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World Snooker Championship: L16 preview and predictions

An entertaining opening round at the 2024 World Snooker Championship is reaching its conclusion at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.

On Thursday, the remaining two ties from the round of 32 will conclude, with Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins leading Jackson Page and Jamie Jones heading into their respective second sessions.

While those matches are being finished, the other side of the arena for both the afternoon and evening sessions on day six will see matches from the last 16 get under way.

Second-round encounters at the World Snooker Championship will last three sessions, with a possible 25 frames to be played.

It’s a stern test, providing even more opportunities for twist and turns that make this tournament so special.

A cull of the seeds in the last 32 mean that we’ve already lost eight from the top 16 in the world rankings, equalling the record for the number of qualifiers reaching the second round.

The first-round predictions right here on SnookerHQ.com weren’t the best, with it looking like nine right from 16 matches if O’Sullivan and Higgins progress as expected.

So let’s give this another crack and hope for a more respectable return from round two.

Quarter 1

David Gilbert vs Robert Milkins (16)

Session 1: Thursday, April 25th at 1pm
Session 2: Friday, April 26th at 10am
Session 3: Friday, April 26th at 7pm
Prediction: David Gilbert

David Gilbert and Robert Milkins both emerged from first-round thrillers that ended 10-9 at the Crucible Theatre.

That being said, the manner in which they advanced into the second round this year was quite different.

While Gilbert produced quite a strong performance overall to beat reigning world champion Luca Brecel, Milkins struggled for any great degree of form in his narrow success over Pang Junxu.

The latter, who hasn’t had a good 2023/24 season, will have to improve if he’s to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

Gilbert is making his fourth appearance at this stage but of course went on to reach the semi-finals five years ago – an experience that should stand him in good stead here.

Not in the Angry Farmer’s favour is an inferior head-to-head record, losing several close ties to his fellow Englishman including twice at the UK Championship.

But having emerged from the qualifying competition and with a standout victory over the top seed under his belt, Gilbert’s confidence will be on a high.

Stephen Maguire vs Shaun Murphy (8)

Session 1: Friday, April 26th at 2:30pm
Session 2: Saturday, April 27th at 10am
Session 3: Sunday, April 28th at 10am
Prediction: Stephen Maguire

Shaun Murphy outplayed Lyu Haotian to secure a first-round victory at the World Snooker Championship for the first time since 2021.

That year, the Magician reached his fourth Crucible final only to be denied a second success in the prestigious tournament by Mark Selby.

Murphy played fine to win his opening contest 10-5, but he wasn’t given an especially difficult challenge.

The experienced Stephen Maguire is likely going to provide a much trickier trial, the Scot having overcome Ali Carter to reach this point.

Murphy and Maguire know each other’s games well having risen through the junior ranks together during the 1990s before subsequently establishing themselves as stars of the pro scene a decade later.

While Murphy has met his expectations by winning all the majors, Maguire’s career has definitely been a case of underachievement.

Yet the Scot’s game looks to be in a decent place, and he has even brought his father to the event to curtail his infamous drinking habits.

The pair, who haven’t always seen eye to eye, share an even head-to-head record, but Maguire has won their last three matches – including their most recent meeting at the 2022 World Championship.


Quarter 2

Joe O’Connor vs Kyren Wilson (12)

Session 1: Saturday, April 27th at 7pm
Session 2: Sunday, April 28th at 7pm
Session 3: Monday, April 29th at 1pm
Prediction: Kyren Wilson

Joe O’Connor is the only debutant at the Crucible Theatre in 2024, and he certainly made the most of his opportunity by upsetting Mark Selby in round one.

His next obstacle is Kyren Wilson, who was in a high-scoring mood during his 10-1 demolition of poor Dominic Dale.

While O’Connor, 28, effectively has a free crack this year with no expectations weighing down his shoulders, Wilson is a player people expect to do well in Sheffield.

That includes himself, and he has already admitted that he won’t be happy if his career ends with only one world title, never mind none.

It’s a bit of a strange thing to say so openly, especially when you consider the likes of Maguire who once rashly chimed that he’d be disappointing not to win a World Championship by the age of 30.

Whether Wilson has what it takes to go the distance in Sheffield remains to be seen.

But he does have a good World Championship record and a seventh quarter-final appearance should be on the cards here.

John Higgins (13) vs Mark Allen (4)

Session 1: Saturday, April 27th at 2:30pm
Session 2: Sunday, April 28th at 2:30pm
Session 3: Monday, April 29th at 7pm
Prediction: Mark Allen

Mark Allen and John Higgins reached the last 16 of the 2024 World Snooker Championship with respective 10-6 triumphs over Robbie Williams and Jamie Jones.

Neither played at his best, but they used their vastly superior levels of experience to comfortably get the job done.

It sets up a mouthwatering second-round tie between an all-time great and a player on the fringes of greatness.

Higgins is a four-time world champion from eight Crucible finals, and even if there are whispers of an impending retirement that still seems unlikely, the Scot remains capable of mixing it at the top of the game.

Allen, meanwhile, is provisionally poised to end this season as the sport’s world number one for the first time in his career.

The Northern Irishman has become a consistent winner in the last 24 months, but the World Championship crown has eluded him so far.

Allen and Higgins have played each other a lot over the years, including twice in Sheffield when the latter prevailed both times.

On this occasion, however, the Pistol will be the favourite, and he’ll be looking at an easier-looking top half of the draw as a potential route to a maiden world final.


Quarter 3

Judd Trump (3) vs Tom Ford (14)

Session 1: Thursday, April 25th at 7pm
Session 2: Friday, April 26th at 2:30pm
Session 3: Saturday, April 27th at 10am
Prediction: Judd Trump

There were many who thought that Hossein Vafaei would provide Judd Trump with a tough test in the opening round.

But Trump looked cool and composed throughout most of his 10-5 victory over the Iranian, getting his 2024 tilt at glory off to a positive start.

The 34 year-old has won a staggering 17 ranking titles since he claimed his maiden world title in 2019, including five during a prolific 2023/24 term.

Alongside Ronnie O’Sullivan, who he could meet in the semi-finals, Trump is the man to beat at this year’s World Championship.

Tom Ford, then, is tasked with a daunting prospect of facing a formidable player operating somewhere near his peak form.

Ford, a seed for the first time this year, recorded his first ever win at the Crucible with a 10-6 defeat of Ricky Walden in the last 32.

The 40 year-old may be a veteran of the main tour, but he has never played a three-session match as a professional before.

Boasting a far better head-to-head record, Trump would be the favourite regardless, but his superior experience in this competition will give him an extra edge too.

Jak Jones vs Si Jiahui

Session 1: Friday, April 26th at 10am
Session 2: Friday, April 26th at 7pm
Session 3: Saturday, April 27th at 2:30pm
Prediction: Si Jiahui

Si Jiahui and Jak Jones were two breakthrough stars of the 2023 World Snooker Championship, and they are back making waves again this year.

It’s an intriguing contest between two players who seem to thrive under the Crucible lights.

Last year’s semi-finalist Si was taken the distance before outlasting three-time world champion Mark Williams in a decider.

The 21 year-old, a finalist in February’s German Masters, coped with the pressure to hold off a late charge from his esteemed opponent.

Contrast that with Jones, who was extremely fortunate to be drawn against a seed who produced, what can only be described as, a diabolical display.

Jones didn’t play particularly well in that game either, and he’ll likely have to raise his level considerably if he’s to oust another Chinese opponent and reach a second successive quarter-final in Sheffield.

The Welshman can draw from the experience of beating Si in two out of their three prior battles with one another.

Si, though, has the hallmarks of an up-and-coming star who really fancies it on the big stage.


Quarter 4

Jack Lisowski vs Stuart Bingham

Session 1: Saturday, April 27th at 7pm
Session 2: Sunday, April 28th at 2:30pm
Session 3: Monday, April 29th at 7pm
Prediction: Jack Lisowski

When Jack Lisowski emerged from the qualifying competition, there was always a strong possibility that his first-round draw would represent the tie of the last 32.

So it proved, with Lisowski prevailing from a humdinger with Ding Junhui in a deciding frame.

The six-time ranking event runner-up has arguably benefited from being forced into the qualifiers, much in the same way that it helped Ding eight years ago en route to his berth in the final.

Whether Lisowski can mount that kind of serious challenge in 2024 remains to be seen, but he will fancy his chances against Stuart Bingham.

The latter played solidly to see off Gary Wilson in the first round, maintaining a healthy buffer after establishing a 4-0 cushion early on.

Bingham, of course, has plenty of pedigree in Sheffield as a former champion and he remains a powerful scorer, but his consistency these days is shaky.

Lisowski and Bingham share an even head-to-head record, with their previous World Championship fixture going Jackpot’s way in 2018.

This showdown could be another close one, but Lisowski appears to be finding some good form at just the right time.

Ryan Day vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Session 1: Sunday, April 28th at 10am
Session 2: Sunday, April 28th at 7pm
Session 3: Monday, April 29th at 1pm
Prediction: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Ronnie O’Sullivan began his bid to capture a record-breaking eighth world title of the modern era with a routine 10-1 defeat of Jackson Page.

The Rocket wasn’t at his best but didn’t need to be, as he thoroughly dismantled a weak challenge from the young Welshman.

O’Sullivan, who is the outright favourite with the bookies, will face another player from Wales in the last 16.

The experienced Ryan Day, a former quarter-finalist who has won four ranking titles, will certainly provide a much sterner test.

Day fought back from 8-5 down to beat Barry Hawkins 10-8 in the first round on Wednesday.

The pair met at the same stage of the competition 18 years ago when O’Sullivan ran out a 13-10 winner.

Strangely, they haven’t crossed paths too many times over the years, with O’Sullivan leading the overall head-to-head 7-2.

Day hasn’t featured at the last-eight stage of a World Championship since 2012, and at 44 he may not have too many opportunities to conjure a deep run at the Crucible.

He is capable, but it will take some performance to overcome the history-chasing world number one.

Featured photo credit: WST


2024 World Snooker Championship Draw

Round 1 (bo19)

Luca Brecel (1) 9-10 David Gilbert
Robert Milkins (16) 10-9 Pang Junxu
Ali Carter (9) 7-10 Stephen Maguire
Shaun Murphy (8) 10-5 Lyu Haotian

Mark Selby (5) 6-10 Joe O’Connor
Kyren Wilson (12) 10-1 Dominic Dale
John Higgins (13) 10-6 Jamie Jones
Mark Allen (4) 10-6 Robbie Williams

Judd Trump (3) 10-5 Hossein Vafaei
Tom Ford (14) 10-6 Ricky Walden
Zhang Anda (11) 4-10 Jak Jones
Mark Williams (6) 9-10 Si Jiahui

Ding Junhui (7) 9-10 Jack Lisowski
Gary Wilson (10) 5-10 Stuart Bingham
Barry Hawkins (15) 8-10 Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) 10-1 Jackson Page

Round 2 (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-4 Robert Milkins (16)
Stephen Maguire 13-9 Shaun Murphy (8)

Joe O’Connor 6-13 Kyren Wilson (12)
John Higgins (13) 13-12 Mark Allen (4)

Judd Trump (3) 13-7 Tom Ford (14)
Jak Jones 13-9 Si Jiahui

Jack Lisowski 11-13 Stuart Bingham
Ryan Day 7-13 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Quarter-Finals (bo25)

David Gilbert 13-8 Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson (12) 13-8 John Higgins (13)

Judd Trump (3) 9-13 Jak Jones
Stuart Bingham 13-10 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2)

Semi-Finals (bo33)

David Gilbert 11-17 Kyren Wilson (12)
Jak Jones 17-12 Stuart Bingham

Final (bo35)

Kyren Wilson (12) 18-14 Jak Jones

Click here for the latest live scores and session times.


2 Comments

  1. Jay Brannon

    I’d agree with all of those predictions apart from Maguire. Can envisage a close match but Maguire struggles these days to string two good performances together and Murphy is the better Crucible performer.

    I do think Hendry was disrespectful when saying on the BBC earlier that this tournament could well turn into a procession for O’Sullivan. It’s a clear strategy of Hendry’s to heap added pressure on O’Sullivan as he attempts to go past the Scot and win an eighth title. O’Sullivan has cantered to some of his world titles in the past but the likes of Trump, Allen, Wilson and Higgins are all still involved. He’s the warm favourite for glory but far too early to make that call.

  2. Jay Brannon

    I’d be surprised to see Day trouble him as he’s going to require sustained excellence for lengthy periods as O’Sullivan’s matchplay is far superior if neither hit their top form. Day lacks a good B-game.

    I’d suggest Day is the greatest player to never have played at the one table setup. No player who has yet to reach the semis has won more ranking titles or superceded Day’s century tally. Other significant names that have failed to grace the one table setup include Jack Lisowski, Anthony Hamilton, Dominic Dale, Willie Thorne and Fergal O’Brien.

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