Day One of the World Championship traditionally sees the defending champion trying to avoid being struck by the dreaded ‘Crucible Curse’.
‘The Curse’ hit last year when Nel Robertson was beaten by Judd Trump and now John Higgins (1.17) is the man in the spotlight. He faces one of five Chinese players lining up this year in the shape of Liang Wenbo (4.65). Wenbo is a very attacking player and won’t be able to deal with John if it gets tactical. I think Higgins will get his defence off the ground successfully.
Martin Gould (1.28) opens up against Dave Gilbert (3.50), Gilbert came through four qualifying matches to get here, including a comfortable final round win over Fergal O’Brien. Gould has been a bit out of sorts lately and at the odds I think Gilbert is worth a bet to cause an upset.
Evenly matched in the betting are number 16 seed Stuart Bingham (1.85) and qualifier Stephen Hendry (1.90). They met in this round in 2000 when Bingham caused a major upset by knocking an in-prime Hendry out of the tournament.
Stephen can still produce some fantastic snooker but the problem he has nowadays is sustaining it over long periods. Bingham has looked a more composed player since winning his first ranking event earlier in the season and is experienced enough at the venue to hold off the 7-times champion.
Neil Robertson (1.13) kicks off his push for his second world title against Ken Doherty (5.50). Ken has a fantastic Crucible history and will be delighted to be back, but Neil is a class above the Dubliner these days and I think he’ll win with a bit to spare.
In the evening Mark Allen (1.11) takes on another Chinese player Cao Yupeng (6.00). Cao has steadily improved throughout the season and is peaking at the right time. But Allen is another that I think will fancy a strong run in this. He plays some of his best snooker here and I can’t see him having any problems.
Bets Bets: Gilbert (3.50) to beat Gould, Bingham (1.85) to beat Hendry and Allen to beat Yupeng with minus 4.5 frames (1.80)