SO THIS DRAW, THEN
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s first round tie with Liang Wenbo looks tough on paper but the match will be played on the green baize and I don’t think it’s the worst draw O’Sullivan could have got.
He’s never lost to Liang, has beaten him at the Crucible before and beat him in a final this season.
That’s not to say it’s an easy draw but at least Ronnie knows how he plays and is more than capable of taking him on again. He’d have been relieved to avoid the likes of Graeme Dott, who has a very good record against him in recent times.
Two matches stand out for me: Stephen Hendry v Zhang Anda and Mark Selby v Ken Doherty.
Like O’Sullivan v Liang, they both take place in what will from now on be known as ‘the quarter of death’.
Hendry will know hardly anything about his 18 year-old opponent and the unknown quantity could cause him problems. Zhang is the only player in the tournament who won’t fully comprehend how special the Crucible is.
However, few debutants ever do well and Hendry has played some good stuff in Sheffield for the last two years.
Neither Selby or Doherty would have wanted to draw each other. Doherty won their last meeting at this season’s Grand Prix and is back playing to a high standard.
Selby knows that if is to be world champion this year he will have to do it the hard way: Doherty then possibly Hendry and O’Sullivan just to get into the semi-finals.
John Higgins, the defending champion, is not a certainty to beat Barry Hawkins, one of those players well capable of causing an upset even though he’s yet to win a match at the Crucible.
Even so, Higgins fans will already be plotting his course through to the quarter-finals, where Neil Robertson looks his likely opponent.
All in all it’s an interesting draw that will take a bit more careful study before I for one make any clear predictions about who is going to win the thing.
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