RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WILL join an elite group of players if he wins the 2014 World Snooker Championship, starting tomorrow.
The reigning champion, who faces lowest seed Robin Hull in the first round, is targeting his third consecutive title in Sheffield over the next fortnight.
That would see him join Steve Davis on six Crucible wins and become just the fourth player to achieve that feat since the tournament reverted to a knockout format in 1969.
Davis, Stephen Hendry and former mentor Ray Reardon are the trio to have already successfully completed that treble, and few would bet against O’Sullivan adding his name to that list this year.
The 38-year-old’s approach of picking and choosing the events in which he competes has seen him drop to 33rd in the world rankings, but a final-frame 147 on his way to beating Ding Junhui in the Welsh Open final last month proved he was still at the very top of his game.
That maximum saw O’Sullivan set a new record of 12 147s in competitive matches.
Source: Adam Davy
O’Sullivan’s most likely contenders for the world crown are Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, although Ding has been in sensational form this season and will be fancied by many for a tilt at winning the event for the first time.
Since winning this title in 2010, Australian Robertson, set to face Robbie Williams in his opening clash, has gone on to complete snooker’s ‘big three’ with victories in the Masters and the UK Championship.
The latter came earlier this season and the man dubbed the ‘Thunder from Down Under’ has been at his break-building best to rack up 92 centuries during the current campaign and smash the previous record of 61 set by Judd Trump last season.
Mark Selby was eliminated in the second round last year, as his attempt to win all three triple-crown events in a single campaign fell at the final hurdle, and he has failed to pick up a single tournament victory since winning the Masters in January 2013.
Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Ding starts his campaign against Michael Wasley after catapulting himself into contention with five ranking-event wins so far this season, including his triumph at the China Open – his home tournament – earlier this month.
Last year’s runner-up Barry Hawkins will be keen to go one step further this time around, although that run was his first foray beyond the second round at the Crucible, while former champions Shaun Murphy and John Higgins will also eye strong showings.
Pundits and fans alike have been waiting for Trump to fulfil his potential for a long time, so he too will be looking to repay some of that faith in Sheffield this year.
First round draw in full: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Robin Hull, Joe Perry v Jamie Burnett, Marco Fu v Martin Gould, Shaun Murphy v Jamie Cope, Barry Hawkins v David Gilbert, Ricky Walden v Kyren Wilson, Mark Davis v Dominic Dale, Ding Junhui v Michael Wasley, Mark Selby v Michael White, Ali Carter v Xiao Guodong, John Higgins v Alan McManus, Stuart Bingham v Ken Doherty, Judd Trump v Tom Ford, Stephen Maguire v Ryan Day, Mark Allen v Michael Holt, Neil Robertson v Robbie Williams.