Friday, 19 April 2013

Crucible predictions: part 2

The second half of this year's World Championship draw is as juicy as the first.

OnCue takes a closer look at eight more matches and explains how they could pan out at the Crucible....

Neil Robertson v Robert Milkins

It's been three years since Robertson was crowned world champion and now he has his sights set on becoming one of a only a small group of elite players to be a multiple Crucible winner. This year feels like his best chance since 2010. He's had a strong season and has come close to winning lots of titles. It feels as if he is building up to the big one. Robertson isn't overawed by occasion. He'll settle quickly and will be comfortable. This could be ominous for Milkins who is playing at the Crucible for the first time in eight years. Milkins is a great scorer but Robertson has everything: good long potting, excellent break building and a solid tactical game. He should have too much and will do most of the damage in the first session.

Verdict: 10-4 Robertson

Ricky Walden v Michael Holt

This match begins over the partition and in the shadow of Ronnie O'Sullivan's opener. It's a real shame because this one could be a classic. Here are two very even players who are desperate for Crucible success. Between them they have only won one match at the venue and will feel they have under-achieved. Expect a flowing start but it could get scrappy as the winning line becomes closer. Neither player would have been too displeased with the draw so you could see them both really go for it. This match has a deciding frame written all over it for me.

Verdict: 10-9 Walden

Mark Williams v Michael White

A batttle of two Welsh wizards. This is a dream draw for Michael on his Crucible debut against a fellow Welshman who is a national legend and two-time World Championship winner. This sounds quite daunting on paper but he might just fancy his chances and feel even extra motivated to do well. Williams has had a difficult season and struggled to find form. White has nothing to lose and will be dangerous just enjoying the match. He won't care too much for reputation and is a fearless little potter. This could be a real attacking contest and there could be a shock on the cards.

Verdict: White 10-8

Stephen Maguire v Dechawat Poomjaeng

It's been an excellent run by Poomjaeng to win four matches and qualify for his first appearance at the Crucible. He has shown himself to be a solid player, able to kill matches and calm under pressure. These attributes will be tested like never before here. Maguire is a great aggressor and will be looking to bully his way through to round two. He's recently got himself back into the winners' circle with triumph at the Welsh Open. He's reached the semi-finals here twice and will be gunning to be at the business end of the tournament again. There's an air of unknown about Poomjaeng for most. This could turn into a baptism of fire.

Verdict: Maguire 10-4

Mark Allen v Mark King

The battle of two Marks. It was a real shock a year ago when Allen was dumped out in the first round by Cao Yupeng, and it probably hit him quite hard. Losing early at the Crucible puts a dampener on your entire season, especially for a player who lives for the great occasions. I can't see him letting that happen again. He's shown great form this season and won't be taking any prisoners. King is capable of doing some damage and picking up on any chances left but I think Allen will be positive and take the game to his opponent.

Verdict: Allen 10-6

Ding Junhui v Alan McManus

You never really know what kind of performance you're going to get from Ding at the Crucible. It has been a venue where he has frozen at times and felt the huge burden of the pressures. McManus is experienced enough to pick him off should he not quite to be firing but I have a feeling he will hit the ground running this year. If he finds his rhythm and gets into his dangerous break-building mode he will be like a runaway train. This probably isn't something McManus can live with these days. It's good to have him back at the Crucible for the first time in seven years, to a place where he has twice reached the semi-finals. I'm sure he'll get all those great feelings as he walks out into the arena. I've got big hopes for Ding this year, though. He could be the star performer of round one.

Verdict: Ding 10-4

Barry Hawkins v Jack Lisowski

This match is a mouthwatering prospect. It will be another tight battle between two players who like to keep matches open and attack their chances. Hawkins is a much under-rated top 16 player but Lisowski is among one of the most difficult qualifying opponents. He has lots of confidence, especially after his recent run to the quarter-finals at the China Open. There will be long spells in this match where it will be difficult to identify who is the seeded player. The pendulum is likely to be swinging and I envisage both players playing well. It could go the distance. Jack will probably have learnt a thing or two from his UK Championship appearance and will look a lot more comfortable on the TV.

Verdict: 10-9 Lisowski

Mark Selby v Matt Selt

A lot of people believe this could be Selby's year. He has already won the UK Championship and Masters this season and is now bidding for the full house. He has everything you need to be world champion including ability, desire and his trademark battling attributes. There are no easy starts at the Crucible and he won't be wanting to give anything away. The intensity at which Selby plays at times could take its toll and affect his stamina so he'll be eager to get the first couple of matches won without too much fuss if possible. Selt is a debutant and has a mountain to climb. He has a very sound safety game and will make life difficult for the world number one in spells, but I think he will be ultimately be too strong. 

Verdict: Selby 10-5

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