A Case For The Contenders

The most open World Championship ever.


If we were given a pound for every time we’d heard that statement, we’d have won the same amount of money as the eventual world champion this year in Sheffield.


Despite being one of the biggest cliches going at this time of year as we prepare to head to the Crucible, we can safely say that there is no scientific proof to test the validity of this statement either way.


But conjecture and hyperbole placed to one side, picking the winner from a field packed full of the world’s best snooker players is certainly no easy feat.


While we don’t profess to have all the answers to what will happen across the 17 days at this splendid theatre we call the home of snooker, there are sure to be some things that go as expected and definitely plenty that won’t.


The qualifiers are still ongoing and we remain a few days away from finding out the draw for the first round, but we’ve picked out 10 of the key contenders who could have a say on the destiny of the trophy.


Feel free to accuse us of sitting on the fence, but we make the case for why these players could take home the title but also look at what might get in their way.

Neil Robertson

Why he could win it: Pound for pound, he is still the best player in the world and this is a view shared by many in the game. He has everything needed to stick it out across the 17 days and, if all areas of his game come together, he looks totally formidable.

Why it might not happen: The Aussie clearly does not like playing at the Crucible – he’s told us this outright. This must play on his mind and recent results at the venue certainly suggest this is the case. He hasn’t reached the semi-finals since 2014 and he has to overcome this mental block if he wants to add to his solitary world title in 2010.

Verdict: If he reaches the one-table setup, we genuinely believe he becomes the man to beat but he’s vulnerable before then.

Ronnie O’Sullivan 

Why he could win it: The hunger to win an eighth world title and grab the outright record for himself may be the motivation he needs. And on the back of a relatively quiet few months, it may be the perfect storm. His recent record of two wins in three attempts is also ominous.

Why it might not happen: The Rocket has only defended his title once in Sheffield under a freak set of circumstances where he didn’t play at all that season. Now deep into his 40s, can he muster up the energy and dig deep to do it all again?

Never write the great man off, but there looks to be something missing in his game at the key moments this season. This year could be one too far.

Judd Trump

Why he could win it: A quiet campaign by his exceptional standards. This might take a little bit of pressure off as he’s not being talked about by too many. We also saw that he can win without being at his best at the Masters.

Why it might not happen: More often than not he doesn’t find top form here and have we really seen enough to suggest this year will be much different?

Verdict: He starts slow and steady before becoming a real contender later on.

Mark Williams

Why he could win it:
He probably played the best snooker of them all here a year ago and he’s so laid back. The pressure doesn’t seem to get to him. This makes him a dangerous animal and he’s been knocking on the door of a big one for a while now.

Why it might not happen: Last year looked and felt like his best chance to win a fourth. He could have missed the boat.

Verdict: It will take a mammoth performance to beat him. His levels of play will be high for as long as he’s in the tournament and it’ll be a question of who can stop him when he gets rolling.

Shaun Murphy

Why he could win it:
At his best, he’s been the best we’ve seen this season. Close to unstoppable when everything clicks. A confidence player if ever we’ve seen one and his confidence should be absolutely sky-high right now.

Why it might not happen: The winner of the Tour Championship has never gone on to reign in Sheffield. One for the superstitious amongst us.

Non-stop speculation about the impact his media work is having on his game but he’ll go deep.

John Higgins

Why he could win it: Quietly playing himself into form and knows how to scrap it out with the best of them. He has proved time and time again that he doesn’t need to be at his best to get results in Sheffield.

Why it might not happen: He hasn’t won the World Championship in more than a decade and has lost three finals in a row between 2017 and 2019. It just doesn’t happen for him here anymore. Maybe a bit of belief has gone too.

Verdict: He’ll be giving it everything but he’ll meet someone just a bit too good for him.

Mark Selby

Why he could win it: As a four-time winner (all in the past nine years), he’s a machine at the World Championship plus he’s got that winning feeling back. He has the winning mentality to rival anyone and on balance has been the best Crucible player of the last decade.

Why it might not happen:
It’s hard to think of any reasons and this might be telling.

It won’t be at all a surprise if he lifts the title. All the signs are there and you can expect plenty to tip him to go all the way.

Mark Allen

Why he could win it:
He’s number one on the one-year ranking list which says everything you need to know about his season. He’s won three big titles and proved he can win in all different ways. He’s also got a huge heart and will never give in.

Why it might not happen: It’s been a long time since he’s got to the business end. He hasn’t reached the semi-finals since 2009 and a bit of know-how might be needed when it matters.

Verdict: His best run in many years and a future world champion but maybe not this time.

Kyren Wilson

Why he could win it:
The Warrior has a game seemingly built for these long-format matches and he showed great glimpses of form at the Tour Championship last time out. He seems to save his best for Sheffield.

Why it might not happen: He’s still yet to win one of the Triple Crown events. Maybe something is missing and have we seen enough from him above his consistency this season to convince us he can take the next step?

Verdict: Will quietly go about his business and has so much self-belief but might not have the firepower to convert.

Ding Junhui

Why he could win it: His run to the UK Championship final proved how good he can still be on the big stage. The signs are there that he’s got some of his hunger back.

Why it might not happen: Concentration and temperament are so vital at the World Championship. They have been known to let him down before.

Verdict: It always ends in heartbreak, sadly.

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