Anthony McGill in action at the Crucible Theatre
Anthony McGill in action at the Crucible Theatre

Snooker antepost betting tips: Preview and best bets for World Championship

Richard Mann tipped Mark Selby to win last season's World Championship in his Christmas Antepost Angle column – he has a 66/1 selection for the 2022 renewal in Sheffield.

Snooker betting tips: World Championship

1pt e.w. Anthony McGill to win the World Championship at 66/1 (Betfred 1/2 1,2)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

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ANTHONY MCGILL is scripting quite the love story with the Crucible Theatre, and he kicks off the 2022 World Championship portfolio with the 66/1 available about the Scot well worth snapping up.

While McGill hasn’t generally been the most consistent performer over the last few seasons, he has been absolutely rock-solid in Sheffield, producing his best snooker in a marathon event that patently plays to his strengths, both in terms of style of play and his granite temperament under pressure.

In many ways, McGill is the perfect fit for Sheffield, being a terrific tactician who scores heavily when at his best, while also having a simple approach and repetitive technique that stands up in a tournament that lasts 17 days. Crucially, he clearly revels at the Crucible, thriving on the big stage and being spurred on by the rich history of the event. As strange as it may seem, that isn’t the case for every player on the tour.

It’s no surprise, then, that another of McGill’s favourite events – in terms of results, at least – is the Shoot Out which he won in 2017 and reached the quarter-finals of in 2020. Renowned for its raucous atmosphere and unforgiving crowd, the Shoot Out is no place for the sensitive soul. McGill, it seems, loves it.

In Sheffield, where the pressure gauge frequently enters the red, McGill has made a nice habit of playing to his best, if not above himself, and while the 2020 season was largely a washout – that last-eight finish at the Shoot Out apart – McGill finished it with a flourish and was only one dramatic deciding frame away from making the final.

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Anthony McGill traded punches at the Crucible
Anthony McGill beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in the 2021 World Championship

McGill had to qualify for the Crucible that year having fallen down the rankings, but he produced nerveless display after nerveless display to come through a series of deciding frames before losing 17-16 to Kyren Wilson in a semi-final that will go down in snooker folklore.

The following year, McGill hadn’t made a single quarter-final by the time the World Championship came around, but he raised his game once more to topple defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16, Stuart Bingham just edging a terrific last-eight match 13-12 to break McGill’s heart but again confirm him to be a different beast at the Crucible.

His defeat of O’Sullivan showcased the best of McGill and dispelled any notion that he is merely a defensive operator who needs to wear his opponents down – a poor man’s Mark Selby if you would. No, on this occasion, McGill slayed the dragon by outscoring and outmuscling O’Sullivan and he ended the match with more points, more centuries and considerably more breaks over 50. Make no mistake, this is a heavy hitter.

At 30 years of age, McGill really should be nearing the peak of his powers, and unlike in previous campaigns, the signs have been promising so far this season. McGill again confirmed his liking for the big stage when reaching the quarter-finals of the UK Championship, his best run in York since 2014, before going one step further at the Scottish Open. On both occasions, he was unfortunate to bump into a red-hot Luca Brecel.

Now up to world number 16 on the 1 Year List in the rankings, you’d have to be hopeful that McGill will book his return ticket to the Crucible without needing to qualify, and his participation in next month’s Masters affords him another opportunity to compete in another showpiece event. Should he enjoy a deep run there, I doubt McGill will be 66/1 for the World Championship.

The World Championship remains the most coveted prize in snooker
The World Championship remains the most coveted prize in snooker

And even without a bold show at the Masters, we know that McGill is an even better proposition at the Crucible in an event he clearly loves and one he knows he has the game for. As ever, the draw is a lottery, but McGill hasn’t had it easy in that regard in the last couple of years and he is one player nobody will relish playing in Sheffield.

The 66/1 on offer with sponsor Betfred makes plenty of appeal, though general quotes of 50/1 are still appealing about a player seemingly on the upgrade and one who is always so hard to beat in this tournament.

As ever, the market is headed by 2019 champion Trump who would be just about impossible to stop if able to reproduce the form he displayed when dismantling John Higgins in the final that year.

Five titles last term and victory in the Champion of Champions already this time around confirm that Trump remains top dog, but his record since 2019 in Triple Crown events is relatively poor in comparison to his otherwise brilliant recent achievements and, once again, he was an early causality at the recent UK Championship.

Trump will of course be favourite come April, but 7/2 is the top price about him now and I don’t envisage him shortening too much between now and then, nor, too, 2020 champion O’Sullivan who has been remarkably consistent this season and won the World Grand Prix in fine style last week.

Ronnie O'Sullivan was made to work hard to reach the last eight
Ronnie O'Sullivan has struggled for his very best of late

O’Sullivan lost in five finals last season and though there is a theory that perhaps the long haul of Sheffield might now suit his game in a way it didn’t really used to, whether scrapping and grinding for 17 days will float his boat come April remains to be seen. I certainly don’t want to take 6/1 at this stage, anyway.

Four times a world champion and on the back of reaching four finals this term, it would be folly to discount John Higgins given he has also been runner-up in another four Crucible finals. His game continues to stand the test of time and the nature of this tournament, and given a fair draw, he has to go well.

Still, he’s lost in all four of those aforementioned finals this season, two of them from 8-6 in front in best-of-17 frame matches. That has to be a concern, especially given Higgins’ own comments about a changing of the guard in snooker finally coming. 12/1 doesn’t appeal as a Christmas gift and I can’t see my mind changing nearer the time.

One man who most likely will be on my radar is last year’s winner, Mark Selby, who was right back to his best in the spring and had too many guns for a similarly resurgent Shaun Murphy in the final.

When he’s anywhere close to his best, I don’t think many can touch Selby in the World Championship and it is worth remembering that he would, in all probability, have won in 2020 were it not for O’Sullivan’s barmy late-show in their epic semi-final.

Can Mark Selby win his first Champion of Champions title?
Mark Selby

Selby hasn’t been quite at the top of his game in the last few months, but there have been plenty of positive signs and don’t be surprised if he slowly comes to the boil as Sheffield comes closer on the horizon.

Selby was my only bet in a confident selection in this very column 12 months ago, but he was 8/1 then, and I’ll watch and wait for now with 6/1 (Sporting Index) currently the biggest available price about the reigning champion.

We might get bigger in the next few months, especially if O’Sullivan or his victim on Sunday, Neil Robertson, can win in the meantime, and I’m happy to kick off my Sheffield portfolio with McGill, far from a poor man’s Selby, but a man cut from the same cloth and boasting all the tools needed to win snooker’s biggest prize.

Preview published at 1630 GMT on 21/12/21

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