Ben Coley profiles the 16 seeds ahead of this year's Betfred World Championship, from Judd Trump down to Yan Bingtao.
Judd Trump (1)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2019)
- World Championship results: R1-F-R2-SF-QF-SF-R2-R1-QF-W
- 2019/20 ranking results: W-R3-R3-W-W-R3-QF-W-R2-QF-W-W-SF
Brilliant winner of the 2019 World Championship, his performance in the final among the best you're ever likely to see. Seven centuries against John Higgins made it 14 for the tournament and saw him complete two-thirds of the Triple Crown, after beating Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final of The Masters. No sign of any hangover as he's won six ranking titles this season, a new record, but performance in UK Championship (third-round exit) and Masters (lost in first round) would be a small concern. Famed 'Crucible curse' must also be overcome but he's the best player in the sport by a little way now, and that alone is enough to justify short prices. If he wins here, it's the beginning of a dynasty and looks to have a nice draw given 5-0 head-to-head record with seeded second-round opponent, Yan Bingtao. All that being said there's just been the odd hint that he's not at his absolute best right now and he complained angrily about hot conditions during the Tour Championship. If you're Yan, you whack that air conditioning unit with the butt of your cue before taking to the stairs.
Neil Robertson (2)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2010)
- World Championship results: R1-QF-R2-R2-SF-W-R1-QF-R1-SF-QF-R1-R2-R1-QF
- 2019/20 ranking results: R3-R2-R3-R1-R4-R4-W-F-W-QF-R1-QF
2010 champion who has enjoyed another excellent season, bar one or two travel issues including mistakenly following a dodgy sat-nav to the 'other' Barnsley. Form at ranking level was modest in the early part of the campaign, but won the Champion of Champions after a classic final tussle with Trump and kicked on from there. Still contrived to lose 6-5 to Stephen Maguire at the Masters having led 5-1, but put that behind him to win the European Masters and the World Grand Prix in a three-week run which also saw him finish runner-up in Germany. Has that left a mark? First-round exit at the Players Championship raises concerns as to whether he's peaked too soon, and last semi-final run here was in 2014. At least avoids Trump but perhaps even more relevant is the fact he can't face his nemesis Maguire until the final.
Mark Williams (3)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2000, 2003, 2018)
- World Championship results: R2-SF-F-W-R2-R2-W-R2-R2-QF-R1-R2-R1-R2-SF-R2-R1-R1-QF-W-R2
- 2019/20 ranking results: R2-R1-F-R2-R2-R1-R2-R2-R3-R2-R1-SF
Three-time world champion and star of fabled Class of 92, who brought the house down - and his own trousers - when winning this title just two years ago. That increasingly looks like his swan song, as he's understandably enjoyed himself since and spent very little time on the practice table. Such reluctance to roll up his sleeves explains the following list of players to whom he's suffered defeat this year: Jak Jones, Zhou Yuelong, Luo Honghao, Michael Holt, Michael White, Graeme Dott, and Anthony McGill. Throw in whitewash defeats to a couple of his fellow seeds, and the Welshman begins to look among the most vulnerable seeds. The one ray of hope comes courtesy of the odd whisper that he's started to apply himself, and he made the semi-finals in Gibraltar. Not sure it's enough and he's lost his share of first-round matches here.
Mark Allen (4)
- Best World Championship result: Semi-finalist (2009)
- World Championship results: R2-R1-SF-QF-QF-R1-R1-R2-R2-R2-R2-QF-R1
- 2019/20 ranking results: SF-R2-SF-R3-R4-SF-SF-R1-R3-R1-QF-F
Likeable Northern Irishman who has long been considered capable of winning a world title, and in recent years has developed the temperament to match a magic touch among the balls. Hasn't yet happened for him here - he's the highest seed who has never made the semi-finals - but at some stage he will surely play in a world final. Will have to put behind him defeats to Zhou Yuelong, Cao Yupeng and Mark King in the first round at the Crucible, but form this season has a nice look to it and he was unlucky on a couple of occasions when falling at the semi-final stage, especially in Coventry, before run to final of Tour Championship. Had been to three finals ahead of 2019 World Championship and won Masters the year before; timing looks better and an obvious contender now he's a little fresher. Spent time away volunteering back at home and would be nice were his generosity returned to him with a real run at this.
John Higgins (5)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (1998, 2007, 2009, 2011)
- World Championship results: R1-QF-QF-W-SF-SF-F-QF-QF-R2-R2-R1-W-R2-W-R2-W-R2-R1-R1-R2-QF-F-F-F
- 2019/20 ranking results: R3-R3-SF-SF-QF-R4-R2-R1-QF-QF-QF-QF
Four-time winner and now four-time runner-up, having lost each of the last three finals. The first two will have hurt - he felt he should've got the better of Williams in 2018, and he led Mark Selby 10-4 in 2017 - but April 2019, not so much. He just couldn't have done anything against Trump, running into one of the most gifted players in the world at the very top of his game, and a semi-final rematch would be something to savour after they were drawn in the same half. It would also ask a question of the Wizard of Wishaw, who has now lost his last seven matches with the reigning world champion - having won their nine meetings prior to last year's final. Perhaps that just tells us something about the sands of time. Then again, perhaps he'll find something deep within and conjure one last hurrah, like the greats in any sport so often do. And he truly is a great.
Ronnie O'Sullivan (6)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2001, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2013)
- World Championship results: R1-R2-QF-SF-R2-SF-SF-R1-W-SF-R1-W-QF-SF-QF-W-R2-QF-QF-W-W-F-QF-R2-QF-R2-R1
- 2019/20 ranking results: R4-F-R4-QF-QF-SF-R2
Five world titles in the last 19 renewals and still capable of the standard of snooker required to take another. There's a school of thought that says he's vulnerable over multi-session matches, more so than sprints, and there's strong evidence for it - not least last year's first-round defeat to amateur James Cahill. But there's also just a little nagging thought, even suspicion, that he will win this title again. There's not much to base it on this season as he skipped the Masters, hasn't won a ranking title, and indeed hasn't won anything since September in Shanghai. Also a concern that the enforced break might take away a potential freshness advantage he may have enjoyed over rivals who would've been busy in the run-up to April, and there we have it: there are so many unknowns, and O'Sullivan himself may struggle to set expectations, providing of course he turns up having voiced concerns over spectators attending the event. If he does play, and if those expectations are set low, you are hereby put on notice: he's defied them many times before.
Mark Selby (7)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2014, 2016, 2017)
- World Championship results: R1-R2-F-R1-QF-SF-QF-R1-R2-W-R2-W-W-R1-R2
- 2019/20 ranking results: R3-SF-SF-W-R3-QF-R4-W-R2-R1-QF-R1-QF-R3-SF
Undisputed Crucible King from 2014 to 2017, with only The Curse able to stop him. Made sense that he would shine here, having made the final on just his third visit and generally built a career out of winning frames he shouldn't have won, and pinching sessions he shouldn't have pinched. His tenacity, grit and willingness to get down and dirty shouldn't undermine the more fluid skills he has, but they do underline just what has made him such a force here. They also help demonstrate that this has been a curious campaign: he's won two of the four Home Nations Series events, despite their short format seemingly being less than ideal, whereas his performances over multiple sessions have left a little to be desired. Pick of his efforts was a ruthless dismantling of David Gilbert in the English Open final and on that form he'd be a threat to all, but last seen losing 9-2 to Allen and remains below his absolute best. He'll have been working backwards from this, mind.
Kyren Wilson (8)
- Best World Championship result: Semi-finalist (2018)
- World Championship results: R1-QF-QF-SF-QF
- 2019/20 ranking results: R2-R2-R3-SF-R4-R2-R3-R1-SF-F-R2-R1-F
Terrier-like youngster who first earned a crack at this by beating Peter Ebdon in qualifying, before hinting at what was to come with a brutal and at times frankly boring defeat to Ricky Walden in the first-round proper. That sharpener prepared him for four subsequent visits, each of them successful, as he's made three quarter-finals and a semi-final, losing to Higgins in 2018 when many fancied him to go on and win the title. Ran into a genius match player there and was kept at arm's length, in the sort of performance you can see him producing himself at some stage. Built in the Selby mould but does have work to do around the black spot as too often breaks come to a premature end, a level of sloppiness which is probably the reason he's not yet made a significant breakthrough. Suspect it will come and he looked in nice touch at the Championship League where he was eliminated only on highest break. In the top half which means a potential clash with red-hot Maguire in round two and then Trump, so path to a second semi-final is very tough. Just how he likes it.
Stephen Maguire (9)
- Best World Championship result: Semi-finalist (2007, 2012)
- World Championship results: R1-R1-R2-SF-QF-QF-R2-R1-SF-R1-R1-R1-R1-QF-R1-QF
- 2019/20 ranking results: R2-R2-R1-R4-F-R2-R1-R4-SF-W
Touted as a world champion of the future before he so much as chalked his cue in a professional event, but so far has had to make do with a pair of semi-final defeats. He'd looked superb in both renewals, of course, but was worn down by John Higgins (2007) and Ali Carter (2012) and since the latter defeat, he's lost five first-round matches in seven. Returns a new man in 2020, though, having made the final of the UK Championship, reached the semis at the Players, and then won the biggest cheque of his career after his eleventh-hour entry to the Tour Championship. Theory goes that having no crowd at the latter allowed this majestic potter to showcase his full repertoire as though waltzing round the practice table, and if that's true the return of spectators is a negative. Tough draw with the world champion, Higgins, and Wilson all in his half, but otherwise a lot to like and he's one of the strongest form candidates in the draw.
Shaun Murphy (10)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2005)
- World Championship results: R1-R1-W-QF-SF-R2-F-QF-R2-R1-QF-QF-F-R1-R2-R1-R2
- 2019/20 ranking results: F-W-R4-R2-QF-R1-R4-SF-R1-W-R4-SF-QF
Fifteen years since he won this as a qualifier but has lost two finals subsequently, and remains of the required temperament to go all the way. Plenty to suggest he's back to his very best since moving to Ireland and certainly appears to be enjoying life on and off the table - this is in fact the first season in a long career which has seen The Magician bag two ranking titles, and the icing on the cake would be a second World Championship. Hard to pick faults in anything he's done lately, bar perhaps a first-round exit at the UK Championship, and although he lost in round one again at the Tour Championship he made a ridiculous six centuries in doing so. Recent record in this does leave something to be desired, even though he entered the history books as just the second player to secure a Crucible whitewash in the first round last year. Went on to lose to Robertson and drawn for a quarter-final rematch with a player he has struggled against in the past. Otherwise, rock-solid credentials and would be an interesting bet to wrest the high-break prize from Higgins.
Ding Junhui (11)
- Best World Championship result: Runner-up (2016)
- World Championship results: R1-R2-R2-R2-SF-R1-QF-R1-QF-F-SF-QF-R2
- 2019/20 ranking results: QF-R1-R1-R3-R1-W-R3-R2-R1-R1-R4-R1
Ended a nine-year wait for his third Triple Crown title when winning the UK Championship in oh so impressive fashion, playing cue-ball-on-string snooker to remind us all of his prodigious talents. That's the only ranking event in which he's so much as made the last four, so there are question marks surrounding his overall form, but it will have lifted a weight and he could be dangerous here arriving a little under the radar. Chose not to play the Tour Championship due to coronavirus concerns which effectively allowed Maguire, his York victim, to earn a career payday. No chance he was going to skip this, however, and he's reached the quarter-finals in four of the last five years. Surely becomes a world champion someday and could be nicely drawn if Ronnie isn't at it. Beat his mentor at the UK, as he did when last they met here, and is not to be dismissed lightly regardless.
David Gilbert (12)
- Best World Championship result: Semi-finalist (2019)
- World Championship results: R1-R2-R1-R1-SF
- 2019/20 ranking results: R3-QF-F-QF-R1-R1-SF-R1-R1-R2-R1
Still seeking his first WST title - ranking or otherwise - and has gone quiet following a strong start to the season. Perhaps that crushing defeat to Selby in Crawley dented confidence which had risen with a run to the semi-finals here in 2019, but one way or another he's lost three of his last four first-round matches at ranking level, and indeed five of his last seven, although he did win twice at The Masters to reach the semi-finals. Overall there remain some concerns with his game although the carrot of a second-round rematch with Higgins, who beat him 17-16 in the semi-finals here last April, should appeal - for all he's lost their three subsequent meetings. Always have to respect anyone who has shown an affinity for this grind but breaking through in the World Championship is almost beyond what seems possible.
Jack Lisowski (13)
- Best World Championship result: Round two (2018)
- World Championship results: R1-R2-R1
- 2019/20 ranking results: R3-R1-R2-R3-R3-R1-R3-F-R1-R3-R3-R3
Like Gilbert, still looking for that breakthrough and it looked for a while as though it might come in Scotland, where he actually showed some ring craft despite losing 9-6 to Selby in the final. That's the only ranking event in which he's so much as made the last eight this season, but claiming the scalps of Higgins and Allen - latterly in a decider - suggests he might slowly be getting there. At 29 there's still plenty of time but it's been frustrating to watch him throw frames away throughout 2020; indeed of the top 16 he's the player who has the worst frames- and matches-won percentages, despite at times looking like he'll never miss another ball. Highly doubtful this is the sort of test which will bring out his best at this stage but does have the talent to become a world champion when his safety play and sensibility improves a tad. For now, seeking to win just his second match here and has already suffered some heavy (13-1, 10-3) defeats. Biggest plus is that Allen and Higgins, those Glasgow victims, are in his quarter. Clutching at straws perhaps and when it goes wrong, it goes very wrong, so consider opposing on the handicap if he meets someone formidable in round two.
Stuart Bingham (14)
- Best World Championship result: Champion (2015)
- World Championship results: R2-R1-R2-R1-R2-R1-QF-R1-W-R1-R2-R1-R2
- 2019/20 ranking results: R2-R2-QF-R3-R4-R1-R1-R3-R1-R3
Poor set of ranking results above shows that he's been far from his best throughout this season, but did win The Masters in determined fashion. That's an event in which he's typically struggled and so is this one save one exception: the 2015 renewal, when he was a shock winner. All that shows he's hard to predict and the only recent form we have to go on is the Championship League, where he lived up to his Ball Run nickname with a fortuitous run to the second round. Only players he's beaten at the Crucible since conquering it are Peter Ebdon and Graeme Dott and might be one to look to oppose in the first round, having lost to the likes of Matthew Stevens, Ben Woollaston, Si Jiahui, Dott, Alex Ursenbacher, Li Hang, and Liang Wenbo already this season. Unpredictable nature again underlined by 147 break in Northern Ireland, before defeat to Ursenbacher, and generally hard to get excited about.
Barry Hawkins (15)
- Best World Championship result: Runner-up (2013)
- World Championship results: R1-R1-R1-R1-R1-R2-R2-F-SF-SF-QF-SF-SF-R2
- 2019/20 ranking results: R1-QF-R4-R2-R4-R2-R1-QF-R1-R2-R3-R2
Won the Paul Hunter Classic (non-ranking) back in August before reaching three pre-Christmas quarter-finals, all in China. That suggested a big campaign was coming but he's in fact been poor since losing to Alan McManus in the first round of the UK Championship, where he'd earlier bagged a 147 break - the third he's registered over the last decade of tournament snooker. Key positive is his Crucible record, which includes one appearance in the final (lost to Ronnie), four further semi-finals, and no first-round exits since 2010. That is deserving of great respect and it's clear these multi-session matches bring out his best, which is really the only reason it's Lisowski and not Hawkins who is the biggest-priced top-16 player in the outright market. That first-round record suggests he's not one to go mad opposing early in the tournament, but if he's to be around late he will need to have progressed plenty on the practice table since losing to Liang in Gibraltar.
Yan Bingtao (16)
- Best World Championship result: Round one (2017)
- World Championship results: R1
- 2019/20 ranking results: W-R2-R2-R1-R1-R4-SF-R2-R1-SF-SF-F-R1-QF
Became the first teenager to win ranking title since compatriot Ding (2006) when impressing in Latvia at the start of the season, and has continued to do so since. Granted, there have been setbacks - he lost 4-0 in the first round in Gibraltar, for instance - but they're to be expected from a 20-year-old who has time on his side. Barring accidents, should make up into a frequent contender for the World Championship and hinted as much on debut as a 17-year-old, when he gave Murphy a real scare and had people purring about his future. Unlike many contemporaries, builds his game around poise and patience, and it may well be that drawing out his aggression is key to really taking control of matches and further climbing the rankings. Sky is the limit and the fact he lost 9-6 to Selby at the Tour Championship when clearly not at his best only strengthens the profile of a player who knows how to scrap. Drawn to face Trump in round two and what a game that would be, for all that he's yet to lay a glove on the world champion in five previous meetings. That's why his price is holding up at 40/1 because otherwise he surely would deserve to be closer to the 20-25/1 mark, and he's probably better equipped to grind Trump down here than he would be to beat him in a best-of-seven.
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