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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Captain Carter ready to issue Crucible orders

Top half of draw looks loaded with star names

Ali Carter in action against Alan McManus at The Crucible last year
1 of 1

BBC & Eurosport from 10am Saturday

Humphries’s top tip
Ali Carter 50-1

There is such a lopsided draw in this year’s Betfred World Championship that it’s well worth considering some of the contenders in the bottom half.

Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Marco Fu, Neil Robertson and Ronnie O’Sullivan all contest the top half, while down below Judd Trump is fancied by layers to thwart Stuart Bingham and John Higgins in a section that may take a lot less winning.

But while pinpointing the bottom half in the search for value looks wise, it would be folly to think that Trump and possibly Higgins are sure to monopolise proceedings.

Trump has never won at the Crucible, which is this year celebrating its 40th year of hosting the tournament, and while he and world number one Selby have been the players to beat of late, crossing the line may never come easy for the Bristolian.

Credit to Mark Williams for saying Trump was the best bet to rule the world before the Juddernaut embarked on his brilliant recent run, which took in his Ladbrokes Players Championship title triumph.

Of course it’s likely that Trump will lift the trophy one day, but whatever value was there prior to his recent heroics has all but disappeared.

Higgins has a golden chance to go close to nailing a fifth world title, but it should not be forgotten that he blew a wonderful opportunity in Sheffield last year against his friend and fellow Scot Alan McManus in the last eight.

Higgins was at a loss to explain his inability to fight back against McManus, who kept on nipping away at the Wizard of Wishaw, and the display brought back memories of Stephen Hendry failing to contain Peter Ebdon in the 2002 final when Hendry admitted to twitching for the first time in his stellar career.

In a half which may not take much winning, a chance can be given to Ali Carter to go one better than he did in 2008 and 2012. The Captain had a thankless task in those Crucible finals trying to keep tabs on Ronnie O’Sullivan, and now he’s back firing on full engines after illness Carter goes to Sheffield under the radar.

If Carter succeeds in a tough opener against 2006 champion Graeme Dott, the first seed he could meet, Barry Hawkins, was involved in one of the best-quality finals in Crucible history when also playing second fiddle to O’Sullivan.

But if Carter builds up a head of steam, he can still be one of the most effective performers in the world and a title triumph would bring the house down.

Anthony McGill upsetting Trump should they clash would obviously be welcomed by Carter’s camp, but the Captain has a decent head-to-head record against the second seed and so could cause problems for the second favourite anyway.

Next best
Mark Selby 9-2
If anyone has a decent draw in the top half, it’s Selby.

The Jester from Leicester, who is bidding for a third world crown in four years, doesn’t have to worry about O’Sullivan or Ding until the semi-finals.

And while Fu has been absolutely superb for much of the campaign, the same applies to the Hong Kong ace as Trump with virtually all the juice having been squeezed out of his price.

At his best, Fu is a danger to anyone and when he won the Coral Scottish Open in December it was genuine one-visit stuff so it was hardly surprising he starred in Glasgow.

But having peaked earlier in the season, Fu is no certainty to reproduce the goods in Sheffield. And don’t forget he has often been priced at nearly three figures for the Worlds, not a fifth of those odds.

Selby was the man to beat in the Betway UK Championship and proved that, and while hardly anyone has followed victory in the event preceding the Crucible with a world title triumph, the best player in the game by a country mile is capable of doing that.

O’Sullivan makes little appeal in his current frame of mind, and Ding could be more of a threat to Selby if the top seed were to start feeling the pace after a busy, successful season. 

A Carter
1pt each-way 50-1 general
M Selby
1pt 9-2 Betfred, 188Bet

Venue Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Prize money
£1,910,000 (£375,000 to winner)

32 (16 seeds and 16 qualifiers)

Highest break

Defending champion
M Selby

Previous winners taking part
R O’Sullivan (five times), J Higgins (four), M Selby (twice), S Bingham, G Dott, P Ebdon, S Murphy, N Robertson

Crucible debutants
Zhou Yuelong (age 19), D Grace (31), G Wilson (31), Yan Bingtao (17), N Saengkham (24)

Where to watch
Daily live coverage on BBC & Eurosport

Of course it’s likely that Trump will lift the trophy one day, but whatever value was there prior to his recent heroics has all but disappeared
E.W. Terms
Sky bet