Ten to watch
We run down the top ten challengers for this year's World Snooker Championship.
Last Updated: 13/04/12 8:52am
We run down the top ten challengers for this year's World Snooker Championship at the Crucible.
Scotsman John Higgins has won three of the last five World Championships but the challengers are coming thick and fast, here we run down the names to watch out for.
The World Snooker Championship runs from April 21 - May 7.
1 Judd Trump
A qualifier last year, this time Trump finds himself burdened with the tag of favourite, at least with the bookmakers. Last year he was phenomenal, and he backed up his run to the final in Sheffield by lifting the UK Championship title at York's Barbican Centre in December. The 22-year-old has risen to second in the world rankings, and it seems number one beckons. But John Higgins, the man who denied him 12 months ago, is a potential semi-final opponent, and a first world title will not come easily.
2 John Higgins
Winner of three of the past five World Championships, and the first man to win world titles in three decades since Joe Davis in the 1920s, '30s and '40s, under normal circumstances Higgins would be strongly fancied this year. But the Scot has had a tough season, admits he has not put in nearly enough time at the practice table, and leaving it late to prepare for Sheffield raises doubts over his prospects.
3 Ronnie O'Sullivan
Finally ended his barren run in major ranking events, dating back almost three years, when he won the German Masters, and now O'Sullivan must believe he can be world champion again. Doubts persist about his commitment to the sport, but in full flow there is no sight in snooker like the 36-year-old. Could find himself up against Mark Williams in round two, in a clash fit for a final.
4 Mark Selby
The world number one faces the challenge of justifying that status. Last year Leicester potter Selby looked quite supreme in seeing off Stephen Hendry 13-4 in round two, becoming the first player to make six centuries in a World Championship match. It was a humiliation for Hendry who considered retirement, but Selby lost to Ding Junhui in the quarter-finals, a major anti-climax just as he looked primed to go all the way. Reached the 2007 final.
5 Mark Williams
Twice a champion in Sheffield, Welshman Williams dropped out of the top 16 briefly but has returned to sparkling form in recent seasons. A losing semi-finalist last year, when Higgins knocked him out, left-hander Williams has endured a disappointing 2012 so far but could quite feasibly turn that around at the Crucible.
6 Neil Robertson
Robertson, as defending champion, went out with a whimper to Trump in the first round last year, and has since admitted he was disappointed to play so poorly. After becoming Australia's first title winner at the Crucible, few would be surprised if he added a second. This season he has won the Masters, reached the PTC Finals title match and semi-finals at the UK Championship and Shanghai Masters, and will be a feared man in Sheffield.
7 Shaun Murphy
The 2005 champion and 2009 runner-up will fancy his chances of reaching a third Crucible final. Lost to Robertson in the Masters final, and elsewhere has consistently won early-round matches this season. A tough nut.
8 Mark Allen
Raged at World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn's plans for the sport during the UK Championship in December, but the pair have made up. Allen can surely have few grounds for complaint now, given his earnings have shot up this season. Lost to Trump in the UK Championship final before picking up his first ranking title at the World Open. A dark horse, loves the Crucible environment.
9 Ding Junhui
Ding lost an entertaining semi-final 17-15 to Trump a year ago, but the consolation was that it was the Chinese cueman's first venture beyond the second round. Higgins says he would be "flabbergasted" if Ding never wins the world title.
10 Graeme Dott
Hard to argue with the Scot's record in Sheffield. Three finals in the last eight years makes the Larkhall potter a player to fear, irrespective of his form, which has been unspectacular in 2011/12.