Amazingly we have only been waiting eight weeks since the last World Championship Snooker finals and we are already being treated to another one.
Yes, back in its regular slot, the 2021 Snooker World Championships begin this Saturday morning at 10am with a smattering of fans in attendance at the Crucible Theatre, its home since 1977, in Sheffield.
Over the years the biggest event in world snooker has both charmed and thrilled us but what can we expect from this latest edition and who will triumph come the May Day bank holiday?
Let’s take a look at some Snooker World Championship 2021 predictions.
The Ace In The Pack
World number one, Judd Trump, leads the betting with 5/2 odds to win the Snooker World Championship which is a pretty solid price on the 2019 world champion.
Trump may not have been in peak condition in recent weeks, but this current season is still going extremely well for him with five trophies in the bag, and I feel that he may be coming into Sheffield with a less pressure on his Bristolian shoulders this time around.
Last time out, Trump was reigning champion, looking to defend his crown, his first, and had he done so, he would have been the first player to do so. The famous and dreaded ‘Crucible Curse’ soon struck though, and this Ace busted out in the semis.
This time, however, there is none of this, meaning he is free to play on the main table and concentrate on nothing else other than his snooker, which is by far and away better than anyone else’s at this moment.
With the World Grand Prix in the bag and drawn in the fourth quarter, any questions around Trump’s form seem a little strange to me and I think he is in with a great chance.
Reigning champion and greatest snooker player of all time, Ronnie O’Sullivan is going for his seventh Crucible crown here and, if he should claim it, he will draw equal with the legendary Stephen Hendry – who, after nine years off the circuit, unretired recently but lost in qualification for this event to Xu Si – which will hopefully provide the Rocket with the necessary motivation that he sometimes seems to require.
And that’s really the thing with Ronnie. On game, no one can live with him. We honestly have never seen a better player on the baize when he wants to put on a show.
But it’s also hard not to wonder what might have been had he had the same drive of players with half his talent.
In short, in 30 years at the tables, six Snooker World Championships is nowhere close to enough.
The Rocket still has time of course but, having proved his point last year, will he be in the mood to do so this time around?
The tournament will certainly hope so, as do we.
A fully firing O’Sullivan can set the event alight even if title retention proves to be a tall order, an outcome deemed worthy of 7/2 Snooker World Championship odds here.
O’Sullivan looks to have a straightforward run to the semi-finals where he could meet old foe John Higgins, himself a good shout for an outright win.
So far this season, O’Sullivan has lost to the duo who will provide his biggest threat here, Trump and our next snooker World Championship pick.
The Jester From Leicester
Mark Selby is in good form this season and made it all the way to the semi-finals here last year before losing out to eventual winner Ronnie O’Sullivan in what will surely go down as one of the greatest snooker matches this tournament has ever seen.
Had the Jester have made it through that epic, I think, given that Trump had bust by then, it is entirely likely that he would have been standing on there on final Sunday holding aloft his fourth World Championship title, a wrong he will be desperate to right this year.
Selby has enjoyed considerable success in the Home Nations so far this season, successfully defending his Scottish Open crown while throwing in the English Open at the same time.
Plus, here at the Crucible, likely down to his love of the longer format, Selby tends to thrive.
In short, Selby and Sheffield are good for each other and an outright win, worth 29/4, would not come as a shock.
The Wizard of Wishaw
It is hard to ignore the claims of John Higgins who has returned to form at exactly the right time and has made the final at Sheffield in three of the last four years.
Somehow Higgins has even improved his already impeccable cue action – as Ronnie would call it – after tweaking his playing style.
On the baize, Higgins enjoyed a superb win at the Players Championship earlier this year, winning 10-3 in the final at the expense of O’Sullivan in February, and heads to Sheffield in his best shape in years, even accounting for defeat to The Rocket in the Tour Championship last month.
This is reflected in the odds where 8/1 is the lowest outright price on The Wizard of Wishaw for years.
Overwhelmingly the favourite for his quarter of the draw, he is due to meet with O’Sullivan in the semis if everything goes to plan which could throw up a match for the ages.
He also faces a potential all Scottish affair against Anthony McGill in the second round but the first possible seed he could come up against is a fellow member of the ‘Class of 92’, Mark Williams.
Best Of The Rest
Wales’ two time world champ Mark Williams – who, along with himself and John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan recently described as proper snooker players, the like of which the game will never see again – made the semis of the Welsh Open in February and is playing well, making him definitely one to keep an eye on.
Australia’s Neil Robertson, the 2010 champion no less, is in the opposite half of the draw from O’Sullivan and Higgins, down in the bottom half, so will fancy his chances of making a deep run here. The Wonder From Down Under can be backed for 19/4 in the Novibet sportsbook.
Last year’s losing semi-finalist Anthony McGill is as heavy as 85/1 this year and could face O’Sullivan early on should the Scot make it past Ricky Walden. While McGill remains one of the most talented players in the tournament, the draw, you feel, has been unkind.
40/ shot, Jack Lisowski has made it to three finals this season and will feel the Grand Prix in particular, where he had Trump on the rails, represents a missed opportunity to bag a maiden title and will plan to upset the odds here.