Five Crucible contenders
We look at five of the main contenders for snooker's forthcoming World Championship at the Crucible.
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Date of birth: 5.12.75
Nickname: The Rocket
World ranking: 33
Ignore the world ranking. O'Sullivan does not play often enough to stay near the top. But from six tournaments this season he has captured three trophies, including the Masters, and he returns to the Crucible looking for a third straight world title, and sixth of his career. He clinched the recent Welsh Open title with a record 12th 147 break, and more magical moments could be around the corner.
Date of birth: 11.2.82
Nickname: The Thunder from Down Under
World ranking: 1
World champion in 2010, the left-hander from Melbourne has earned himself a place in the record books already during a spectacular season. He heads to the Crucible with 93 centuries behind him for the campaign, demolishing Judd Trump's previous top mark of 61. A century of centuries would be a feat to savour, but Robertson is a real title contender too.
Date of birth: 1.4.87
Nickname: Enter the Dragon/Star of the East
World ranking: 2
China's perennial great hope has matched Stephen Hendry's all-time record of five ranking titles in a season and will target a sixth in Sheffield, his adopted home town. Ding has a mystifyingly average record at the Crucible, with one semi-final in seven visits a poor return for a player of his immense talent. One year, surely, it will all click.
Date of birth: 21.2.89
Nickname: The Juddernaut
World ranking: 8
It feels as though we are almost back to square one with Trump. A prodigious potter on his day, his unexpected run to the 2011 final as a qualifier hinted at the arrival of a future champion, but he was overwhelmed by O'Sullivan in the semi-finals last year and since then his form has oscillated wildly. One major final this season, in Germany, sits on a record that also shows a troubling number of first-round losses.
Date of birth: 23.4.79
Nickname: The Hawk
World ranking: 4
Could last year's unlikely runner-up go one step better in 2014? He might not be the fashionable choice, but Hawkins heads to Sheffield in impressive form, having landed a £100,000 pay day for winning the Players Tour Championship Finals in Preston at the end of March. The former office clerk has Ding and O'Sullivan blocking his route to another final, so it looks a tall order.