John Higgins (@1.66) vs Barry Hawkins (@2.2)
12-09-2019

Our Prediction:

John Higgins will win

John Higgins – Barry Hawkins Match Prediction | 12-09-2019 07:30

The last time Gary Wilson qualified he played Ronnie OSullivan so hell be thankful that he has been granted with a more realistic path into the last 16. When on his game, Brecel is a dangerous threat to anyone and its easy to forget that hes still only 24. Still, theres an opportunity for both of these players to reach the second round at the Crucible for the first time in their careers. Making his fourth bow at the Crucible, Brecel will be hoping that the obstacle of Wilson can lead to a stepping stone to greater glories in the event. In a first round draw that is full of eye-catching ties, this one is possibly not one that especially stands outs. The Belgian endured a terrible time after that breakthrough success but this months semi-final appearance in the China Open has provided a signal of a return to form. Luca Brecel relied heavily on his China Championship victory from last season to remain inside the top 16 and gain one of the crucial automatic berths.

Mark Allen vs Zhou Yuelong

But Perry is more familiar with the Crucible surroundings and, even as the qualifier, is arguably the marginal favourite for this one. Joe Perry, with his immense experience, was in many peoples eyes the most difficult qualifier to get. The Englishman probably would have been hoping that achievement resulted in an easier opening path but it hasnt really transpired in that fashion. From ten prior encounters with one another, Perry possesses the advantage with six wins to his name. It has taken David Gilbert 17 years as a professional to break into the top 16 but he picked a good time of the year to achieve it, guaranteeing an automatic World Championship spot for the first time. Perry, who beat defending champion Mark Selby in the first round as a qualifier in 2018, is now match sharp and relatively fresh after losing only five frames in the preliminaries at the English Institute of Sport. Gilbert has been the better player overall this season, highlighted by his runs to the finals of both the World Open and German Masters.

By beating Lyu Haotian in the preliminaries, Davis became the first player to reach the venue stages via the qualifiers ten times. Six years ago at the same hurdle, Davis knocked Higgins out courtesy of a 10-6 scoreline and in fact boasts a superior head-to-head record against the former world number one. Higgins, with no silverware to his name and a series of disappointing early exits from tournaments to erase from his memory, has been disillusioned with the game since losing his second successive World Championship final last May. The Wizard of Wishaw will be hoping that the Crucible Theatre can inspire some of his old magic to return but in the first round of the 2019 World Snooker Championship hes been paired with an old nemesis at this stage. Match sharp and with a laissez-faire attitude at the twilight of his career, the 46 year-old will be a tricky challenge that an out-of-form Higgins might not have any answers for this year. Arguably the worst draw that John Higgins could have received on the back of what has been his most miserable season in years.

Ding has long held the weight of a nation on his shoulders but his quest for the ultimate title has so far eluded him and its difficult to envisage that changing in 2019. Few were probably expecting the Scot to advance from the qualifiers but a remarkable turnaround from 7-2 behind against Robert Milkins on Judgement Day proved the doubters wrong. Its been a dire campaign for the duo and they have rarely featured at the business end of events. This has the makings of a scrappy contest and its hard to see either of them producing the necessary goods this year to challenge the main contenders. Ding knows all too well how momentum can develop after reaching the final in 2016 on the back of emerging from the preliminary stages. A repeat of their second round clash twelve months ago when Ding Junhui thrashed Anthony McGill 13-4, the pair cross paths again in Sheffield. Both Ding and McGill will be looking to lock the memories of this season up and throw away the key, unless they can conjure up something special in the next fortnight or so. In the Chinese number ones favour at least is a head-to-head record against McGill that reads four and zero.

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The former Snooker Shoot Out champion has done well to reach this stage but one suspects that hell find himself out of his depth against Robertson, particularly if the 16-time ranking event winner maintains his current hot streak. Robertson has never really threatened to add to his 2010 Crucible crown but looks to be in the best form of his life heading into this edition. Michael Georgiou represents Robertsons initial test, the latter proudly becoming the first Cypriot to ever qualify. Neil Robertson is the man in form after a run of four consecutive ranking event finals culminated in the Australian triumphing in the lucrative China Open at the start of April. Only Ronnie OSullivan has managed to stop the Melbourne man in his tracks of late and, with the pair in opposite sides of the 2019 draw, there could be a mouthwatering rematch of their Players Championship and Tour Championship final showdowns of last month.

Whether hes been suitably tested or not could be an interesting factor. One possible bone of contention is that, while Carter ought to be warmed up nicely following three routine wins in qualifying, the Captain didnt actually play anyone higher in the rankings than Jimmy White at number 78. Along with the experienced Perry and Dott, Carter is probably the player most of the seeds wanted to avoid. Undoubtedly one of the matches of the round, twice former runner-up Ali Carters reward for emerging from the qualifiers is a date with fellow Englishman Jack Lisowski. Lisowski has come a long way since his 13-1 humiliation at the hands of John Higgins in the second round last year, reaching two ranking event finals and breaking into the elite top 16 for the first time in his career. Still, this affair is practically a flip of a coin. The pair has met only once before, back in 2015 when the Dude pipped Carter in a decider at the International Championship and it could very well be that close again here.

That youthful exuberance could stand the rookie in good stead and Murphy isnt a stranger to disappointing defeats to young Chinese players, with Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, and Yuan Sijun all notably taking the scalp of the 2005 world champion as inexperienced challengers in the past. Luo Honghao, meanwhile, is another one of the Chinese debutants and at 19 is the only teenager in the field. Murphy is on a bit of a hiding to nothing in this one and he could find himself in trouble if he cant stamp his authority on the contest quickly. Murphy won the Champion of Champions and reached several ranking event finals last season but since relocating to Ireland in the summer his game has been in tatters. What has happened to Shaun Murphy? Probably the most damning statistic is that, on the one-year rankings list, Murphy squeaks just inside the top 50 at number 48. The Magician has lost all of his tricks and has been a constant loser in the early rounds of ranking events this season.

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Two of the most enjoyable players to watch on the entire circuit when in full flow, this could really be a barnstorming battle between a pair of heavy scorers. Trump, now a Masters champion, has matured immensely since then and is rightly considered to be one of the favourites for the title overall. The first couple of players out of the bag in Thursday mornings draw were Judd Trump and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh. Un-Nooh, the quickest player on the tour, is capable of running off frames in quick succession and one suspects that the 34 year-old will need that kind of fire power in order to match Trump. Un-Nooh gave John Higgins a decent run on his debut in 2018 and Trump can probably expect a similarly tough test next week as the Thai returns for a second crack at the Crucible. A possible crucial quarter-final with OSullivan awaits but first Trump will have to take the necessary precautions to overcome a skillful opponent in Un-Nooh. As you can see, the bottom section is littered with thrilling looking ties and this one is no different. The latter has come a long way, though, since his desperate first round defeat to Rory McLeod in 2017.

With a taste of the single table set-up, the Kettering cueist will be desperate to make a return. With two semi-final and a couple of quarter-final appearances in ranking events this season, Donaldson is beginning to become more recognisable at the business end of comps. His debut berth in the World Championship shouldnt come as any great surprise then, but its difficult to envisage him going any further. The Scot has gone under the radar a touch but has actually been one of the most improved players on the circuit of late. Kyren Wilson could be a dark horse for this years tournament as hes got all the necessary tools to do well in the 17-day Marathon of the Mind. The Paul Hunter Classic and German Masters champion reached the last four twelve months ago and was eventually undone by John Higgins but, like the four-time world champion, Wilson boasts a suitable temperament for the big occasion. Scott Donaldson was the last player to emerge from the 2019 World Snooker Championship qualifiers late on Wednesday night after a dramatic 10-9 victory over Lu Ning.