April can mean many things in sport, but it is synonymous as the month of the World Snooker Championships at the legendary Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Between 16 April and 2 May the finest in the sport are competing for the prestigious title and the £330,000 prize.
It is an area where Scotland usually excels, with our previous champions including Stephen Hendry and John Higgins, however, we are currently on our second longest streak without a champion since Hendry won his first title in 1990. A Scottish player has not won a title since Higgins won in 2011.
Of course this is subject to some players getting through the qualifying rounds, as only the top 16 are put into the last 32, but we would hope that Scotland would have a force to be reckoned with in the latter stages of the tournament. However, in recent years we have seen successful runs to the latter stages of the competition from many outsiders, and it makes the championship delightfully unpredictable.
There are many players from the country you may want to look out for during the coverage of the tournament.
Higgins has been on great form in this season. Wins at the Australian Open and International Championship alongside quarter-final finishes at the UK Championship and Masters have seen him move up to seventh in the world at the time of writing. At 40 years old, he is currently part of the top 16 which are leading the resurgence of the older players on the circuit. As these experienced hands continue to cue, it could give optimism to the players representing our country which have massive amounts of experience at the table.
There are plenty of other players who could also be involved. Stephen Maguire has recently moved around the placings in and near the top 16 as the competition gets ever stronger at the top of the game. Meanwhile, for Graeme Dott, it will be ten years since he won the tournament back in 2006, alongside the experienced Alan McManus, who last got to the quarter-finals in 2014.
Anthony McGill will also be one to look out for. He captured many people’s hearts when he propelled himself to the quarter-finals of the competition last year and is now consistently hovering around the area of 16th to 32nd in the world rankings for now.
Lower down the rankings, players such as Jamie Burnett will also look to qualify into the tournament alongside some of the young emerging talent in the country. If they surpass the qualifying rounds, they may end up playing such competition as reigning world champion Stuart Bingham, five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan or still emerging talents such as Luca Brecel, recent finalist at the German Masters and Snooker Shoot-out tournaments.
Surely our patriotic focus must lie with Higgins after his start of the 2015-16 season to be our favourite, perhaps with another player coming through as a surprise. It will be interesting to see whether they will be snookered in their attempts to win the title.