Here’s our preview of the matches starting on day 3 of the Dafabet World Championship…
MARK SELBY v MICHAEL WHITE
(Monday 10am and 7pm)
Selby came into last year’s World Championship as a major contender, having won the season’s two other big titles, the UK Championship and Masters. In 2014, he heads to Sheffield having lost in those two finals, plus the final of the World Open. At other times, though, he has looked way below his best.
He plays the game in a way which must be mentally draining and over the course of a long campaign it has to catch up with you. His recent flat performances in losing at the Welsh Open and Players Championship do not bode well for a deep run at the Crucible.
Then again, it is the World championship and it has inspired many a player devoid of form. Selby remains hard as nails and it may be that his disappointing campaign will be salvaged in the Steel City.
But he faces a dangerous young Welshman in White, who was a surprise quarter-finalist 12 months ago. This did not act as the prelude to a great season but the Crucible may well again inspire White, a deadly potter and certainly capable of a future top 16 place.
This is a clash of styles. Every year at the Crucible there are a number of thrillers. This could be another one.
PREDICTION: Selby 10-9
JOHN HIGGINS v ALAN McMANUS
(Monday 2.30pm and Tuesday 10am)
Higgins and McManus (pictured above) took a break from practising together last Thursday to watch the draw. I’m not sure if the fact they have been paired together ended that session but this is a match featuring two great friends who each know every corner of the other’s game.
Higgins has said how much he owes McManus, who gave him help and advice when a teenager, schooling him in the all round game that has stood him in such good stead over the course of four World Championship triumphs.
These two actually met on Higgins’s Crucible debut in 1995. He was beaten and then made comments about the venue he has been retracting ever since.
McManus was an ever present at the Crucible from 1991 to 2006 before entering a slump but he has enjoyed a resurgence in the last couple of seasons. He qualified again last year and last week defeated twice world champion Mark Williams to secure another bow on the sport’s premier stage.
In his favour is all that time spent practising with Higgins, whose game will hold no surprises.
This could be a treat for fans of proper matchplay snooker between two of its best exponents. McManus is more than capable of causing an upset but over the 19 frame distance Higgins may just be too strong.
PREDICTION: Higgins 10-7
RICKY WALDEN v KYREN WILSON
(Monday 7pm and Tuesday 7pm)
Walden was on course to reach last year’s world final before losing his way against Barry Hawkins in their semi-final. He belongs in the top 16 but also suffers from inconsistency, losing matches out of the blue.
Walden knows he will have to be on his game against a hungry young qualifier in the shape of Wilson, who was very impressive in beating Graeme Dott in the final qualifying round. It wasn’t just the result but the performance which marked Wilson out as one to watch.
However, the Crucible is a huge step up from a qualifying environment. When Ken Doherty first played there in 1991 he said he spent the first four frames just looking around. He went to the interval 4-0 down.
Wilson seems a level-headed sort but this is the biggest day of his career and nerves are inevitable. If he can settle early on he can certainly cause an upset. Walden, though, has experience on his side.
PREDICTION: Walden 10-6
Photographs by Monique Limbos.