At least 13 of the 16 first round favourites won, sending a further signal that this is the strongest World Championship renewal of all-time. Such is the standard, there are no easy games from here.
Big-guns very short odds to progress
That logic should apply to even the very best, and most obvious favourites. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson kick off the second round, both available at 2/9 odds to maintain 100% records against Anthony McGill and Jack Lisowski respectively.
Big-hitters may be happy to take 1.491/2 about the double but that sort of tactic is rarely to my liking, especially in three session matches. Even if the formbook does stand up, there’s every chance one of these capable outsiders leads at some stage, flipping the betting.
Of the two, McGill is much preferred. It is no great surprise that he trails Ronnie 0-6, given the gulf between their general standard. The Scot didn’t always fare terribly – one went to a decider and the last two were 6-4 defeats, in a semi and a major quarter-final.
McGill is formidable at the Crucible
Plus there is the venue and format to consider. McGill’s victory over Ricky Walden was his eighth in 14 matches at the Crucible, and he scored heavily with four 80+ breaks. Having come within a whisker of last year’s final, he knows he can compete here and evidently relishes the challenge.
Whereas, whilst it seems ridiculous to criticise a six-time champion, this longer format has never been ideal for O’Sullivan. Even when winning the title, he’s found himself well down and forced to dig deep in final sessions. See for example last year’s quarter-final against Mark Williams.
McGill was one of my pre-tournament picks so I certainly won’t deter anyone from taking 4.84/1, especially for a trade. Preference, however, is 10/11 to win nine frames, via the 4.5 Frame Handicap. I’m confident he won’t be thrashed.
Robertson to dominate Lisowski again
That can’t be said about Lisowski, because that is usually what happens when he meets Robertson. The Aussie leads 39-19 in frames from their five meetings, including 10-5 at the preceding Tour Championship.
There is also his poor Crucible record to consider – two wins in five matches and thrashed 13-1 on his only previous appearance at this second round stage.
To be fair, Jack has improved considerably this season but if Robertson looks as focused and fluent as the past month, he will take the world of stopping. I like odds of 13/8 about him winning 13-7 or better, via the 5.5 Frame Handicap.
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