Barry Hawkins (@2.62) vs Neil Robertson (@1.5)
12-09-2019

Our Prediction:

Neil Robertson will win

Barry Hawkins – Neil Robertson Match Prediction | 12-09-2019 06:30

Two of the most enjoyable players to watch on the entire circuit when in full flow, this could really be a barnstorming battle between a pair of heavy scorers. Un-Nooh, the quickest player on the tour, is capable of running off frames in quick succession and one suspects that the 34 year-old will need that kind of fire power in order to match Trump. The first couple of players out of the bag in Thursday mornings draw were Judd Trump and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. A possible crucial quarter-final with OSullivan awaits but first Trump will have to take the necessary precautions to overcome a skillful opponent in Un-Nooh. Trump, now a Masters champion, has matured immensely since then and is rightly considered to be one of the favourites for the title overall. Un-Nooh gave John Higgins a decent run on his debut in 2018 and Trump can probably expect a similarly tough test next week as the Thai returns for a second crack at the Crucible. As you can see, the bottom section is littered with thrilling looking ties and this one is no different. The latter has come a long way, though, since his desperate first round defeat to Rory McLeod in 2017.

Gould famously led Neil Robertson 11-5 in the second round in 2010, only for the Australian to fight back and proceed to capture his one and only world title. Mark Williams produced an unbelievable performance twelve months ago to surprise the pack and claim a third world crown, 15 years after his last success. Williams has lost the consistency that was a cornerstone of his game last season. Yet, its been a miserable time on the circuit for the Pinner Potter of late and he has been in danger of dropping outside the worlds top 32. The Welshman has been enjoying a year-long celebration since then and its fair to say that his game has suffered a touch as a result. Against Martin Gould, Williams probably could have received an easier opening challenge. A former ranking event winner, Gould has the type of game that can trouble any opponent on his day. Goulds performances at the Crucible havent been notable since and the experience, not to mention cool head, of Williams should prove to be the vital difference. As always, theres great expectation in learning who the defending champion will receive in the first round draw.

But its never easy at the Crucible, never mind when its a first appearance, and facing someone like Barry Hawkins doesnt make the task any simpler. The latter, of course, has become somewhat of a master at the longer format and has reached the semi-finals or better in five out of the last six editions. Li has risen into the top 32 in the world rankings this season and is undoubtedly a dangerous player. The 28 year-old is one of six Chinese in the draw, four of whom are set to make their debuts on the famous stage. Some people might be surprised to learn that Li Hang, despite first turning professional in 2008, has never actually played in the World Championship at the Crucible. The Hawk hasnt enjoyed an especially good campaign but might fancy his chances in an open looking top quarter of the draw to repeat his now trademark run to the last four.

Mark Allen vs Zhou Yuelong

Zhao gave Selby a stern check in the semi-finals of the China Championship in September the only piece of silverware in Selbys cabinet from a forgettable period. A lot depends on which Selby actually turns up. The Jester just lost his coveted world number one position for the first time in more than four years and has looked a shadow of the self that captured three world titles in four years between 2014 and 2017. Thats what a lot of people are wondering as we get set for the 2019 World Snooker Championship. The 22 year-old must have been a despondent character twelve months ago when he dropped off the Main Tour but immediately bounced back via Q School and in one season is already in the cusp of breaking into the top 64 in the world rankings. Theres no reason to think that Zhao, a heavy scorer when in full flow, cant put it up to the Leicesterman again on this occasion. Zhao Xintong is arguably the most improved player of the season. Most of his strong showings have come in China and its against one of that nations highly fancied young stars who he faces first. Which Mark Selby is going to turn up? Selbys displays on home soil have predominantly been dismal, reaching the last four of a UK-based ranking event only twice in two years.

To seal his debut at the Crucible, the 31 year-old overcame Soheil Vahedi before standout successes over world number 17 Ryan Day and two-time former finalist Matthew Stevens. That said, the five-time ranking event winner has produced a relatively consistent season and will be hoping to improve on a dismal recent Crucible record that reads six first round defeats in the last eight years. Tians next opponent will be Stephen Maguire, who was once thought of as a nailed on world champion. Other qualifiers gained more headlines but one of the most impressive of the lot was Tian Pengfei. Now 38, Maguire often acts like a player who doesnt really have much belief in his game. Things havent quite worked out that way for the Scot despite once claiming that it would be a failure if he didnt etch his name on the trophy before the age of 30.

From 3-1 down to Mark Williams in the first round, Neil Robertson played a wonderful match and reeled off five frames on the spin to power his way into the quarter final. It was a concern that he was 3-1 down in the first place, and actually one pot away from being 4-1 down, but it was a positive that he remained calm under pressure and found his best game with his back against the wall. You can look at that win one of two ways.

Undoubtedly one of the matches of the round, twice former runner-up Ali Carters reward for emerging from the qualifiers is a date with fellow Englishman Jack Lisowski. Along with the experienced Perry and Dott, Carter is probably the player most of the seeds wanted to avoid. Still, this affair is practically a flip of a coin. Lisowski has come a long way since his 13-1 humiliation at the hands of John Higgins in the second round last year, reaching two ranking event finals and breaking into the elite top 16 for the first time in his career. The pair has met only once before, back in 2015 when the Dude pipped Carter in a decider at the International Championship and it could very well be that close again here. Whether hes been suitably tested or not could be an interesting factor. One possible bone of contention is that, while Carter ought to be warmed up nicely following three routine wins in qualifying, the Captain didnt actually play anyone higher in the rankings than Jimmy White at number 78.

Stephen Maguire vs Tian Pengfei

Its been a dire campaign for the duo and they have rarely featured at the business end of events. In the Chinese number ones favour at least is a head-to-head record against McGill that reads four and zero. Few were probably expecting the Scot to advance from the qualifiers but a remarkable turnaround from 7-2 behind against Robert Milkins on Judgement Day proved the doubters wrong. Ding has long held the weight of a nation on his shoulders but his quest for the ultimate title has so far eluded him and its difficult to envisage that changing in 2019. Ding knows all too well how momentum can develop after reaching the final in 2016 on the back of emerging from the preliminary stages. This has the makings of a scrappy contest and its hard to see either of them producing the necessary goods this year to challenge the main contenders. A repeat of their second round clash twelve months ago when Ding Junhui thrashed Anthony McGill 13-4, the pair cross paths again in Sheffield. Both Ding and McGill will be looking to lock the memories of this season up and throw away the key, unless they can conjure up something special in the next fortnight or so.

Robertson has never really threatened to add to his 2010 Crucible crown but looks to be in the best form of his life heading into this edition. The former Snooker Shoot Out champion has done well to reach this stage but one suspects that hell find himself out of his depth against Robertson, particularly if the 16-time ranking event winner maintains his current hot streak. Neil Robertson is the man in form after a run of four consecutive ranking event finals culminated in the Australian triumphing in the lucrative China Open at the start of April. Michael Georgiou represents Robertsons initial test, the latter proudly becoming the first Cypriot to ever qualify. Only Ronnie OSullivan has managed to stop the Melbourne man in his tracks of late and, with the pair in opposite sides of the 2019 draw, there could be a mouthwatering rematch of their Players Championship and Tour Championship final showdowns of last month.

His debut berth in the World Championship shouldnt come as any great surprise then, but its difficult to envisage him going any further. With two semi-final and a couple of quarter-final appearances in ranking events this season, Donaldson is beginning to become more recognisable at the business end of comps. Kyren Wilson could be a dark horse for this years tournament as hes got all the necessary tools to do well in the 17-day Marathon of the Mind. The Paul Hunter Classic and German Masters champion reached the last four twelve months ago and was eventually undone by John Higgins but, like the four-time world champion, Wilson boasts a suitable temperament for the big occasion. The Scot has gone under the radar a touch but has actually been one of the most improved players on the circuit of late. Scott Donaldson was the last player to emerge from the 2019 World Snooker Championship qualifiers late on Wednesday night after a dramatic 10-9 victory over Lu Ning. With a taste of the single table set-up, the Kettering cueist will be desperate to make a return.

To some critics out there, the Chinese players are often unfairly being labeled as failures and underachievers, which is somewhat hilarious considering the majority of them are either teenagers or in their early twenties. Zhou is one of the leading protagonists in the huge pack of young Chinese stars that are emerging. The 2009 semi-finalist will be hoping that the advantage to all that will be a fresh outlook ahead of the sports most vigurous examination. Allen skipped the China Open, an unusual decision that cost him his spot in an easier looking top half of the draw. Another mouthwatering prospect in this bracket of the 2019 World Snooker Championship draw is the match between Mark Allen and Zhou Yuelong. The Northern Irishman has been one of the players of the season, although things have gone a touch quiet since he captured a brace of ranking titles and reached the UK Championship final at the end of the calendar year. Still, while Zhou should represent a decent workout for Allen, its hard to look past the 33 year-old in terms of reaching the last 16 on this occasion.

Semi-Final Prediction: Robertson to beat Williams. Trump to beat Allen.

The Magician has lost all of his tricks and has been a constant loser in the early rounds of ranking events this season. Murphy won the Champion of Champions and reached several ranking event finals last season but since relocating to Ireland in the summer his game has been in tatters. Probably the most damning statistic is that, on the one-year rankings list, Murphy squeaks just inside the top 50 at number 48. Luo Honghao, meanwhile, is another one of the Chinese debutants and at 19 is the only teenager in the field. What has happened to Shaun Murphy? Murphy is on a bit of a hiding to nothing in this one and he could find himself in trouble if he cant stamp his authority on the contest quickly. That youthful exuberance could stand the rookie in good stead and Murphy isnt a stranger to disappointing defeats to young Chinese players, with Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, and Yuan Sijun all notably taking the scalp of the 2005 world champion as inexperienced challengers in the past.

Higgins, with no silverware to his name and a series of disappointing early exits from tournaments to erase from his memory, has been disillusioned with the game since losing his second successive World Championship final last May. By beating Lyu Haotian in the preliminaries, Davis became the first player to reach the venue stages via the qualifiers ten times. Match sharp and with a laissez-faire attitude at the twilight of his career, the 46 year-old will be a tricky challenge that an out-of-form Higgins might not have any answers for this year. Arguably the worst draw that John Higgins could have received on the back of what has been his most miserable season in years. Six years ago at the same hurdle, Davis knocked Higgins out courtesy of a 10-6 scoreline and in fact boasts a superior head-to-head record against the former world number one. The Wizard of Wishaw will be hoping that the Crucible Theatre can inspire some of his old magic to return but in the first round of the 2019 World Snooker Championship hes been paired with an old nemesis at this stage.

Perry, who beat defending champion Mark Selby in the first round as a qualifier in 2018, is now match sharp and relatively fresh after losing only five frames in the preliminaries at the English Institute of Sport. Joe Perry, with his immense experience, was in many peoples eyes the most difficult qualifier to get. From ten prior encounters with one another, Perry possesses the advantage with six wins to his name. The Englishman probably would have been hoping that achievement resulted in an easier opening path but it hasnt really transpired in that fashion. Gilbert has been the better player overall this season, highlighted by his runs to the finals of both the World Open and German Masters. But Perry is more familiar with the Crucible surroundings and, even as the qualifier, is arguably the marginal favourite for this one. It has taken David Gilbert 17 years as a professional to break into the top 16 but he picked a good time of the year to achieve it, guaranteeing an automatic World Championship spot for the first time.