Snooker World Championship 2012: First round analysis and predictions

Here’s my analysis for the first round matches of the Snooker World Championship 2012. The analysis is partly made from a betting perspective therefore I’ve chosen not to include a winner prediction where I’m in doubt.

Good luck and punters don’t blame me :)

John Higgins vs. Liang Wenbo

Prediction: John Higgins

Higgins hasn’t had the best of seasons. He hasn’t won a single tournament so far which is a bit of an upset for a player of his quality. He’s had good results in the PTCs and has usually won at least one or two matches at the venues but it’s simply not good enough for a player at his standard. He said himself he hasn’t put enough hours into the game and that’s why he’s had the results he’s had. At a recent press conference he said he’s confident though to make a good run and could you really argue against a 4 times world champion? Wenbo has had a consistent but not very fruitful season, sitting at a 59% winrate. Were all waiting for and expecting him to have a good run and finally break the spell but it hasn’t seemed to happen for him yet. He just beat Campbell in a decider to book himself an appearance in the Crucible. Higgins beat him convincingly in their last clash and I think Higgins will beat him again here.

Stephen Hendry vs. Stuart Bingham

Hendry against Bingham is an interesting one. Bingham started the season with all guns blazing reaching the quarters of PTC1 and then winning the first ever held Australian Open. Since then he’s not really revolutionised the scene but has established himself as a good player. Stephen Hendry on the other hand has been fairly on and off and it’s difficult to predict who will turn up. What is certain is that he has shown some great fighting spirit at times and if he just could be more consistent he would make some deep runs. Honestly I don’t know who to back here but I’m very tempted to predict Hendry here.

Graeme Dott  vs. Joe Perry

Dott and Perry is another tough call. Dott is the favourite but that he will win is far from a certainty. Dott flew through the PTCs at the beginning of this season but he has definitely shown some loss of form in the latter stage of the season. Perry has been fairly consistent this season and always been a bit of a dark horse. He hasn’t really thrived at the venues except in the PTCs and thus I marginally favor Dott to come through as he seems to play well in the Worlds.

Stephen Maguire vs. Luca Brecel

Prediction: Stephen Maguire

Brecel seems to have taken people by storm when he silenced all the doubters and qualified for the Crucible as the youngest person to do so in snooker history. He surpassed McCulloch, Pinches, Michael Holt and lastly Mark King to fulfil this recordbreaking achievement. Overall his season has not been much to write home about but it seems it was just a matter of time before he unleashed his real capabilites. Stephen Maguire on the other hand has had a very consistent season and may become a very familiar sight at the business end of the tournaments next season, much like the in-form name brother Stephen Lee. With a 69% winrate and reaching two finals already this year, I can only see one winner. Brecel has had a good run, but Maguire it is for me.

Shaun Murphy vs. Jamie Jones

Prediction: Shaun Murphy

Jamie Jones is a fairly good player and he’s had a pretty consistent season sitting at a 60% winrate. He has done well in the PTCs but has little experience with venues as the qualifiers are pretty tough. According to himself his little breakthrough came when he beat John Higgins 4-3 at the PTC finals just a month ago. That win reimbused him with confidence at venues and you can say it worked as he just beat Ricky Walden 10-2 to qualify for the Crucible. Shaun Murphy on the other hand has had an incredibly consistent season, possibly one of the most consistent performances of all the players on the circuit. Semis Wuxi Classic, semis Australian Open, quarters Shanghai Masters, final Brazil Masters, 2 PTC quarters, quarters UK championship, final Masters, semis German Masters, semis Welsh Open, quarters World Open, Championship League winners group. But then you have that disappointing 5-2 loss in the China Open against a Chinese wildcard. Still.. it’s pretty obvious who to back here.

Stephen Lee vs. Andrew Higginson

Prediction: Stephen Lee

Stephen Lee another very consistent player on the circuit having a massive 72% winrate. He’s gotten good results in PTCs and despite early UK and Masters exits he’s had great results the last few months. German Masters quarters, finals World Open, PTC finals winner and he’s coming to Sheffield on top of a semis at the China Open. Higginson is a very capable player when he’s in form and he established himself with a PTC win this season. Of late he has had some very disappointing results which I’m sure was gutting; the epic loss to O’Sullivan when he lost from a 4-0 lead race-to-five, losing to Joyce at the Welsh Open Q, losing to Jimmy White at the China Open Q and a 5-0 whitewash against Trump at th e World Open. He had a decent run at the PTC finals reaching the semis only losing to Stephen Lee and convincingly beat Peter Lines 10-4 to ensure his spot at the Crucible. Stephen Lee has won their three last encounters and you have to go with the stats on this one. Stephen Lee to win.

Allister Carter vs. Mark Davis

Allister Carter vs Mark Davis is a tough one to call. Carter is totally unpredictable due to his Chrons (no offence, just from a prediction perspective) and he’s also had a very mentally tough season already announcing he wants out of professional snooker. Recently in the China Open he did have wins against Dominic Dale and wildcard Lu Ning who beat Jamie Jones and Shaun Murphy, so that could have given him some confidence back. Mark Davis has had an OK season, he reached a PTC final which is no bad feat. He has been struggling at the venues and that might be key to the final outcome of the match. I was most surprised seeing him play so well in the CLS surviving no less than 4 groups when he finally qualified for the winners group. He beat in-form Robert Milkins 10-5 to qualify for the Crucible. A tough match to call indeed and I think it mostly depends on the form of Ali Carter.

Judd Trump vs. Dominic Dale

Prediction: Judd Trump

Judd Trump has had a fantastic season with no less than two PTC wins and several other good placements. Of course he also won the UK championship and from there on he has had fairly consistent results apart from a surprising loss to Xiao Guodong at the PTC grand finals. He nearly won the Championship League just losing to Ding Junhui in the final. Dale did reach a PTC final but all in all Judd Trump is a clear favourite in sheer terms of skill and form.

Mark Williams vs. Liu Chuang

Mark Williams has had a strange and tough season. His PTC results has been horrific, possibly due to him not caring about them but just attending for the ranking points or to be able to play in the European PTCs. His highlights of the season was reaching the finals of the Australian Open and the Shanghai Masters, losing them both in a decider (arguably throwing away the match against Selby, mentally that is not that I accuse him of losing on purpose). The last tournaments he has lost mainly to Ronnie O’Sullivan but also to in-form Stephen Lee and Mark King. Liu Chuang is an upcoming Chinese players with probably much potential. Still I think it’s a bit early for him to take down a heavyweight in snooker history in a best-of-19 match, but I certainly won’t back Mark Williams either. A cheeky wager handicap bet on Chuang might be the order of the day.

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Peter Ebdon

O’Sullivan and Peter Ebdon is going to be one of the highlights of the first round, undoubtebly because of the mind games that are expected to take place. The question is which O’Sullivan will show up; the good one or the bad one, and will Peter Ebdon’s slow play affect him severly? Say what you want about O’Sullivan but his season has been absolutely flying and he has been one of the most – if not the most – consistent player this season. He has two PTC victories, one final, one semi and one quarter final, German Masters champion, Welsh Open semi and a very close loss to Stephen Maguire at the China Open in the quarters. He’s sitting on an astounding 80% winrate. Now Peter Ebdon on the other hand has had a very whacky season. He has struggled all season except for some survivals in a few CLS groups and out of nowhere he won the China Open beating Stevens, Higgins, Robertson, Junhui and Maguire on the way. Mindboggling. He also beat Alfie Burden 10-0 to qualify for the Crucible. Ebdon’s confidence must be buzzing right now but I still O’Sullivan is going to win. Still, I’m not ready to depend on O’Sullivan to show up with a right mindset and I won’t back him until I see how he fares.

David Gilbert vs. Martin Gould

The clear favorite between Gilbert and Gould is obviously Martin Gould but I’m not that convinced here. Gould has had a decent season when it comes to PTCs being fairly consistent but he has struggled mightly at venues the last few months. His last 6 matches he has only won once against Peter Ebdon, the other losses were first round losses at German Masters, World Open, PTC finals and China Open respectively. Gilbert has had a decent, consistent season as well sitting on a 59% winrate but he just hasn’t reached the venues and you’d think he’d feel the pressure at Sheffield. Still, a very impressive feat qualifying for the Crucible overcoming Carrington, Jimmy Robertson, Mike Dunn and Fergal O’Brien. I’m tempted to back Gilbert ever so slightly but I think Gould is going to win.

Neil Robertson vs. Ken Doherty

Prediction: Neil Robertson

The darling of Dublin, how he love deciders. Just fell over the winning line beating Hamilton 10-9. Doherty is a fighter and a player not to be underestimated. Still, against Neil Robertson of whom has had a good season winning the Masters it’s hard to see Doherty winning this in the end. Robertson has had a 75% winrate (of some of it being from the CLS, granted) and for the big event I’m sure he’ll bring his A-game.

Ding Junhui vs Ryan Day

Prediction: Ding Junhui

Let’s face it, Day has had a tough season. He hasn’t advanced to second round in any of the big tournaments and didn’t qualify for neither the Welsh Open, World Open or the China Open. He did beat Gerard Greene 10-8 to qualify for the Crucible but that’s certainly not going to convince me. Ding, a future world champion predicted by many, are just coming into form winning the Welsh Open, winning the CLS and securing a spot in the Premier League and then reaching the semis of the China Open (to be fair he did receive a w/o against Selby). Ding to win.

Mark Allen vs. Cao Yupeng

Prediction: Mark Allen

Mark Allen has had an amazing season with his big breakthrough reaching the final of the UK championship. The “semifinalist” finally broke the spell and he wasted no time taking advantage. Despite early Masters and German Masters exits he reached the quarters of the Welsh Open and won the World Open before losing in the first round in China against Walden in the China Open. I guess reaching the semis of the CLS is worth a notice. Yupeng as with David Gilbert had to win 4 tough qualifying rounds to reach the Crucible and he did so by winning two deciders against Harold and Ford respectively. He also overcame Maflin and Bond so it’s a great feat but against a player of Mark’s caliber I can only see one winner. Allen to win.

Matthew Stevens vs. Marco Fu

Matthew Stevens and Marco Fu is a tough one to call. Stevens has undoubtebly had the best season being fairly consistent in the PTCs and reaching a couple of quarters plus a PTC final. He also survived a few CLS groups. The worry is that he lost in the first round of the last three events; the World Open, the PTC finals and lastly the China Open. Marco Fu on the other hand has had a very disappointing season considering his Masters final in 2011. He’s sitting on a 52% winrate and really has had no noticeable results apart from a UK quarter final. Otherwise he suffered from a first round loss at the Welsh Open and the World Open, and didn’t qualify for the China Open. I’m tempted to predict a Stephens win but it’s an open match for me.

Mark Selby vs. Barry Hawkins

Hawkins has had a good season winning his first tournament which surely has ignited some confidence in him. He’s had consistent PTC results and he’s a very capable player in form. I do believe he struggles when playing the top guns, so Selby is the clear choice here. Selby has had a decent season with consistent results in the PTCs and winning one of them, and then winning the Shanghai Masters in dramatic fashion as Mark Williams threw it away. At the end of the season he seemed like suffering from fatigue or something, or maybe he just played in too many of those Championship League groups. In total 5 of them. Somehow he reached the Welsh Open final after just beating Baird 4-3 when Baird missed a simple blue during the clearance to victory. He also reached the semis just after in the World Open. He had to pull out of the China Open due to a neck injury, but a month and a half later he should be up and going again.
Update: Just heard he’s just starting practicing for the Worlds after several visits to the chiropractor(s). I think Selby will be a handful but certainly not a safe bet. Handicap on Hawkins would be most logical.

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