World Championships Draw 2011

Always a day to whet the appetite for the big Sheffield showdown. The draw’s been made and there’s some terrific first round matches in prospect. Neil Robertson begins his defence against Judd Trump while Martin Gould once again faces Marco Fu, with a possible further rematch in store against the Aussie who broke his heart last year. Recall how Robertson overturned an 11-5 overnight deficit as Gould stalled. Dott against King is sure to be a bruising battle of wills and, given the less convincing nature of some of Neil Robertson’s recent performances (and his travel planning), I’m sure The Captain Ali Carter will fancy his chances of progressing to the one table stage.

Stuart Bingham seems to be a man in form and I think he might have the game to stop Ebdon, but he’s up against it to emerge from an eight featuring Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and Stephen Hendry. Of the debutants, the slightly kinder first round draw comes Andrew Pagett’s way, but there’s two very strong Welshmen waiting for him if he can beat Stoke’s Jamie Cope. I’d have to back Williams to emerge from their section, but Mark Allen always enjoys the challenge of playing against the favourites.

The final section of the draw is the most eye-catching, given Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fall from top 8 grace this season. Dominic Dale certainly won’t be overawed. The question is more whether Ronnie can turn it on for this one tournament, given his number of no-shows and hardly-shows. Meanwhile, John Higgins could hardly have picked himself a tougher start with Stephen Lee returning to near his best. I expect him to be pushed, but to come through to face… Dale or Murphy. Might as well put a bold prediction out there. If Ronnie does turn on the style, well, splendid – I’m a huge fan, but it doesn’t really do to count on him…

Full draw:

1. Neil Robertson v Judd Trump
2. Marco Fu v Martin Gould
3. Graeme Dott v Mark King
4. Allister Carter v Dave Harold
5. Ding Junhui v Jamie Burnett
6. Peter Ebdon v Stuart Bingham
7. Stephen Hendry v Joe Perry
8. Mark Selby v Jimmy Robertson
9. Mark Williams v Ryan Day
10. Jamie Cope v Andrew Pagett
11. Mark Allen v Matthew Stevens
12. Stephen Maguire v Barry Hawkins
13. Shaun Murphy v Marcus Campbell
14. Ronnie O’Sullivan v Dominic Dale
15. Ricky Walden v Rory McLeod
16. John Higgins v Stephen Lee

Who’s going to win it? I’d love to see Selby do it, but I’ve got a funny feeling that it might be Murphy’s time again. I certainly think he’s the only player other than Mark Williams who could actually turn John Higgins over on recent form. I look forward to frantically rewriting these predictions as each round unfolds…

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