A long haul eight days of Betfred World Championship 2019 Qualifiers concluded on Wednesday (17th April) at Sheffield’s Institute of Sport.
Ultimately sixteen players prevailed in three consecutive ‘best of 19’ format games to earn their place in the draw for the World Championship which starts on Saturday in the Holy Grail of Snooker, Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre.
Each now faces a top-16 seed in the first round of the competition. The biggest headline grabber amongst the qualifiers is James Cahill who has become the first amateur player in the history of the sport to qualify for the World Championship finals.
Those that like following blood lines in sport should make note that Cahill is actually Stephen Hendry’s nephew.
If the 23-year-old has a fraction of his seven-time World Championship winning uncle he will go far. For now he has to overcome the competition favourite, Ronnie O’Sullivan, in his opening round game on Monday April 22nd.
It’s an enormous ask.
However it is fair to say few individual qualifiers truly stood out. 2006 World Champion Graeme Dott did win his three qualifying matches with impressive 10-2, 10-4 and 10-2 score-lines. Similarly Joe Perry dispatched his three rivals with 10-1, 10-1 and 10-3 dismissals.
But Dott is now 41 with a string of disappointing results alongside his name this season. Perry is even older and he too has amassed numerous first-round exits this year. Furthermore he has only landed one ranking tournament during his career which began in 1992.
Mark Davis is another old-timer that has progressed from the qualifiers. Now 46, he’s never won a ranking tournament albeit he did land the World Seniors Championship three years ago.
The success of Chinese players was another standout feature of the qualifiers. Five have earned their place in the main draw: Tian Pengfei, Zhou Yuelong, Zhao Xintong, Li Hang and Luo Honghao.
However, Chinese players have consistently shown themselves to be tactically inferior to their seniors and this has repeatedly seen them come up short on the major snooker stages. Only two Chinese players have ever won a ranking tournament: Ding Junhui (13 titles) and Liang Wenbo (one).
Unquestionably some of the 16 qualifiers will win against their more highly ranked and seeded opponents in the first round of the World Championship but it’s massively unlikely last year’s tally of six seeded eliminations amongst the 16 opening round matches will be bettered.
Incidentally the last non-ranked player to make a World Championship final was Ding Junhui in 2016 and the last winner was Shaun Murphy in 2005.
Mark Allen has claimed two ranking tournaments, the Scottish Open and the International Championship in China. He was also a beaten finalist in the UK Championship and reached the semi-final of the last two ranking tournaments he has played.
Judd Trump is another with two ranking tournament victories (Northern Ireland Open and World Grand Prix) but he has also taken the elite Masters competition – with a bloodless 10-4 victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan – and gone deep (quarter final or better) in an additional six ranking competitions.
Ronnie O’Sullivan cracked 1,000 career centuries this year and returned to the top of the World Rankings. He’s taken three ranking tournaments despite only playing seven and he’s also won two of the three major non-ranking competitions he has played, the Shanghai Masters and Champion of Champions. He’s won 38 matches this season and lost just five.
Neil Robertson, the 2010 World Champion, has three ranking tournament wins on his 2018/19 CV plus an additional three final table appearances. He’s also had deep runs in three of the three major non-ranking competitions meaning he is enjoying hs best ever season.
A reminder there are 20 ranking tournaments this season and 19 have now been completed. And while this quartet have claimed ten of them, they have not contested all of them, far from it.
Simply selecting one of these four to win the 2019 Betfred World Championship would appear lazy and lacking in true form study. But the truth is, no other player appears to be performing well enough or has the ability to lift the trophy.
Defending champion, Mark Williams has not progressed beyond the quarter-finals of any tournament since last September (15 competitions in total). Other previous winners have also looked a shadow of their former selves, particularly John Higgins who kicked off his campaign with a final table appearance in the China Championship, but has endured several first round competition exits since.
Shaun Murphy, the 2005 winner, is playing little better than a good club player. 2015 winner, Stuart Bingham, has had far better results netting two small scale ranking tournaments but he’s never really had the class to compete with the likes of Trump, O’Sullivan and Selby when they are at their best.
Ah yes, Mark Selby… a 15 time ranking competition winner who has won three of the last five World Championships. His current form, in a word: Dreadful.
He was beaten in the qualifiers of the sport’s most recent competition, the valuable China Open, just a few weeks ago. It is a tournament he won on the three previous occasions he played it.
Selby’s victories in the China Open followed by World Championship success have made that tournament the best form indicator to the destination of the ‘big one’ and in 2019 it was Neil Robertson that took that prize.
He beat Jack Lisowski in the decider, a player who has yet to win a ranking tournament and so another player struck from our calculations.
Confidence is king in snooker. Mark Allen has been shaky in this department this year but Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson have it in spades.
You could argue any one of these players could win the 2019 World Snooker Championship, but they cannot as the draw has been unkind to Trump and O’Sullivan who are scheduled to meet at the quarter-final stages. And if that goes to plan one of these could meet Mark Allen in the semi-finals – as this trio are all housed in ‘quality heavy’ bottom bracket of the draw.
Meanwhile, Australian Robertson has a dream pathway ahead of him in the top bracket of the draw. Firstly he meets Michael Georgiou, who has never beaten him, and thereafter worst-case potential opponents will be Shaun Murphy and then John Higgins.
As Robertson has made the final of the last four ranking competitions he has played and took the £1 million China Open earlier in the month, dropping just 16 frames and winning 45, he would appear to be a perfect bet-to-lay proposition or each-way play (firms offer ½ odds each-way terms) at a mouth-watering 5/1.
Exclusive Welcome Bonus up to £100
Read Review ||BET NOW||18+, T&C Apply. Begambleaware.org. Minimum Deposit £20. Bonus will expire 7 days from registration.|
Bet £10, Get £30 in Free Bets Promo Code: 30f
Read Review ||BET NOW||New customers only – Minimum deposit of £10 using deposit code 30F - A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £10 placed on any sports market - Minimum odds of 1/2 (1.5) - Free bets credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days - Free bet stakes not included in returns - Deposit method and withdrawal restrictions apply & Full T&C’s apply - Full Terms Apply|
Bet £10 Get £10
Read Review ||BET NOW||18+ New Customers Only. Minimum Deposit and wagering on sport to activate the Free Bet is £10. Customers who deposit using Neteller, Paysafe, Skrill or Skril 1-Tap will not be eligible for any free bet offer.BeGambleaware.org|
Be the first to receive the latest welcome offers, free bets, tips and strategy
Check your email to activate your subscription and start receiving our new exclusive offers.