Ronnie O’Sullivan bids for a record eighth title of the modern era while in-form Mark Allen attempts to break a desperate Crucible run as the World Snooker Championship returns to Sheffield on Saturday.
Here, the PA news agency picks out five players to watch, all of whom have the potential to lift the prestigious title on May Bank Holiday.
Form is largely inconsequential when it comes to determining whether the 47-year-old O’Sullivan has it in him to win a third world title in four years and go it alone as the only man to claim eight in the modern era. Allied to his recent war of words with the sport’s bosses, it remains to be seen whether he retains to desire to do it again. All things considered, he remains the outstanding favourite.
Allen has shone out this season by winning three tournaments, albeit in a much-slowed style that has not endeared him to everybody, and ordinarily would be considered one of the likely contenders for his maiden crown. But Allen’s Crucible form is desperate – despite three quarter-finals, he rarely ventures beyond the second round, and may be ill-equipped for the unique rigours of the tournament’s final stages.
After struggling through much of the previous year with back and neck complaints, Murphy has surged back to top form in 2023 and heads to the Crucible on the back of two tour title wins in three months. Champion as a qualifier in 2005, and three times a losing finalist since, Murphy is something of a Crucible specialist and has every chance of going all the way.
Few players in history have proved as well-equipped for the rigours of the Crucible than four-time champion Selby, and at his often exasperating best he can prove almost impossible to overcome over the longer format. The bad news for Selby’s rivals is that he appears en route to rediscovering a happy place, with two ranking title wins already this season, and few would dare back against him if he was still standing at the tournament’s business end.
Fate sometimes plays funny games in snooker and so it is that former finalist Ding Junhui has squeezed back into the seedings after a season in which the match-fixing allegations levelled at 10 of his compatriots have left snooker’s relationship with China hanging by a thread. Ding, who is entirely innocent, reached the UK final earlier this season, and the Tour Championship semi-finals earlier this month. What a year it would be for him to finally break his Crucible duck.