Bingham and four other outsiders for 2016 World Snooker Championship crown
Lee Gormley | April 11, 2016
Five outside Crucible contenders
All eyes will be cast towards the famous Crucible Theatre soon as the best snooker stars embark on their World Championship journey in Sheffield, with Ronnie O’Sullivan entering as the clear front runner.
Many of the highest ranked cueists such as Judd Trump and Neil Robertson will be out to challenge the Rocket’s superiority, though there are potential shocks on the cards again this year.
So, with that in mind, here are five potters that could be in with an outside chance of securing success in South Yorkshire…
He may be taking to the Crucible baize as the reigning world champion, but 2015 kingpin Bingham has a truly tough task ahead of him in retaining his crown this year.
The 39-year-old stunned the sporting world when he overcame all of O’Sullivan, Trump and Shaun Murphy to take home snooker’s grandest prize last May, and Ball-Run is 25/1 with Coral to keep the title following his incredible success.
Although, he has both age and the Crucible curse against him, with no first-time world champion having successfully retained their title the following year since this prestigious tournament moved to the Sheffield venue back in 1977.
The last player to win back their world crown after a maiden triumph was John Pulman in 1964, when the World Championship was decided by challenge matches rather than an event, with 16 champions having tasted this bitter curse since.
Bingham produced a sporting fairytale in 2015 to clinch victory when he became the oldest ever first-time champion, but he will look to claim another slice of history this year by retaining his trophy.
Harlow cueist Murphy was the man beaten at the final hurdle by Bingham in last year’s exciting World Championship, falling short of what would have been his second Crucible crown a decade after succeeding back in 2005.
Before his final defeat last time out, the Magician had earlier completed a career Triple Crown by lifting the Masters in January, the most prestigious non-ranking tournament which O’Sullivan scooped this year, and Murphy is now 11/1 to earn another world title.
The 33-year-old has been far from his best this season, but still managed to win the World Grand Prix in Wales, gaining some form of revenge over Bingham in the final during a narrow 10-9 triumph.
That £100k prize-winning success earlier in March will undoubtedly give the six-time ranking event victor a huge boost for his hopeful Crucible campaign, as he aims to add another world crown to his mantelpiece.
Chinese superstar Ding has endured one of his worst-ever campaigns to date by his incredibly high standards, but the former Masters and UK Championship winner will still be as determined as ever to finally lift the big one that has so far eluded him.
In an esteemed career which has seen China’s most successful snooker star lift 11 ranking events, Ding has still yet to taste success at the Crucible, with his best performance so far being a semi-final appearance in 2011, when he was toppled by Trump.
The clinical break builder, who is sixth on the most-ever competitive centuries list, is still ranked at number four in the world and Junhui enters Sheffield as a 16/1 shout for maiden World Championship glory.
Ding did manage to reach the quarter-final stage last season, where he was again overcome by the Juddernaut, and, after reaching the World Grand Prix semis, could China finally have a world champion this year?
If Ding can’t clinch victory in the Steel City, then Hong Kong have hope of snaring the World Snooker Championship and bringing it back to the Far East in two-time ranking event winner Fu, who enters proceedings on the back of quarter-final outings at the UK and International Championship, while also having won the General Cup in November.
The consistent 38-year-old is 66/1 to go all the way this year, with his best Sheffield showing to date being a semi-final exit at the hands of Peter Ebdon back in 2006.
Hong Kong’s ever-present potter enjoyed a strong run in the UK before being ousted by another Chinese cueman and eventual runner-up Liang Wenbo, though he will hope to enjoy an even better display at the Crucible.
Glasgow’s man On-Fire Maguire has twice made it to the World Championship semi-finals, in 2007 and 2012, and is 40/1 to go two steps further this time of asking after showing signs of early promise this season.
The five-time ranking event champion reached the semi-final of both the Australian Goldfields Open and more recently the China Open, while also making quarter-final appearances at the Germans Masters and Champion of Champions.
With such encouraging form coming into the Crucible, the world number 15 is aiming to finally reign supreme in Sheffield, having already previously secured a UK crown back in 2004, and is one of many outsiders to look out for when the 2016 World Championship breaks-off on April 16th.