WINNER: Judd Trump
Trump has been fancied to triumph at the Crucible ever since his exhilarating run to the 2011 final, but is primed to make 2019 his year.
The 29-year-old is now more considered and mature in his approach, and the results are obvious. He has won three titles this season, including the Masters in January, and looks untouchable when at his best.
The stumbling block in the draw is a potential quarter-final with Ronnie O’Sullivan.
But that he beat The Rocket – who has not progressed beyond the quarter-finals at Sheffield since 2014 – in two of the finals he has won this term means he has the psychological edge.
TO REACH THE FINAL: Neil Robertson
Robertson has enjoyed a sensational 2019, reaching the final in his last four tournaments, winning two of them.
The most recent of those victories – an 11-4 win over Jack Lisowski in the China Open final – ensured that the 2010 world champion has won more prize money than any other player this season.
He has little to fear from a quarter including John Higgins, Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy, and avoids Trump or O’Sullivan until the final, so has to be backed to be involved until the end of a fifth consecutive event.
OUTSIDE SHOT: Joe Perry
Perry has produced his best snooker when it has mattered most this season, beating Trump on his way to the quarter-final of the UK Championship in December before cruising through qualification for this event.
The 44-year-old has been handed a generous draw, too. He can beat Dave Gilbert – the lowest-ranked of the top 16 – in round one, and has avoided all four of the favourites to win the tournament in his quarter.
He beat then-defending champion Mark Selby 10-4 in the first round here last year, and is capable of going on an extended run this time around.
TO WIN QUARTER: Mark Allen
Allen reached the final of the last two events of 2018, winning the Scottish Open, and believes he is slowly regaining that form now.
The Northern Irishman reached the semi-final of both the Players Championship and the Tour Championship in March, and a good run at the Crucible is long overdue having not reached a semi-final in 10 years.
Being pitted against Mark Selby in Quarter 3 is, as explained below, nothing to fear, so these odds are too good to ignore.
FIRST ROUND SHOCK: Zhao Xintong to beat Mark Selby
Selby has won just two triple-crown event matches since winning the 2017 world title, and his patchy 2018/19 form far doesn’t suggest he will improve on that record here.
The three-time world champion can produce glimpses of brilliance, but has been uncharacteristically inconsistent. In 17 events, he has reached five quarter-finals, one semi-final and won one title, but also suffered four first-round defeats.
The 35-year-old’s alarming loss to Craig Steadman in a China Open qualifier last month should offer encouragement to Zhao Xintong, who dropped just 11 frames in qualifying for this event last week.
Elsewhere, Mark Davis looks a good bet to beat John Higgins .
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