Judd Trump will aim to shatter the so-called ‘Crucible curse’ and become the only first-time winner to defend his title when the World Snooker Championship starts on Friday.
But with form guides out of the window due to the coronavirus lockdown, plenty of rivals will fancy their chances of eclipsing the favourite and getting their hands on the sport’s ultimate prize.
Here, Livesportcentre picks out the five leading contenders for this year’s world crown.
Trump claimed his long-awaited first world title in spectacular fashion last year and maintained his momentum by claiming a record six tour titles in the opening stages of the current, abridged campaign. The 30-year-old, who gets under way against Tom Ford on Friday, insists he is coming into the tournament under no pressure having finally broken his Crucible duck, and clearly deserves his status as the outstanding favourite.
For a player widely regarded as the greatest of all time, O’Sullivan has a fraught relationship with the Crucible and his stunning first-round loss to amateur James Cahill last year renewed doubts over his ability to add to his current haul of five world titles. On his day, of course, he is more than capable, but a restless response to the coronavirus regulations and a tricky opener against lightning-fast Thepchaiya Un-Nooh suggests he will have to be up for the fight in order to stand a chance.
When Robertson won the world title in 2010 it seemed more would follow for the Australian, but his failure to return to the final since has raised doubts over his ability to last through the full two weeks. His current campaign has highlighted his inconsistencies, from a fabulous Champion of Champions win over Trump and successes in the European Masters and the World Grand Prix, to a Masters collapse against Stephen Maguire. Nevertheless, it would be dangerous to back against him.
Allen has not kicked on as expected from his first ‘triple crown’ triumph at The Masters in 2018, and a chain of semi-final losses this season suggests he deserves his status as one of the sport’s nearly-men. A distant semi-final appearance in 2009 remains the best the Northern Irishman has achieved at the Crucible but, although the statistics may be against him, there remains that nagging feeling that Allen – who has been blessed with a favourable-looking draw – is on the verge of that belated breakthrough.
The veteran Scot has often contemplated his future in the sport, but despite increasingly frequent dips in form, he has managed to reach the last three Crucible finals and underscore his status as one of the best match-players in the history of the sport. Every time the four-time winner is written off he seems to come back stronger, and provided he pulls through his first-round clash with fellow former finalist Matthew Stevens, he could be in the mix again.