Crucible semi-final best bets
We take a look at Sky Bet's markets ahead of the World Championship semi-finals and expect success for Neil Robertson against Mark Selby.
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Defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan will be hoping to continue his march towards a third successive world title when his semi-final against last year's beaten finalist Barry Hawkins gets under way on Thursday afternoon while Crucible fans could well be treated to an epic showdown between world number one Neil Robertson and Mark Selby in the other last-four showdown.
Here we take a look at each match and pick out some of the more eye-catching bets for you to consider backing.
Five-time champion O'Sullivan justified his hot favourtism for another Crucible crown with a 13-3 demolition job of Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals. The nature of this easy triumph will have bouyed Rocket fans having previously watched their hero labour past Joe Perry in a closely-fought second-round encounter and on this form it's hard to see anyone overcoming his class at this stage of the competition. His biggest rivals may well run him close in shorter matches, but over best-of-33 and 35 frame contests, do they possess the consistent quality to stay ahead? O'Sullivan, who is 4/7 to lift the trophy, is just 1/10 to brush Hawkins aside in a repeat of last year's final and the correct frame score betting also suggests the bookies expect a rather one-sided encounter. Sky Bet offer 8/1 about 17-8, 17-9, 17-10 and 17-11 scorelines while any victory margin in Hawkins' favour can be backed at 22/1 (17-16) and upwards. Considering Hawkins had to come through a mentally draining quarter-final against Dominic Dale, who had trailed 11-5 overnight before taking the match to a decider, you'd think he'd be more vulnerable to O'Sullivan blasting out of the blocks in today's opening session so we're going to tip the Rocket opening up a 6-2 lead after the first eight frames at 11/4. Sky Bet's price boost of 6/1 that there are seven or more 100 breaks in the match is tempting if Ronnie is at his best but if it is a one-sided affair, there may not be many frames to play with.
Momentum is key and right now Robertson is on a charge after finally clinching his 100th century break of the season en route to a 13-11 comeback victory over Judd Trump to set up a last-four clash with Selby. The Australian chalked off the final five frames although it was his history-making milestone in the 22nd that saw him produce his biggest celebrations. At that moment, some pundits and fans would question whether his focus on the job at hand would be lost which can so often be the case after a player knocks in a significant break but the 32-year-old dug deep to take the next two frames and keep alive his hopes of repeating his 2010 heroics. World number one Robertson is now 1/2 to see off Selby in the second semi-final, which begins on Thursday evening, and 3/1 second favourite to claim his second Crucible title while his opponent can be backed at 13/8 and 6/1 respectively. The Leicester cueman had a comfortable 13-5 quarter-final win over veteran Alan McManus although his 13-9 and 10-9 triumphs over Ali Carter and Michael White were far less convincing. This semi-final should still be closer - the shortest priced scorelines are 17-12, 17-13 and 17-14 each at 9/1 while Robertson is 5/6 (Selby 5/2) to be leading after the opening eight frames. Overall the best bet here could be backing the Aussie at -3.5 in the handicap betting at 11/10 but for punters seeking a bigger price, we suggest 17-12 and 17-13 scorelines in his favour. Now that Robertson, who came into his quarter-final match on 99 century breaks only to wait until the 22nd frame to reach his milestone, has the 100th ton in the bag and can now relax a bit more when he's next in the 90s, you may be interested in Sky Bet's price boost of 5/1 that there are seven or more 100 breaks in the match.
Sky Bet have three specials to consider ahead of day one of the semi-finals. It's 7/4 that Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson both win the first frame while a century break in frame one of both matches is 40/1. However the one we strongly recommend, for reasons mentioned in our match previews, is O'Sullivan and Robertson winning their respective first sessions (eight frames) at 15/8.