietly managed to climb into the top 64 within his first tour card season this time, just but he’s there. Not a mean feat. Prediction: Lyu to win 10-5

Barry Hawkins v Stuart Carrington

Now that’s a hard one for me to predict as I didn’t watch Carrington at all last week. Barry seems to be playing really well again, he seems to be up for it again and his results at the Crucible tell us that the place and the format do suit him. He’s a bit of a Crucible specialist. Based on that: Barry Hawkins to win by 10-6

Mark Williams v Jimmy Robertson

Jimmy Robertson is another one who played well at the EIS, very well even. He claims that he loves the Crucible but hasn’t been really successful there until now. What can he do against a rejuvenated Mark Williams? Not much I’m afraid if Mark is in the form he has shown for most of the season. Mark Williams to win 10-6

Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins

Robert Milkins can score heavily and fast. He does have a better safety game than most give him credit for. However he’s also often guilty of the unexpected miss leaving his opponent bang in. Can he upset Neil Robertson? Despite Neil’s rather indifferent season, I don’t think so unless Neil has a real stinker. Neil showed clear signs of improvement in the China Open, just at the right time. Prediction: Neil Robertson to win 10-6

Ali Carter v Graeme Dott

Looking at temperament there is only one winner here and that’s Graeme Dott. the gritty “snooker terrier” never gives up, whilst Ali has been guilty of throwing his toys out of the pram a good few times in recent seasons, including at the Crucible. I clearly remember how his second round match against Alan McManus went in 2016, I was there. And he lost to Graeme in 2017, by 10-7. I’ll predict much of the same: Graeme Dott to win by 10-7

Ronnie v Stephen Maguire

It couldn’t have been much harder for either of those two. I’m sure they are both delighted… Ronnie like all seeds comes here cold, with the weight of expectations and everything to lose, Stephen played well in EIS, but his record against Ronnie is rather damning. It won’t be an easy match for either. Just because it happened so often in the past, I expect it to stay close until the last mini session then for Ronnie to pull away. Prediction: Ronnie to win 10-7

 

 

 

One thought on “World Championship 2018 – Round 1 Preview

  1. good luck to Ronnie O’Sullivan the rockets please win Stefan you the best player in this game ever!!!
    You must win!!

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