With 11 world titles between them, snooker's holy trinity are all in action on Saturday. Paul Krishnamurty previews the matches involving Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams...
"The ten frames required for Lisowski to win the 3.5 Frame Handicap is not such a big ask and could be won before the Crucible pressure really hits home."
Back Jack Lisowski to win the 3.5 Frame Handicap @ 4/5
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Ronnie in trouble but on the comeback trail again
For the second round running, Ronnie O'Sullivan is giving his army of supporters a real scare. After two sessions, he trails Ali Carter 9-7 but it could have been much worse. When trailing 8-3 and struggling, the Rocket hit a peak of [4.0] to win the match and [7.0] for the title. However he turned it around, finishing the session in brilliant fashion to resume favouritism at [1.76].
Ronnie's comeback was very reminiscent of the first round, when turning 4-0 and 6-3 deficits into a 10-7 victory over Stephen Maguire. Like the Scot, Carter has seen it all before - having failed to beat O'Sullivan in 14 attempts. If forced to have a bet, it would be Ronnie but [1.76] about someone trailing by two is hard to get excited about.
Lisowski can at least give Higgins a scare
Arguably the most fascinating second round match pitches a four-time champion against a rapidly emerging potting machine, whose chances are quite tricky to measure. Lisowski is playing well enough to beat anyone but Higgins at the Crucible is by far the biggest test of his career.
On the basis of his recent form, [3.55] about the younger man appears good value, at least from a trading perspective. I suspect lack of experience and tactical nous will ultimately prove decisive but equally, Higgins can't be relied upon to put three good sessions together. The ten frames required for Lisowski to win the 3.5 Frame Handicap is not such a big ask and could be won before the Crucible pressure really hits home.
Williams tipped for another one-sided victory
If any of these best-of-25 matches is to finish early, this is it. I can't see anything bar a comfortable Williams victory and the twice former champion is strongly fancied to deny this streaky opponent nine frames. He leads their career head-to-head 4-1, by an aggregate frame score of 25-9.
Most were played in years when Williams was producing nothing like his recent standard. All season he's been bossing lesser players and Jimmy Robertson never got a look in last time. Milkins is a similar standard although fair play to him for again beating Neil Robertson for at the Crucible. The Aussie was dire but 'The Milkman' finished the job well enough.
Stats after Round 1: