Crucible heavyweights ready to rumble

Feuding cuemen Mark King and Quinten Hann plan to settle their differences in the boxing ring but snooker’s real heavyweight clash takes place at the Embassy World Championship in Sheffield tonight.

Feuding cuemen Mark King and Quinten Hann plan to settle their differences in the boxing ring but snooker’s real heavyweight clash takes place at the Embassy World Championship in Sheffield tonight.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry have had their differences in the past but any scores have always been settled on the green baize.

And that’s the way it will be over the next three days as Hendry competes in his 15th Crucible semi-final and O’Sullivan a sixth.

It would have made an ideal final. Indeed, Welshman Matthew Stevens and Graeme Dott of Scotland have almost been relegated to a side-show in the second semi-final.

O’Sullivan is evens favourite to win his second world title and 7-4 on to gain his first ever Crucible victory over Hendry.

However, while Hendry has room for improvement despite a 13-3 victory over Ian McCulloch, O’Sullivan will be hard pressed to play better than he did while beating Anthony Hamilton by the same score.

McCulloch has his own theory as to who might win.

He said: “Well, I lost to Peter Ebdon in the Irish Masters and he went on to won the title. I lost to Jimmy White in Glasgow and he went on to win the title. So, using that logic Stephen will go onto become world champion.”

Hendry knows it won’t be that simple: “I am capable of slaughtering Ronnie and he is capable of slaughtering me. I know there won’t be much safety play,” added the 35-year-old Scot who won the British Open title at O’Sullivan’s expense last October.

“We can both play to a high standard and it’s going to be all about who does it over the next three days.”

Stevens is 5-2 to add the world crown to his UK title while Dott is 20-1 to become the most unlikeliest world champion since Joe Johnson in 1986.

Like King and Hann, Stevens also has another alternative sporting occasion on the horizon.

He has been invited to take part in the new series of BBC TV’s Superstars programme and will travel to La Manga later in the year.

Paul Hunter, whom Stevens defeated on the final pink of a deciding 25th frame earlier in the competition, competed in last year’s Superstars.

“Paul has given me some good advice,” says the 26-year-old from Carmarthen ahead of his meeting with Glaswegian Dott.

“He said, ‘don’t do it’. Seriously, he told me it was good fun and that I’d get to meet lots of interesting sportsmen, so I’m looking forward to it.

“After coming back from Paul’s wedding next month, I’ll be in the gym five days a week. Hopefully I won’t make too much of a fool of myself but it’s really just a bit of fun.”

Superstars is for the future; the present is a match few people believe he will lose against first-time semi-finalist Dott.

“After winning the UK, I thought I’d go on and have a really good season,” added the world number nine after yesterday’s 13-10 defeat of Joe Perry.

“But the baby came along and I didn’t practise as much as I’d have liked.

“It’s probably the first time I’ve lost five matches on the spin as a pro and it’s difficult to deal with. But once I came to the Crucible all that was forgotten because you have the longer matches and the crowds to look forward to.

“I know Graeme is a tough player and he’s performed well to get this far. But you just have to worry about your own game and try not to take too much notice of the other players.”

Dott holds a 2-1 career winning record against the 2000 Crucible runner-up and has nothing to lose after his 13-7 victory over David Gray last night.

He said: “My only worry is that my matches so far have taken a lot out of me. Ronnie will be as fresh as a daisy because he’s been winning frames in one visit”

Dott may be a massive underdog but the first eight tournaments of the season have been won by eight different players, including Stevens, Hendry and O’Sullivan.

And the season and the world championship could have one last twist.

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