The Crucible is one of THE most iconic sporting venues in the world – home to the annual World Snooker Championships in Sheffield, England.
Saturday April 20th sees the start of just over two weeks of snooker, with the worlds elite players meeting in a gruelling test of both skill and stamina that has seen some of the sports most memorable moments and victories.
Last year, Mark Williams (above) from Wales saw off the sustained challenge of Scotland’s John Higgins – eventually besting him 18-16 in an epic final. The victory of Williams his third overall – but was, quite amazingly, a 16 year wait since his last victory in 2003.
In this years renewal, joining Williams as multiple past Champions are Mark Selby (3), John Higgins (4) and, most notably of all Ronnie ‘The Rocket’ O’Sullivan – widely regarded as the best snooker player of all time – and the favourite going into this years Championship. Such has been O’Sullivan’s dominance this year he has reclaimed the number 1 world ranking spot despite playing countless tournaments less than his rivals. He is in good form also, having won the Players and Tour Championships coming in to Sheffield.
So, if O’Sullivan is the one to beat, who are the ones who could do just that?
First on our list has to be the afore mentioned John Higgins. The ‘Wizard of Wishaw’ has shown no real form coming to the Crucible – indeed it wasn’t that long ago that Higgins wondered about his appetite for the game – him now a veteran at 43 years old and having turned professional in 1992. But Higgins has the temperament and endurance needed for snooker’s ultimate test, where others fail. Known for his never say die attitude and amazing ability to make frame winning breaks under the most intense pressure, Higgins could just be the man who outlasts O’Sullivan or indeed anyone he meets.
Also under consideration is Judd Trump. The enigmatic Englishman has threatened for a while to break a big tournament win since he turned professional in 2005 – but has seemingly always found one better whenever going close. But he knocked that particular monkey off his back by winning the 2019 Masters title – and then not content with that, he also won the World Grand Prix, beating Ali Carter in the final. On his day, Trump has a very complete game – great safety coupled with sublime potting and break building. The only question mark is his focus and ability to put games away – but there is no doubting his talent.
Of the rest, you always have to give great respect to Mark Selby, who has done this before – and Australian Neil Robertson. But such is the strength of the current game, that we haven’t even mentioned the likes of past winners Sean Murphy and Stuart Bingham – let alone the quality of Ding Junhui, Barry Hawkins, Kyren Wilson and many others, including a host of young up and coming superstars from Europe and – very noticeably – Asia, where surely they will produce a snooker World Champion soon.
But we like an O’Sullivan v Higgins final – with the Rocket just having enough fuel to get him over the line and hoist aloft a sixth World Championship.