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Six snooker stars that can challenge the Rocket for 2016 Crucible crown

Lee Gormley | April 5, 2016

Who can challenge the Rocket?

The 2016 World Snooker Championship is upon us and, as usual, Ronnie O’Sullivan will take to the Crucible baize in Sheffield as the tournament front-runner, after recently rallying to his sixth Masters victory.

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Eight - Alexandra Palace

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan was toppled by last year’s eventual Crucible king Stuart Bingham at the quarter-final stage and enters the Yorkshire-based event as the 15/8 favourite with Coral to reign supreme yet again.

Although, this year’s World Championship could end up one of the most competitive for years, with many of the best potters arriving on the back of a successful season to date. So, ahead of the biggest event on the calendar breaking off, here are six cueists that can challenge the Rocket for the coveted Crucible crown..

Judd Trump

Snooker German Masters 2016 in Berlin

Fresh after securing his second career China Open title, one of snooker’s most exciting stars will look to kick on and finally land the sport’s most prestigious prize, following many years of promise.

The world number seven stormed to eight successive frames to record an emphatic 10-4 final success over Ricky Walden in the season’s penultimate event on Chinese soil, and the 26-year-old is 13/2 to clinch his maiden world title this year.

Bristol break-builder Trump won the first of his five ranking titles back in 2011 at the age of just 21, before bursting onto the scene in Sheffield, where he incredibly blazed his way to a Crucible final against four-time winner John Higgins.

The Juddernaut produced a ridiculous standard during that dazzling outing, which announced himself as a truly talented player, but a second round, quarter-final and two semi-final exits have followed since. Could 2016 finally be his year?

Neil Robertson

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Six - Alexandra Palace

Australian cueist Robertson may have been the victim of a shock opening round defeat to Noppon Saengkham in China recently, but he has otherwise been in fine form, previously lifting the UK Championship and Champion of Champions titles.

The 11-time ranking event winner will take to the Crucible as 11/2 second-favourite to lift what would be his second World Championship crown, having prevailed back in 2010 when overcoming Scotland’s Pocket Dynamo, Graeme Dott, in their final meeting.

Melbourne native and Triple Crown winner Robertson will aim to make an impact at the Crucible this time around, with a semi-final appearance in 2014 being his best showing since triumphing six years ago.

The Thunder from Down Under was ousted in a final-frame decider by consistent cueist Barry Hawkins last year at the quarter-final stage, and he will be confident of going even further this time out after impressive UK and Champion of Champions wins.

John Higgins

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Four - Alexandra Palace

Now at 40 years of age, experienced Scottish potter Higgins is aiming to reign supreme at the Crucible for a fifth time in his illustrious career, and he is 14/1 to do so this year.

The Wizard of Wishaw has enjoyed somewhat of a career renaissance this season, lifting two ranking titles last year with wins in the Australian Goldfields Open and International Championship, proving he still has that clinical edge on the big stage.

Higgins reached the quarter-finals of the UK, Champion of Champions and Masters this campaign, providing fans with many glimpses of his former successful self and another strong showing in Sheffield looks to be on the cards.

The circuit veteran may not have made it past the second round at the World Championship since taming a young Trump in 2011 to clinch his fourth crown, but recent form suggests he may be a force to fear once again in his latest attempts.

Mark Selby

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Five - Alexandra Palace

Snooker’s reigning world number one will enter the Crucible on the back of a less than impressive season by his high standards, with victory in a European Tour event in Poland being his only tournament coup so far.

Although, if any player on the circuit can make a gallant comeback in form and fortunes when looking well behind the pace, it’s The Jester from Leicester. Now 32, Selby suffered a second round exit to Anthony McGill last year, enduring a continuation of the Crucible curse after entering as defending champion.

Selby is 10/1 to lift his second world title after success in 2014, when he superbly battled back to down O’Sullivan in a thrilling final meeting, in a coup which completed a career Triple Crown.

Similar efforts will be needed this time out but, for the man that the Rocket dubbed ‘the Torturer’, for his relentless baize heroics, success in South Yorkshire is certainly still possible.

Mark Allen

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Five - Alexandra Palace

Northern Ireland potter Allen will bring a great deal of confidence into this year’s showcase snooker event, having recently dispatched the Walnut Walden 10-6 to lift the Players Championship in Manchester, his third ranking event coup.

The Pistol’s latest success was his first victory in Europe following earlier World Open wins in China in both 2012 and 2013, setting him up for a hopeful Crucible campaign.

Allen enters proceedings at 25/1 to prevail and is out to prove his credentials on the grandest of snooker stages, after stating his desire to compete at the highest level, where he feels he belongs.

“I just wanted to get out there and get the job done. It means so much to me,” said the 30-year-old. “I just want to win tournaments. I think I am good enough to compete at the highest level. I just haven’t showed it.”

Antrim potter Allen’s best performance at the World Championship has been a semi-final outing in 2009, which he followed up with back-to-back quarter-final exits, though he hasn’t progressed past the second round since 2011. He will look to change that this year, though, and looks extremely capable of doing so.

Barry Hawkins

Dafabet Masters 2016 - Day Eight - Alexandra Palace

At 33/1 to claim his maiden World Championship crown this year, Hawkins is an outside shout to succeed, but his recent Crucible form has been brilliant and that consistent streak could see him spring a surprise.

Ball-Run Bingham’s stunning success at last year’s event has proved how wide open things have become in recent seasons, and the Hawk can take confidence from this, having reached the final in 2013 and two consecutive semi-finals since.

The late-blooming cueist’s gritty displays have seen him become a genuinely difficult player to overcome, especially in Sheffield, having toppled the likes of Robertson and Allen during his rampant 2015 run.

Despite being thrashed 10-1 by O’Sullivan in the Masters final in January, the Hawk’s previous appearances at the Crucible will boost his confidence for another impressive outing in 2016, as the world’s best embark on another hopeful World Championship campaign.

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