Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Crucible Countdown: 4 days to go

It's the same old story every year.

As soon as the Betfred.com World Championship comes along, everyone's got something to say.

Just take a look at my blog as an example. It's littered with my views, and it's no big surprise with it being the most eagerly-anticipated snooker event in the calendar.

The hype is immense, but people are thirsty for build-up.

The OnCue Crucible Countdown continues with the views of two of the most insightful bloggers in the game today.

Dave Hendon from Snooker Scene and Matt Huart from Pro Snooker Blog share what they're looking forward to most at the Crucible this year.

Dave Hendon

I think this year's tournament is going to be incredible from the word go.

The first round draw looks fantastic.

I think Barry Hearn is an absolute genius and it's fate that after such a great season for snooker, we're going to have arguably the best first day match ever at the Crucible. It's the defending world champion Neil Robertson against the winner of the last ranking event, Judd Trump. This already looked like a great match on paper before Beijing - but now it's a blockbuster. The best part about the match is that Neil won't want to play Judd , but Judd won't want Neil either.

Judd's story is incredible. It's almost as if he's learned how to play the game in two weeks.  I saw playing a couple of weeks before China and he was taking everything on. Then, he looked as if he'd developed so much for that tournament. I think he can definitely beat Neil but it's important he doesn't allow himself to celebrate yet, and being so young, that's going to be difficult.

I think it's also going to be interesting seeing the two favourites for the title in their tough opening round draws. Mark Williams is playing Ryan Day and John Higgins is up against Stephen Lee. Not only have they drawn form players, but they've got bags of experience too.  Sometimes it's not a bad thing knowing you've got to play at your best straight away though. It could stand them in good stead if they can get through it.

The other games I'm looking forward to are Matthew Stevens against Mark Allen and Ding Junhui versus Jamie Burnett.

Matthew has come back well this season and will be feeling great, while Mark has had his problems. The Crucible is a funny place. It could inspire him, so this will be interesting to watch.

In the other match, Jamie has quietly done very well this season and has scored a lot of centuries in the qualifiers. He's playing well and will make it a tougher game for Ding than people think.

Ding has never done very well here. It's not like any other arena. I don't think he enjoys sitting right next to his opponent and it maybe doesn't suit his personality.

Matt Huart

I'm looking forward to the tournament.

It's always the highlight of my year, and since the qualifiers, it's been non-stop snooker.

I went along to the qualifiers this year those and a lot of people were following my updates on Twitter. I had such a good time.

I'm looking out for a few things this year. Andrew Pagett really impressed me in a similar way to Anda Zhang the year before. Everytime he lost a frame, he replied and came back to take the next one. He showed great resilience. His match with Jamie Cope will be interesting.

Looking at the wider picture, I think John Higgins and Mark Williams have to be the two favourites. I always use the UK Championship as a good guide for what could happen at the Crucible, and these two made the final there as well. They're in the same side of the draw, which could be interesting but I remember back to 2006 when Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Williams and Higgins were all in the same half. They were calling it the 'half of death' but there were a couple of shocks and it all quickly changed.

I'm also going to keeping an eye out for Shaun Murphy. I think he's one of the most under-rated players around. He's had a good season, led the Order of Merit and has picked up the third most ranking points this season.

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