Luca Brecel and Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Crucible
Luca Brecel

World Snooker Championship top 16 profiles featuring Ronnie O'Sullivan, Judd Trump, John Higgins, Mark Selby and Luca Brecel

Richard Mann gives his verdict on the top 16 seeds for this year's World Snooker Championship, which begins at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Saturday.

Luca Brecel (1)

  • Recent World Championship record: R1/LQ/LQ/R1/W
  • Crucible best: 2023 winner
  • Season's best: World Masters of Snooker runner-up
  • Sky Bet odds: 18/1

Luca Brecel arrived in Sheffield 12 months ago having never previously won a match at the Crucible. Just over two weeks later he left as world champion, having produced a series of breathtaking displays to claim the biggest win of his career.

His quarter-final demolition of Ronnie O'Sullivan from 10-6 behind was barely believable, the Belgian reeling off seven frames on the spin to leave the then defending champion stunned and ultimately well beaten.

There was better to come as Brecel came from 14-5 down to beat Si Jiahui 17-15 in the last four, before he bossed his final with four-time champion Mark Selby.

This season has been more challenging, but he wouldn't the first to struggle with being world champion for the first time, and runner-up finishes at the Shanghai Masters and World Masters of Snooker, losing to O'Sullivan in the final on both occasions, confirms his game is still there.

The more recent signs have been promising and Brecel could take some stopping again if getting on a roll. Some will feel that the shadow of the Crucible Curse is enough to look beyond him, but you sense Brecel will worry little about historical precedent and he busted all the trends a year ago.


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Ronnie O'Sullivan (2)

  • Recent World Championship record: R1/W/R2/W/QF
  • Crucible best: x7 winner
  • Season's best: Shanghai Masters, UK Championship, Masters, World Grand Prix, World Masters of Snooker winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 11/4

The greatest player to ever pick up a cue comes into this year's tournament chasing snooker immortality, needing one more Crucible victory for eight world titles, thus moving him clear of the great Stephen Hendry.

Ronnie O'Sullivan already holds the record for eight UK Championship and eight Masters wins, and number eight in Sheffield would be even more significant this year as it would mean he would hold all three Triple Crown titles at the same time, something that has only been done by three players before.



Those wins at the UK Championship and the Masters were typified by tenacity and application when having to battle throughout those tournaments, as well as in both finals, whereas victories at the World Grand Prix and in Saudi Arabia saw O'Sullivan at his brilliant, dominant best.

Five tournaments wins this season have seen O'Sullivan cement his world number one status, a true indication of where he stands in the sport even at the age of 48, and he is surely going to prove incredibly hard to beat as he chases yet more history.

Ronnie O'Sullivan at the Tour Championship
Ronnie O'Sullivan at the recent Tour Championship

Judd Trump (3)

  • Recent World Championship record: W/QF/QF/F/R1
  • Crucible best: 2019 winner
  • Season's best: English Open, Wuhan Open, Northern Ireland Open, German Masters, World Open winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 4/1

Judd Trump's victory here in 2019 saw him produce one of the best performances ever witnessed in a Crucible final, blowing away John Higgins with an incredible display of potting and scoring.

Trump has continued to prove a serial winner since, and has chalked up another five titles already this term, two in China, plus the German Masters and a couple more Home Nations events.

A willingness to scrap and fight has probably been the biggest improvement in Trump's game over the last few years and he has become one of the best players in the world under pressure.

History tells us that quiet tournaments at the Players Championship and Tour Championship might actually be in Trump's favour this year, and he certainly has plenty of strong form and good memories to draw upon from the campaign on the whole.

The draw putting him on collision course with Ronnie O'Sullivan in the semi-finals isn't such good news, with O'Sullivan winning each of their last five meetings.



Mark Allen (4)

  • Recent World Championship record: R1/R1/R2/R2/SF
  • Crucible best: SF 2009, 2023
  • Season's best: Champion Of Champions, Shoot Out, Players Championship winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 12/1

The Crucible has rarely been a happy hunting ground for Mark Allen, but he went some way to putting that hoodoo to bed when reaching the last four 12 months ago, only a nerveless Mark Selby denying the Northern Irishman a place in what would have been his first World Championship final.

Allen certainly has the game to do well in this event. His scoring has always been a particular strength, but he has become a much more prolific winner in the last few years because of the grit and resoluteness he has added to his game.

He can now win ugly where perhaps he wasn't able to before, but that approach has drawn criticism from some who insist Allen has become too negative and moved away from the things that made him such a fine player in the first place.

Allen would likely disagree, as would his trophy cabinet, but one suspects he might need to find a better balance between attack and defence if he is to claim the biggest prize in snooker.

Mark Selby (5)

  • Recent World Championship record: R2/SF/W/R2/F
  • Crucible best: x4 winner
  • Season's best: British Open runner-up
  • Sky Bet odds: 8/1

A giant of the Crucible and one of the best to ever to compete here, Mark Selby is always such a hard man to beat at the World Championship.

His sixth world final ended in defeat to Luca Brecel last year, but he has tasted victory four times at the Crucible already, putting him in elite company.

A granite character with a tactical game that few have ever been able to match, it's worth remembering that Selby has beaten the likes of Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy in World Championship finals.

Selby is very much an elite player who has been highly successful in an elite era.

But this season hasn't been easy. He might look back to the simple pink he missed in his semi-final with O'Sullivan at the Shanghai Masters way back in September as a pivotal moment, but he had his chances to right that wrong in the final of the British Open and then in the last four of the Players Championship.

On both occasions he wasn't quite good enough and that, sadly, has been the story of Selby's campaign.

Talk of retirement after a poor showing at the recent Tour Championship confirms he will need his favourite venue to spark him back to his best.

Mark Selby
Mark Selby has been struggling for form

Mark Williams (6)

  • Recent World Championship record: R2/QF/QF/SF/R2
  • Crucible best: x3 winner
  • Season's best: British Open, Tour Championship winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 12/1

Mark Williams made it 26 ranking title wins when beating Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-5 in the final of the Tour Championship only a matter of weeks ago, capping one of the best performances of his career.

Williams also beat Mark Allen and Judd Trump in Manchester, confirming he remains one of the very best in the business despite recently celebrating his 49th birthday.

Williams' work with coach Lee Walker has clearly played a big part in keeping the elegant left-hander at the top of the game for so long, even while the Welshman continues to enjoy his time away from the table and admits to practicing much less than he used to.

Sitting among the likes of O'Sullivan and Trump in the draw will send many cool on Williams' chances of winning his fourth world title, but he has just beaten the best the game has to offer with relative ease and very nearly got the better of Trump in their epic semi-final in this tournament two years ago.

With his game clearly in good working order and his confidence entitled to be sky high, it would take a brave man to discount one of snooker's greatest ever players.

Ding Junhui (7)

  • Recent World Championship record: R2/R2/R1/R1/R1
  • Crucible best: 2016 runner-up
  • Season's best: UK Championship, World Open runner-up
  • Sky Bet odds: 18/1

Ding Junhui's apparent date with destiny hasn't yet arrived, but the Chinese remains a top-class operator well suited to the big stage, as demonstrated by runner-up finishes at the UK Championship and World Open this season.

More recently, the Crucible has been a struggle for Ding, but few gave him much chance when he had to come through qualifying in 2016, before he fought his way to the final where he was made to pay for a slow start against Mark Selby.

A potential quarter-final with Ronnie O'Sullivan doesn't look good for his chances this year, however, with O'Sullivan handing out three separate lessons to his good friend in high-profile encounters already this term.

Shaun Murphy (8)

  • Recent World Championship record: R2/R1/F/R1/R1
  • Crucible best: 2005 Winner
  • Season's best: Masters semi-final
  • Sky Bet odds: 22/1

A year is a long time in professional sport, and Shaun Murphy can certainly relate to that.

Twelve months ago, Murphy arrived in Sheffield as the form horse, hot from dominant, brilliant victories at the Players Championship and Tour Championship, with his odds having been slashed by bookmakers.

All that counted for little, as Murphy was knocked out in the first round by Si Jiahui to add another early Crucible exit to a list that is becoming somewhat alarming.

Shaun Murphy made a brilliant maximum break at the Shoot Out
Shaun Murphy was world champion in 2005

However, when he's on, few can match the 2005 champion who has made three more finals here since that memorable win over Matthew Stevens, the last coming as recently as 2021.

It's certainly becoming harder and harder to predict which Murphy will turn up, but he had no recent form credentials in 2021 and very nearly went all the way, and ought to be fresh and hungry this time around.

Ali Carter (9)

  • Recent World Championship record: QF/LQ/R1/LQ/R1
  • Crucible best: x2 runner-up
  • Season's best: Wuhan Open, Masters runner-up
  • Sky Bet odds: 28/1

But for a certain Ronnie O'Sullivan, Ali Carter might well be a world champion by now.

Instead, Carter must look back on the 2008 and 2012 campaigns with great pride, but also a sense of frustration that he came up against an O'Sullivan who was close to unbeatable at the time.

Carter's game has always been well suited to the Crucible and the multi-format session matches of this tournament. He also reached back-to-back quarter-finals in 2018 and 2019.

Now, at the age of 44 and with his health issues hopefully behind him, Carter is once again back in the top 16 and making his mark most weeks.

Final defeats at the Wuhan Open and the Masters, again to O'Sullivan, will have no doubt hurt, but we have confirmation that he is playing well and remains more than capable of going very deep.

Gary Wilson (10)

  • Recent World Championship record: SF/LQ/R1/LQ/R2
  • Crucible best: 2019 SF
  • Season's best: Scottish Open, Welsh Open winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 33/1

Wilson's story will strike a chord with many: a former taxi driver finally making good on his dream and winning tournaments when many thought his chance had gone.

Wilson gave the first real sign of his star quality in 2019, playing terrific snooker to reach the semi-finals here, beating Mark Selby in three sessions before losing to eventual winner Judd Trump in the last four.

It demonstrated that Wilson had the game and mettle to thrive at the highest level, and though he had to wait for that first ranking title, he has made up for lost time since.

Victory in Scotland at the end of 2022 was followed by a successful defence of his title a year later and he then dominated the Welsh Open in February.

His form has remained good and he lost nothing in defeat when Ronnie O'Sullivan produced another impressive late show in their Tour Championship semi-final recently, that after Wilson had played brilliantly to fight his way back into the match.

O'Sullivan was warm in his praise of Wilson afterwards, and it's easy to see why. A heavy scorer with a fine all-round game, the 38-year-old is now a serial winner who should not be underestimated.

ALSO READ: Gary Wilson in conversation with Nick Metcalfe

Gary Wilson has leapt to the defence of the Crucible

Zhang Anda (11)

  • Recent World Championship record: LQ/LQ/A/LQ/LQ
  • Crucible best: x2 R1
  • Season's best: International Championship winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 28/1

Zhang Anda has unquestionably been the surprise package of the season.

A few quarter-finals was the best Zhang had previously managed in a relatively modest career, but something has clicked this winter and he will make his first appearance at the Crucible since 2016, and first ever as a seeded player.

And he most certainly deserves it. If his run to the final of the English Open was a shock, we certainly took notice when Zhang beat a host of big names on the way to claiming his first ranking title at the valuable International Championship.

Zhang then went down on his sword when Mark Allen had to drag him from the table in their Players Championship final, another step forward for the 32-year-old who might not have reached his ceiling just yet.

By no means a flair player, for all he is clearly a very good one, Zhang has the style and game that ought to be well suited to multi-session matches that can sometimes turn into a slog at the Crucible.

He won't be an easy man for anyone to get past.

Kyren Wilson (12)

  • Recent World Championship record: QF/F/SF/R2/R2
  • Crucible best: 2020 runner-up
  • Season's best: German Masters semi-final
  • Sky Bet odds: 25/1

The World Championship and Kyren Wilson have long appeared the perfect fit and since his Crucible debut in 2014, three quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a final appearance in 2020 followed.

His last two visits have been less fruitful, a pair of second-round exits a microcosm of his overall downturn in fortunes. This season has been a particular struggle, a last-four finish at the German Masters apart.

Perhaps the return to this venue and this event will spark Wilson back to life, but he has played very little competitive snooker since Christmas to have helped him find form, and does look up against it.

John Higgins (13)

  • Recent World Championship record: F/R2/R2/SF/QF
  • Crucible best: x4 winner
  • Season's best: x6 SF
  • Sky Bet odds: 20/1

Talk of retirement at the conclusion of this tournament from John Higgins himself has left snooker fans aghast, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised.

Higgins has suffered a number of narrow, bruising defeats in big matches over the last few years and they begin to take their toll when you have been playing the game as long as the veteran Scot has.

It's not that Higgins is no longer capable of top-class snooker. He most certainly is, and six more semi-finals this term confirm he is very close and indeed still very capable of winning tournaments.

The issue is the manner in which he has been losing those matches, often surrendering big leads, that has hurt Higgins and with little left to prove, perhaps the fight is slowly ebbing from within.

One last hurrah, if that is how Higgins is viewing the next few weeks, might make the 48-year-old more dangerous, and he is clearly a different animal when it comes to the World Championship. Eight Crucible finals and four wins demonstrate just that.

On what we've seen more recently, it's hard to see Higgins rolling back to years to win a fifth world title, but his game is still strong enough to see him enjoy another good run. He made the last eight only 12 months ago.

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Tom Ford (14)

  • Recent World Championship record: LQ/R1/LQ/LQ/LQ
  • Crucible best: x4 R1
  • Season's best: International Championship runner-up
  • Sky Bet odds: 100/1

An underrated operator and a very heavy scorer when on song, Tom Ford returns to the Crucible for the first time since 2020.

Another solid season, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the International Championship and three more quarter-finals, means Ford lines up as a seeded player this time around.

Nevertheless, he is still to win a match at the Crucible, for all a couple of close battles with Judd Trump at least confirm he can perform in this famous old venue.

An unlikely winner, it must be said, but a dangerous player if finding his groove.

Barry Hawkins (15)

  • Recent World Championship record: R2/R2/R2/R1/LQ
  • Crucible best: 2013 runner-up
  • Season's best: European Masters winner
  • Sky Bet odds: 33/1

Barry Hawkins has been a fine Crucible performer over the years, making the final in 2013 and then reaching a quarter-final and four semi-finals in following five years.

Things have been tougher more recently, and Hawkins failed to come through qualifying last year, but he remains a high-class operator who began this season with victory at the European Masters.

Semi-final finishes at the Northern Ireland Open and Champion of Champions are other strong pieces of form from a largely successful campaign, but the prospect of facing Ronnie O'Sullivan in the second round makes his task that much tougher.

Robert Milkins (16)

  • Recent World Championship record: LQ/LQ/LQ/LQ/R2
  • Crucible best: x4 R2
  • Season's best: x2 QF
  • Sky Bet odds: 125/1

A real breath of fresh air and a terrific player to watch when in full flight, Robert Milkins sneaks in as the last seeded player because of the excellent season he enjoyed last term.

Milkins was outstanding in 2022/2023, winning the Welsh Open and going close at the German Masters, before losing out to a rampant Si Jiahui in the second round here.

This season has been much different with very little to shout about after a promising start, and it's hard to see him going the distance with his confidence having taken a hit.

ALSO READ: Neal Foulds' best players who didn't conquer the Crucible

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