The roof will be lifted off the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Saturday morning when defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan steps up to the stage.
There is no one else quite like ‘The Rocket’ in the game. His charisma, unpredictability and natural skill set him aside from the rest of the circuit and it’s these characteristics which make him so interesting to watch.
Every sport has a man like Ronnie. In football it’s David Beckham, in golf it’s Tiger Woods. O’Sullivan is the box office hit in the game.
And after almost a full year away from the professional game, all eyes will be on him as he begins his defence of the title.
O’Sullivan’s rise to fame came at a very young age. He made his first century at the age of ten, made a 147 maximum break at 15 and stepped up to the professional tour when he was a year older.
After just over a year on the tour, he took his first ranking event, the 1993 UK Championship in Preston, defeating Stephen Hendry in the final.
Then, at the 1996 World Championship, came his and probably snooker’s greatest ever moment. In his First Round match, he hit a 147 maximum in just five minutes and twenty seconds – a record that will probably be never beaten.
However, he had his dark times during that period. He was given a two-year suspended sentence and fined £20,000 for assaulting media official Mike Ganley at the Worlds a year before. He was then stripped of his 1998 Irish Masters final as it was hound that he had cannabis in his system.
Back on the table, he took his first World title in 2001 after defeating John Higgins 18-14 in the final.
His second World Championship victory came in 2004. After thrashing Hendry 17-4 in the semi, he also eased through in the final, defeating Scot Graeme Dott 18-8.
One of his most surprising moments came at the 2006 UK Championship when he walked out of his quarter-finals match in the sixth frame.
He had lost all four of the first frames before the interval and despite pulling the next one back, conceded the match after missing a red in frame six.
He later went onto win the Premier League, the Irish Masters and The Masters that season and took the World title again in 2008, defeating Ali Carter 18-8 in the final.
History repeated itself last May when the pair met in the Crucible final again, Ronnie winning 18-11 this time and celebrated with his son, Ronnie Junior after the conclusion of the match.
He decided he would not sign the WPBSA player’s contract at the start of this season and has played one competitive match, losing to Simon Bedford 4-3 at a UK PTC event in September.
An announcement was made in February that Ronnie would return to action this April to defend his world title and has since been practicing in preparation for the tournament.
Astoundingly, despite taking a whole year out, many bookies have Ronnie as favourite to win the world title again this year but this just proves the kind of player he is. Currently he is 6/1 with Ladbrokes and will face Scot Marcus Campbell in his first round match on Saturday.
Neil Robertson, who is also at 6/1 with Stan James, is another player who will be a contender for this year’s title. He come fresh off the back of winning last month’s China Open and faces a tough first round match over the ever-improving Robert Milkins.
Mark Selby, at 13/2 with Paddy Power, is another player who’ll be likely to be around for the latter stages of the tournament. He’s already won the UK championship and masters this season and will be hoping to add the Worlds to secure an incredible treble. He will play Crucible debutant Matt Selt in the first round.
For a comparison list of odds for the World Championship, click here.