Today is the last day of the last 16 round, as I write, Ronnie is trailing Barry Hawkins by 9-7; they will play to a conclusion tonight. The press is already full of “shock exit” ramble.
First of all the match isn’t over yet, Ronnie was 9-7 down to Joe Perry at this stage in 2014, and won the match 13-11. That said, at the time, Ronnie had not been playing that well in the two first sessions and was able to raise his game in the last. The question is, can he do the same here? Because the truth is, Ronne has been playing very well, and he still trails; to put it in the words of Hector Nunns:
O’Sullivan threw the kitchen sink at the world No. 11, making breaks of 139, 88, 103, 68, 118, 82, 89 and 48 in the match.
But Hawkins dug deep to make breaks of 54, 102, 74 and 65 breaks while also winning some of the scrappier frames to stay ahead.
In fairness, this has been an absolutely brilliant match up to now, both players playing at a very, very high standard, and it’s a shame one of them will go out so early.
Some fans suggest that Barry will feel the pressure. I doubt it. It is true that he hasn’t beaten Ronnie in 14 years, but, remember, this is a man who has been at the SF stage here, in the last three years, a player who stood with Ronnie in the 2013 final and forced him to be at his absolute best to win. He won’t go away and he knows that if Ronnie is a notch below his best, he can and will beat him, and it could well happen tonight.
I don’t know how Ronnie will feel if he loses, he will be disappointed certainly, but he also should be able to assess how well himself and Barry are playing, there is very little between them. At the table, he has been focused and has applied himself. He’s been much better on all accounts than last year … and yet … But that’s sport and he will know that too.
Also in the news are articles about Ronnie allegedly “calling” to quit the Crucible.
Here again a bit of caution is needed before getting all mad …
These are two articles on the subject, written by the same person, Hector Nunns, a journalist I totally respect:
The difference in tone is immediately apparent. The title of the first one suggests that Ronnie is promoting the idea to leave the Crucible whilst the second article rather suggests that he sees it as an inevitable move given snooker development and the shortage of tickets available for the World Championship due to the Crucible theatre limited capacity. How come when it’s the same guy writing both? Well I can see only one explanation: the first one is to be published by a paper and it has to be “selling” otherwise the editor won’t have it, the second is on his own site where he is facing no commercial constraints. I know which version I trust, but unfortunately chances are that the general public will read only one, and it’s likely to be the first because this is the general press as opposed to a specialized site.
Now, about the question itself, whether the Crucible is still the venue the World Championship needs, I, like most fans, would be gutted to see it go. It’s an icon, it has history. But when you leave emotions and feelings aside, the truth is, Ronnie has a point about the limited capacity.
Last week, on inside-snooker , Hector has published two articles, well worth reading. One is about the “viagogo issue” and the other about the disappearance of the season tickets. It is clear, reading those, that we are in a situation where there IS a shortage of tickets, and that opens the door to speculators, to people who will buy the most “valuable” tickets early, and speculate on mounting demand to make profit, possibly huge profit, at the expense of the fans desperate to be there where it happens. Those people don’t care about the sport, they don’t care about loyalty or the fans, they want money. Of course, the human impact can’t be compared, but it’s just the same mentality as the one that leads to exploits the shortage of housing to make maximum profit, even if it means keeping houses empty, whilst thousand have to live on the street or squats. Is it what we want?