RONNIE O’Sullivan’s position at the top of the draw as No1 seed has been known for almost 12 months but the weekend saw the last of the other 15 seed positions resolved.
WITH Barry Hawkins’ victory at the PTC Grand Finals in Preston the final seed positioning for the World Championships was finalised – not that anyone really expects all 16 to make it through to the second round and last-16 stage, especially given some of the calibre of opposition likely to be facing them for starters in Sheffield.
Hawkins, Stuart Bingham and Judd Trump were the last places to be finalised, with last year’s Crucible finalist edging into fourth place in the rankings and therefore the fifth seeding, with the lower-ranked O’Sullivan coming in at the top and No1 seed as defending champion.
According to the ranking formbook though, if everyone does what they are supposed to the last-16 line-up will be: Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) v Joe Perry (16); Marco Fu (8) v Shaun Murphy (9); Barry Hawkins (5) v Ricky Walden (12); Ding Junhui (4) v Mark Davis (13); Mark Selby (3) v Ali Carter (14); Stuart Bingham (6) v John Higgins (11); Judd Trump (7) v Stephen Maguire (10), and finally Neil Robertson (2) v Mark Allen (15).
As mentioned above, there could be both former world champions (Mark Williams, Graeme Dott, Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon) as well as younger form horses emerging from the qualifiers to overcome in the best-of-19 frame first-round matches to set up these potential ties.
But should the fancied players come through the eye is inevitably drawn to the pairings of Robertson and Allen, and Trump and Maguire. Murphy and Fu could also be a great game over the best-of-25 frames if it happens.
It is unlikely that this outcome will drastically alter the outright betting. Those who previously fancied O’Sullivan, Ding or Selby will still see a path through for their man, although Robertson and Trump look to have landed themselves a difficult quarter.
Selby has sounded like a man who could do with a rest, and seriously considered not entering this week’s China Open in Beijing. He went all the way to the final in the event last year while ill, and it did him few favours at the Crucible. If he was to do something similar again in Beijing, that could be good news for Higgins, if he makes it to the quarter-finals in Sheffield. The Scot, four times a World Championships winner, has been looking and sounding much happier with his game in recent weeks.