15 days of hard toil, emotional ups and downs, high quality, drama and tension have been and gone in the World Championship. 31 players arrived at the Crucible Theatre and now only Kyren Wilson and Ronnie O’Sullivan remain to battle it out for half a million smackers and the world title on Saturday and Sunday.
These two men have got a heck of a lot to live up to because we were treated to one of the best days the Crucible Theatre has ever seen in this fine tournament on Friday. We have a crowd in for this final though so that might well add to the occasion.
I’m sure everyone knows the format by now but for those who are unsure of it, it is long course snooker all the way over this 17 day marathon. The first round is the best-of-19 frames which goes up to the best-of-25 for the second round and the quarter finals. The semi-finals at the best-of-33 frames and then the four session final will see a champion crowned on the third Saturday and Sunday over the best-of-35 frames.
What a day of snooker it was inside the Crucible on Friday. Words don’t really do it justice. For the first time in the history of the tournament at this venue both semi-finals went to a deciding frame but that was only the beginning of the story. Kyren Wilson outlasted Anthony McGill who probably played the best snooker of his career in the final session before cruelly losing on a fluke in the deciding frame to break his heart and those who followed us in on him at 125/1 outright. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby had plenty to live up to but they didn’t disappoint. O’Sullivan trailed 16-14 but then put three majestic breaks together to turn the match upside down and come out on top in another Crucible epic.
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You only had to look at him after his semi-final to know this is going to be a tough ask. He was an emotional wreck both in the aftermath of the match and his post-match interview. That wasn’t a surprise given the toil he had invested into the clash but even so it is so hard to draw on emotions and go to the well and expect it to be full each time. If you then factor in that this is his first world final, this is some ask for the Kettering man.
The immediate worry for Wilson is that he has have a habit of losing finals by big margins. He has lost finals in the last few seasons 10-3, 9-2 (to O’Sullivan) and 9-1 so sometimes the emotional hurdle of getting to the final takes a lot out of him and that is very much a concern here, there is no getting away from that. On the flip side he is a battler like few others with a cue action that often holds up under pressure and as the underdog in this match he can play with an ounce of freedom like he did in beating Judd Trump earlier in the tournament.
When the tournament started there was a perception that Ronnie O’Sullivan would be better without the crowds. I get that he isn’t as in demand without a crowd but I’ve sat in many a match involving Ronnie O’Sullivan and if you think he doesn’t benefit greatly from a crowd think again. They play as much of an intimidator as he does on the table himself. I think the addition of the crowd for this final will give him something to play up to and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see something of a masterclass here.
O’Sullivan has played this tournament brilliantly. He has weaknesses in his game. His long game has been terrible but he has played the fool in interviews after matches which has masked a lot of that while the TV experts blow smoke up his backside. We saw in those last three frames against Mark Selby though that when he needs his long game the most he can still deliver the goods on that front. If that stays with him I don’t see O’Sullivan losing here.
Head to Head
These two have met six times in the past and it is to the credit of Kyren Wilson that the record between the two is 4-2 to O’Sullivan. This will be the third time they have met in a final. Two of O’Sullivan’s wins have come in the previous two finals – 10-9 in the 2018 Champion of Champions and 9-2 in a flawless display in the English Open last year. Wilson did win their last meeting though which was in the semi-final of this season’s Welsh Open, when he won in a deciding frame. Indeed their last three have finished in final frames so based on that evidence Wilson certainly doesn’t fear O’Sullivan and is more than capable of handling the aura and the test that comes with playing him. That could make for a brilliant final.
Kyren Wilson will be a world champion in the future and I would be very surprised if he only wins it the once because he is comfortably the best player in the world in his 20s. I don’t think it will be this year however. I think he’s outmatched here. If this was a two session final I’d make the case for Wilson living with Ronnie O’Sullivan but over four sessions I just can’t other than he’s an outsider but O’Sullivan hasn’t won millions of pounds and 50+ titles worldwide by freezing as a favourite.
To win this final you will have to score and the cue ball of Kyren worries me in that regard. The other thing that is a concern and it has to be mentioned is the emotional ride he went on in the semi-final. It wasn’t just a deciding frame win. Ronnie had one of those but never deviated from his game plan and got the job done. You wonder how much Wilson has left in the tank. Yes adrenaline will help him for so long but he cannot afford to be behind early on in this final. You don’t catch O’Sullivan in these matches as he found out in the English Open last year. I sense Ronnie hasn’t hit top form yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if it comes out here but even if it doesn’t Wilson’s positional play is going to be under so much pressure I think it will crack eventually. Ronnie wins this by five or more for me.
Back R.O’Sullivan (-4.5 frames) to beat K.Wilson for a 3/10 stake at 2.00 with Bet365