World Championship 2016 – building up

Only three days left before the World Championship starts and the last 16 qualifiers aren’t know yet. In fact 16 matches are going to their conclusion today, with the 16 qualifiers being drawn again the 16 seeds tomorrow.

In my opinion, this isn’t ideal by any means. The qualifiers, coming out of three long matches, under the highest of pressure will only have a couple of days to recover and sort everything out, hotels, practice etc. They will be tired and this isn’t giving them the best chances right from the start. The media have only a couple of days to really build up the tournament coverage. Ideally they would pick the best ties of round one to promote the event around those matches, but the draw isn’t known yet. So they have to wait and meanwhile the best they can do is to interview some seeds, Stuart Bingham, the defending champion being the main man. Inevitably as well they will discuss Ronnie…

Here are two interviews by Stuart

Ronnie O’Sullivan: Stuart Bingham says Stephen Hendry is still greatest

By Owen Phillips

BBC Sport

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Ronnie O’Sullivan was beaten by Stuart Bingham in the second round of the 2015 World Championship

2016 World Snooker Championship

Venue: The Crucible Theatre, Sheffield Dates: 16 April – 2 May

Ronnie O’Sullivan must match Stephen Hendry’s World Championship title haul to be considered snooker’s greatest player, according to reigning world champion Stuart Bingham.

Hendry, who retired in 2012, has seven Crucible titles to his name, while O’Sullivan has won snooker’s showpiece event on five occasions.

“Ronnie is the best player to ever pick up a cue,” Bingham, 39, told BBC Sport.

“But to be the greatest player you have to beat the records.”

O’Sullivan, 40, is looking to go within one world title of the Scot, who won a total of 36 ranking titles, when this year’s event gets under way on Saturday.

Bingham added: “Hendry was a born winner; he only loved winning and he was more ruthless than anyone. Ronnie is the most talented and the best in the world, but to be the greatest ever you need titles.”

The Rocket’s aura

Bingham beat O’Sullivan on his way to lifting snooker’s biggest prize in Sheffield for the first time last year and he is in no doubt that the unpredictable talents of the 28-time ranking event winner make him the man to beat once again.

“He is the only person in the game who has the aura that Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis had,” Bingham added.

“Whatever tournament he enters, he is probably going to be favourite – and rightly so. He is the best player in the world.”

Stuart Bingham had only ever gone beyond the second round of the World Championship once in eight attempts until his run at the Crucible last year

Believing you can topple a class act

Bingham said the game’s best players were capable of toppling O’Sullivan, but it was also a matter of believing it, and lasting the distance at the 17-day tournament.

“Anyone now in the top 16 will fancy their chances,” the Basildon-born potter said. “But, when it comes down to the crunch, to actually beat Ronnie, it’s a different ball game.

“I remember saying to Ronnie last year: ‘How have you won it five times?’ I won it last year and it took me three weeks to get over it.

“How he has done it five times I will never know. It just shows you what a class act he is.”

And this one from BT sport

Stuart Bingham: If Ronnie O’Sullivan is mentally right, we’re playing for second

Stuart Bingham predicts the Betfred World Championship could be a procession for Ronnie O’Sullivan if the five-time winner is hungry for a sixth title.

Stuart Bingham predicts the Betfred World Championship could be a procession for Ronnie O’Sullivan if the five-time winner is hungry for a sixth title.
Defending champion Bingham toppled O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals last year before knocking out Judd Trump in the final four and flooring Shaun Murphy with a fightback in the final.
He cannot face O’Sullivan until the final this year, after the pair were kept apart in the draw.
But Bingham accepts O’Sullivan, who has landed the Masters and Welsh Open trophies already this year, remains the man to beat.
“Whatever tournament Ronnie enters, he’s going to be favourite,” Bingham told Press Association Sport.
“He’s the best player in the world at the moment so if he’s mentally right everyone’s playing for second. He is that good.
“There’s maybe four or five people who can stand up to him and beat him, and I saw he could play Shaun in the quarter-finals. Shaun is one of those who on his game can beat anyone.”
As he prepares to head back to Sheffield and tackle his first-round match on Saturday’s opening day, Bingham revealed he has been on a daily diet of playbacks of his surprise Crucible success.
“It’s been maybe about 350 days since I lifted the title, so it’s about 300 times that I’ve watched it, it’s been near enough every day,” he said.
“I was so in the zone at the time that it seemed to fly by. I remember potting championship ball and hearing the crowd erupt, and that stays in the memory bank, but it all happened too quickly and I can’t believe it’s been a year already.”
The Basildon cueman, now 39, will be aiming to crack the notorious ‘Crucible curse’.
No world champion has won his first two titles back to back since the tournament moved to its current home in 1977.
He knows the danger too that comes with being the man in possession, having caused one of the greatest snooker upsets on his World Championship debut in 2000. Bingham ended the reign of seven-time winner Stephen Hendry on the opening day that year, and the Scot never triumphed again in Sheffield.
The Essex potter knows that having turned from the hunter to the hunted, he cannot afford to let his focus slip once beckoned into the arena at 10am on the opening morning as the reigning world champion.
“Obviously I’m going to be nervous but I’ll hopefully settle down as quick as possible,” Bingham said.
“It may take me two or three frames to forget where I am and what I am, and just try to get on with the job in hand.
“I remember playing that match 16 years ago against Stephen Hendry and the first thing on my mind was not to get whitewashed, and as soon as I won that first frame I settled down and was enjoying the whole match.
“That’s what I did last year to win it, so that might be the key, to just go out there and enjoy myself.”
Bingham promised wife Michelle a new home and a new car after scooping his life-changing victory.
As it turned out, he upgraded his wheels and Michelle was passed the keys to Bingham’s old car.
“Well, I got the new car,” Bingham said.
“I ended up getting an (Audi) RS6, and she had my (Audi) Q7 – that ain’t a bad hand-me-down. The new house is happening in the middle of May, and it’s got a nice snooker room at the bottom of the garden which is a win-win for both us.”

I can’t say I agree with Stuart here in either of those interviews.

To me the “greatest” debate is tedious and vain. If only World titles count, then why not Joe Davis rather than Hendry? After all he won the World Championship 15 times, didn’t he?  The structure of the game was different, the opposition as well. Yes, true, but the same could be said about Hendry, who was already a World Champion when the game was opened, who had won it six times when Ronnie was only 20, Williams and Higgins 21… and who, for whatever reason,  won only two majors after that despite being only 27 at the time.

The  simple thing is, all of Joe Davis, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Ronnie are greats of the game, all of them stamped their mark on their era, all of them were game changers during their time.

The other thing I disagree about is that the World Championship could be a procession for Ronnie. The World Championship is NEVER a procession for anyone, it’s a very long tournament, it’s a lot of frames over 17 days, it’s the elite of the game competing in it. It’s very,very hard to win, whoever you are.