John Higgins (@1.66) vs Barry Hawkins (@2.2)
12-09-2019

Our Prediction:

John Higgins will win

John Higgins – Barry Hawkins Match Prediction | 12-09-2019 07:30

To seal his debut at the Crucible, the 31 year-old overcame Soheil Vahedi before standout successes over world number 17 Ryan Day and two-time former finalist Matthew Stevens. Things havent quite worked out that way for the Scot despite once claiming that it would be a failure if he didnt etch his name on the trophy before the age of 30. Now 38, Maguire often acts like a player who doesnt really have much belief in his game. That said, the five-time ranking event winner has produced a relatively consistent season and will be hoping to improve on a dismal recent Crucible record that reads six first round defeats in the last eight years. Other qualifiers gained more headlines but one of the most impressive of the lot was Tian Pengfei. Tians next opponent will be Stephen Maguire, who was once thought of as a nailed on world champion.

The former Snooker Shoot Out champion has done well to reach this stage but one suspects that hell find himself out of his depth against Robertson, particularly if the 16-time ranking event winner maintains his current hot streak. Robertson has never really threatened to add to his 2010 Crucible crown but looks to be in the best form of his life heading into this edition. Michael Georgiou represents Robertsons initial test, the latter proudly becoming the first Cypriot to ever qualify. Neil Robertson is the man in form after a run of four consecutive ranking event finals culminated in the Australian triumphing in the lucrative China Open at the start of April. Only Ronnie OSullivan has managed to stop the Melbourne man in his tracks of late and, with the pair in opposite sides of the 2019 draw, there could be a mouthwatering rematch of their Players Championship and Tour Championship final showdowns of last month.

Neil Robertson vs Michael Georgiou

Two of the most enjoyable players to watch on the entire circuit when in full flow, this could really be a barnstorming battle between a pair of heavy scorers. Trump, now a Masters champion, has matured immensely since then and is rightly considered to be one of the favourites for the title overall. The first couple of players out of the bag in Thursday mornings draw were Judd Trump and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Un-Nooh, the quickest player on the tour, is capable of running off frames in quick succession and one suspects that the 34 year-old will need that kind of fire power in order to match Trump. Un-Nooh gave John Higgins a decent run on his debut in 2018 and Trump can probably expect a similarly tough test next week as the Thai returns for a second crack at the Crucible. A possible crucial quarter-final with OSullivan awaits but first Trump will have to take the necessary precautions to overcome a skillful opponent in Un-Nooh. As you can see, the bottom section is littered with thrilling looking ties and this one is no different. The latter has come a long way, though, since his desperate first round defeat to Rory McLeod in 2017.

With a taste of the single table set-up, the Kettering cueist will be desperate to make a return. With two semi-final and a couple of quarter-final appearances in ranking events this season, Donaldson is beginning to become more recognisable at the business end of comps. His debut berth in the World Championship shouldnt come as any great surprise then, but its difficult to envisage him going any further. The Scot has gone under the radar a touch but has actually been one of the most improved players on the circuit of late. Kyren Wilson could be a dark horse for this years tournament as hes got all the necessary tools to do well in the 17-day Marathon of the Mind. The Paul Hunter Classic and German Masters champion reached the last four twelve months ago and was eventually undone by John Higgins but, like the four-time world champion, Wilson boasts a suitable temperament for the big occasion. Scott Donaldson was the last player to emerge from the 2019 World Snooker Championship qualifiers late on Wednesday night after a dramatic 10-9 victory over Lu Ning.

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But Perry is more familiar with the Crucible surroundings and, even as the qualifier, is arguably the marginal favourite for this one. Joe Perry, with his immense experience, was in many peoples eyes the most difficult qualifier to get. The Englishman probably would have been hoping that achievement resulted in an easier opening path but it hasnt really transpired in that fashion. From ten prior encounters with one another, Perry possesses the advantage with six wins to his name. It has taken David Gilbert 17 years as a professional to break into the top 16 but he picked a good time of the year to achieve it, guaranteeing an automatic World Championship spot for the first time. Perry, who beat defending champion Mark Selby in the first round as a qualifier in 2018, is now match sharp and relatively fresh after losing only five frames in the preliminaries at the English Institute of Sport. Gilbert has been the better player overall this season, highlighted by his runs to the finals of both the World Open and German Masters.

Zhao Xintong is arguably the most improved player of the season. Theres no reason to think that Zhao, a heavy scorer when in full flow, cant put it up to the Leicesterman again on this occasion. Zhao gave Selby a stern check in the semi-finals of the China Championship in September the only piece of silverware in Selbys cabinet from a forgettable period. Which Mark Selby is going to turn up? Selbys displays on home soil have predominantly been dismal, reaching the last four of a UK-based ranking event only twice in two years. Most of his strong showings have come in China and its against one of that nations highly fancied young stars who he faces first. Thats what a lot of people are wondering as we get set for the 2019 World Snooker Championship. A lot depends on which Selby actually turns up. The Jester just lost his coveted world number one position for the first time in more than four years and has looked a shadow of the self that captured three world titles in four years between 2014 and 2017. The 22 year-old must have been a despondent character twelve months ago when he dropped off the Main Tour but immediately bounced back via Q School and in one season is already in the cusp of breaking into the top 64 in the world rankings.

12 Prediction: John Higgins wins at odds 1.53

Whether hes been suitably tested or not could be an interesting factor. One possible bone of contention is that, while Carter ought to be warmed up nicely following three routine wins in qualifying, the Captain didnt actually play anyone higher in the rankings than Jimmy White at number 78. Along with the experienced Perry and Dott, Carter is probably the player most of the seeds wanted to avoid. Undoubtedly one of the matches of the round, twice former runner-up Ali Carters reward for emerging from the qualifiers is a date with fellow Englishman Jack Lisowski. Lisowski has come a long way since his 13-1 humiliation at the hands of John Higgins in the second round last year, reaching two ranking event finals and breaking into the elite top 16 for the first time in his career. Still, this affair is practically a flip of a coin. The pair has met only once before, back in 2015 when the Dude pipped Carter in a decider at the International Championship and it could very well be that close again here.

Cahill, a former professional who will regain his tour card next season, has actually played the five-time world champion three times but unsurprisingly has fallen short on each occasion. An incredible first round draw has paired the Rocket with James Cahill, who was the headline story of the qualifiers when he beat Michael Judge to become the first amateur to reach the Crucible in the tournaments 42-year history. Cahill, still only 23 and an exciting prospect for the future, will be looking to enjoy his moment against the sports biggest star. The Englishman hasnt challenged at the Crucible since 2014, though, and is often his own worst enemy as he struggles to deal with the inner demons that can affect his game, especially when the format increases over multiple sessions. OSullivan has been practically unstoppable this season, reaching the title decider in seven out of the ten tournaments hes participated in, with only Trump managing to evade him in big finals. Its not easy to see how he can change that statistic given the new world number ones pedigree and form. Which brings us to the last match. Its what dreams are made of and aspirations dont come much loftier than a 2019 World Snooker Championship encounter with OSullivan. But greater challengers surely await OSullivan in the 2019 World Snooker Championship. Ronnie OSullivan once again heads into the World Championship as the pre-tournament favourite, as he so often does.