Paul Krishnamurty previews the two first round matches beginning on Sunday, involving former world champion Neil Robertson and former runner-up Barry Hawkins...
"Only Ronnie O'Sullivan has got the better of Barry Hawkins in the last two World Championships and that Crucible pedigree should be enough to see him progress."
Despite some tough draws, only Ronnie O'Sullivan has got the better of Barry Hawkins in the last two World Championships and that Crucible pedigree should be enough to see him progress at the expense of a limited opponent.
Matthew Selt has enjoyed a productive year, especially in PTCs, even reaching his first final at the Lisbon final, but there is scant evidence that he can compete at the highest level. Only a few days ago, he was on the brink of defeat in these qualifiers to Jimmy White. On his sole previous Crucible visit, Selt offered little resistance in defeat to Mark Selby.
The case for backing the outsider lies in Hawkins' own dodgy form. He's certainly not in the same rich vein of form as 12 months ago, but a run to the quarter-finals last time in China suggests he may be coming good in time for the big one. If so, he would rate excellent outright value at 85.084/1. For this match, Hawkins looks decent value at 8/11 to give up 1.5 frames on the handicap.
The other match starting on Sunday may not be quite the one-sided affair projected by odds of 1.141/7 about Neil Robertson against Jamie Jones. The former world number one is fancied by many to come through the top half of the draw, but he has struggled all season against players of Jamie's calibre and worse.
Outstanding when reaching the quarter-finals in 2012, Jones hasn't trained on as many expected, but he's had some decent results in recent weeks and may get a boost returning to the scene of his finest hour.
I doubt he can pull off an upset, not least because Robertson is such a fine match player even when below his best, so the best play may be to back some relatively close correct scores. A combination of 10-6, 10-7 and 10-8 pays around 3.02/1
Back Neil Robertson to win 10-6 1.5u @ 7.5
Back Neil Robertson to win 10-7 1u @ 9.08/1
Back Neil Robertson to win 10-8 1u @ 11.010/1