Today's first semi-final is a re-run of last year's final and Paul Krishnamurty is predicting a similar result, with Ronnie O'Sullivan taking another key step towards winning his sixth world title.
"Hawkins hasn't beaten Ronnie for 12 years and...lost 18-12 in last year's Crucible final, despite putting up one of his best ever performances. My instinct is that today's match will produce a similar outcome."
If their respective margins of victory in the last round are a guide, this afternoon's first semi-final is a foregone conclusion. While Ronnie O'Sullivan was thrashing a top-class opponent with a session to spare, Barry Hawkins needed a deciding frame to eliminate a snooker journeyman.
To be fair, those numbers for the last round don't really tell the whole story. Had Shaun Murphy taken his chances, the scoreline could have been 8-8 with Ronnie, rather than 13-3. Equally, Hawkins looked set for an easy win before taking his foot off the gas and letting Dominic Dale in for a remarkable comeback. Hawkins has a tendency to do that sort of thing, but ultimately has been in good form for a while and throughout this tournament. It is very much to his credit that he found his A-game when it mattered most, just as he did previously against Ricky Walden.
Nevertheless, Ronnie is a completely different order of opponent and their head-to-head record offers a very clear indicator. Hawkins hasn't beaten Ronnie for 12 years and most recently lost their Welsh Open semi-final 6-2 without doing much wrong. He also lost 18-12 in last year's Crucible final, despite putting up one of his best ever performances. My instinct is that today's match will produce a similar outcome, with the outsider losing without disgracing himself.
As in all of Ronnie's previous games, outright betting opportunities are extremely limited at just 1.132/15 so the best plan is to consider the speciality markets. There are three interesting handicap options, on Ronnie giving away 3.5, 5.5 and 7.5 frames or correct scores offer another way of betting on the margin of the victory. I'm trying the latter, as my chosen scores are all around those handicap marks. A combination on 17-9, 17-10 and 17-11 pays around 3.39/4