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Centurion break builder Robertson only danger to Rocket’s title tilt

Snooker fans will see a repeat of last season’s World Championship final one stage earlier this time round, as defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan once again locks horns with 14/1 tournament rank outsider Barry Hawkins.

The Rocket, who is heavily odds-on at 1/8 to win this semi, beat this opponent handsomely 18-12 to lift a second successive Crucible crown in 2013. It was hard to make any sort of case for Hawkins winning then and, with a 5/1 price to upset O’Sullivan in a best of 33 frames match-up here, little has changed.

Punters will not be surprised to learn that Rocket Ronnie, the odds-on 4/7 favourite for a third straight and sixth World title overall, is a similarly short price in several markets going into this semi. In last term’s final he raced into a 5-3 lead (12/5 on that happening again after eight frames) and recorded six century breaks en route to taking the trophy.

It was O’Sullivan’s massive 13-3 victory over former champion Shaun Murphy in the quarters that suggests he will be rampant again when tackling Hawkins.

The second semi-final is less straightforward. Australia’s Neil Robertson, who has racked up the historic achievement of 100 competitive centuries in a season, takes on former finalist Mark Selby.

Coral make ‘the Thunder from Down Under’ a 4/9 odds-on favourite to beat ‘the Jester from Leicester’ (7/4) to set up a dream final with O’Sullivan, because of his sensational feat. Selby, who is 6/1 to finally add the World title to his CV, made light work of Alan ‘Angles’ McManus in the quarters by thrashing the Scotsman 13-5.

Robertson, meanwhile, trailed overnight to talented Bristol native Judd Trump, but then came back to book his place in the last four 13-11. The Aussie is 3/1 second-favourite to win the tournament.

Like prospective final opponent O’Sullivan, Robertson is odds-on in several of Coral’s markets for his match with Selby, but an interesting 13/5 price on match being level at 4-4 after the first eight frames should be considered. Odds of 7/1 say this match between two of the elite Snooker stars will go to a decider.