Snooker returns to the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield and it’s inevitable that the likes of Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby spring to mind when you think of a potential world champion.
But in a season that has already seen Fan Zhengyi, Joe Perry and Robert Milkins land ranking titles, it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for the front-runners to be pipped to the 2022 crown.
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We’ve highlighted five players that could outrun their odds when the action gets underway on 16th April.
A three-time world champion and looking as good as ever, it really does seem odd placing Mark Williams amongst the outsiders at any event.
The 47-year-old may not win as frequently as he used to, but he tasted victory at the British Open this season, came agonisingly close to a Masters final and was even runner-up in the Shoot Out.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was at the top of his game and needed five centuries to deny Williams in a classic at the Tour Championship and the gulf in price between the Rocket (6/1) and the Welsh Potting Machine (33/1) is a big one.
Ding first appeared at a World Championship in 2007 and many were convinced he’d become the first Chinese world champion. The 2016 final was the closest he came and incredibly he’s competed on the Sunday of a major event on just five occasions since that defeat to Mark Selby.
The early part of his season wouldn’t hint at any prolonged period of success, but in recent weeks he’s shown glimpses of form. A semi-final in Turkey was followed by a quarter-final in Gibraltar and he could be coming to the boil at the perfect time.
He proved that his brilliant best is never too far away when winning the 2019 UK Championship and in the shadows of his Sheffield-based academy, he should be right at home as he bids to produce what would be one of the greatest moments in the sport’s history (25/1).
Often overlooked as one of the world’s best players, Barry Hawkins quietly goes about his business and has long been a member of the top 16 for a reason.
The Hawk comes alive on the big occasion and it’s no surprise that his best finishes this campaign have come at the Masters, UK Championship and Players Championship, with Neil Robertson and Zhao Xintong preventing him from collecting his 10th career trophy.
Perhaps most importantly, the fact he clearly thrives at the Crucible is a huge positive. He’s reached at least the quarter-finals in six of the last nine years and few 33/1 shots boast his experience.
When you think of Dave Gilbert and the World Championship, you think of his classic semi-final defeat to John Higgins and the emotion that followed. He’s one of the most popular players on tour, has a great hunger for the game, and since that epic encounter, has lifted a huge weight off his shoulders by winning his first ranking title.
Not the type to win ugly if he’s not on song, the Angry Farmer will need everything to fall into place, but it has on many occasions this season with his Championship League victory supported by four last-eight appearances.
There’s no guarantee his ‘Rolls Royce’ cue action will show up in Yorkshire, but if it does, the 50/1 on offer could shrink considerably.