Crucible 2017 – Semi finals aftermath

After 15 days of battles, a rollercoaster of emotions … here we are: the defending Champion Mark Selby will face John Higgins, a veteran with 4 World titles to his name. Exactly ten years ago, they met in the final, and John won. He was in his prime, Mark was still very green. Now Mark is in his prime and John in the automn of his career.

Ronnie was in the studio with Jimmy White, Colin Murray and Ronnie Wood, but without Dolly this time. Click on the image to watch and listen to their punditry session yesterday evening.

WC20172Ronnies&JimmyESStudio

And here is Ding’s press conference after the match:

Ding is a very nice person and I really hope he wins the World title one day. He has an awful lot of expectations on his shoulders. He’s almost a god in China, but he’s still the humble and rather shy boy I first met more than 10 years ago.

The Mark Selby v Ding semi final was as good snooker as you will ever see, especially the third session. People who think that Mark Selby is boring, either don’t watch or don’t understand what he’s doing. And the same goes for Ding who some also brand as “boring”. Here is that third session:

The Higgins v Hawkins semi final was disappointing. Hawkins never found any sort of form and although he battled hard, never really challenged Higgins who wasn’t playing that great himself, but of course he didn’t need to. Would he have been able to up his game if Hawkins had grown stronger? Maybe.

Now, how do I see the final going? Well if both play the way they did to get there, there is only one winner: Mark Selby and it won’t even be close. But I suspect that Higgins will up his game and raise to the occasion. Will he be able to beat Selby on form? I doubt it and I hope not. I used to like John Higgins, and I admire his game, but after what happened in 2010 – and, remember, I was in the media room when this NOTW scandal unfolded – he’s lost my respect.

Crucible 2017 – Ronnie back to the ES Studio

WC2017ROSEurosport-1

Ronnie on twitter:

Back with me old mucca jimmy, fouldsy and col at Eurosport. Live at 6:30

Apparently, going by the reactions on social media the gang is doing a great job, but, like many mainland European I can’t watch the Eurosport UK coverage.

I will try to bring as many snippets as I possibly can though …

This is a first one, with this tweet by Eurosport UK:

is a man of many talents!

And Ronnie reveals what he said to Ding when they embraced

Enjoy!

Barry Hearns announcements

As he always does during the World Championship, Barry Hearn brought some champagne to the media room yesterday, as well as a number of important announcements. 

Wednesday 26 Apr 2017 06:40PM

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn gave a press conference at the Crucible today with a series of announcements about snooker’s future.

Here’s a summary:

  • Next season’s prize money will go to £12 million. This compares to £3.5 million just seven years ago. When Hearn took over World Snooker he gave a guarantee to the WPBSA of certain prize money levels that would be hit once commercial rights were acquired. This year we are £25 million in advance of those guarantees.
  • At the end of next year’s Q School we will launch a Challenge Tour. This will be a series of ten events available to players who have shown ambition to be a professional snooker player by entering Q School. The winner and runner up will get a tour card.
  • For the first time in the history of snooker we are abolishing entry fees for ranking events. Once you own a tour card, that membership gives you the right to compete in events. Entry fees were once a key part of our income, but this is no longer the case. We will write off the £500,000 we previously received from entry fees and this will save every player £4000-£5000 a year. This only applies to tour players. Prize money is going to £12 million, and there will be increases in the early rounds of tournaments.
  • This year’s World Championship prize money is £1.75 million with the winner getting £375,000. Next year it will go to £1.968 million with the winner getting £425,000 and in 2019 the prize money will rise to £2.25 million with the winner getting £500,000. This is a statement to show snooker is a major sport.
  • A major new deal has been agreed with CCTV, China’s national TV station, for the next ten years. We are currently in discussions about fundamental changes to the prize money structures in China. We will not be having more than five events in China, but those events will have significantly changed prize money structures. This comes as a result of people asking if the World Championship should move to China, and we kept it in Sheffield because of the history at the Crucible. But China can create history, and we will support that.
  • Our next target is to see £15 million of prize money, and then to hit £20 million. We will continue to maximise the commercial value of our sport to maximise the reward for players.

So what do I make of this?

Abolishing the entry fees is an excellent move. It will definitively make playing on the main tour more affordable. The cost of it has been a real hurdle for a number of young aspiring players whose families were not in a position to support them (enough) financially.

The Challenge Tour is good news too, however I’m not sure that restricting it to players who have entered the Q-School is ideal. Why not open it to all amateurs who have entered an event that carries a tour card opportunity? I’m thinking amateur World Championships for instance?

Increased prize money in early rounds is moving in the right direction: you can’t base a global tour solely on the top 16.

 

 

 

Crucible 2017 – Ronnie exits the tournament in the QF

Ronnie’s run at the Crucible this year came to an end, as he lost by 13-10 to Ding Junhui.

It was a very high quality match as the following statistics prove: there were 23 breaks over 50 in the match, 10 by Ronnie, 13 by Ding, with only one frame not featuring one. Between them they had 5 centuries, 128, 120 and 117 by Ding, 104 and 146 by Ronnie. This 146 is currently the tournament high break.

The match was played in great spirit, Ding and Ronnie are close friends, and, despite the defeat, Ronnie enjoyed it. Ding did the damage in session two: he played incredibly well in that session, his long potting was extremely reliable, his safety rock solid and his break building close to perfection. During that session Ronnie was outplayed, and very sportively, applauding Ding’s best shots whilst stuck in his chair. In the first and third session there was very little to separate the players, Ronnie being marginally the better one.

Here is the report on Worldsnooker:

Wednesday 26 Apr 2017 07:13PM

Ding Junhui has completed a thrilling 13-10 defeat of Ronnie O’Sullivan to clinch his place in the last four of the Betfred World Championship.

The win for China’s top player ensures a third Crucible semi-final and sets up a repeat of last year’s final, where he lost out 18-14 to Mark Selby.

Ding’s previous meetings with the five-time World Champion O’Sullivan saw him trail 10-2 in terms of head to head record. However, on this occasion the 30-year-old’s third win over the Rocket was sealed in a poised and confident manner. Ding looked at ease, making 13 breaks over 50.

The Rocket’s bid to win a sixth world title and draw level Ray Reardon and Steve Davis will have to wait for another year. However, despite not lifting the sport’s biggest crown, he can reflect on a season where he made history by clinching a record seventh Masters title in January.

A blistering session yesterday evening from Ding put him in poll position to book a semi-final berth this afternoon. He held four frame cushion with the score at 10-6 when they got underway today.

O’Sullivan immediately applied the pressure by taking the first frame of the session. The Rocket then cranked up the heat further with a break of 97 to move within two at 10-8. However, 12-time ranking winner Ding showed no signs of nerves as he responded to O’Sullivan’s charge with a  contribution of 69 to claim the 19th frame.

There was then an extraordinary piece of break building craft from O’Sullivan.  He compiled a quick fire run which fell one point short of the maximum break.  After potting 12 reds with blacks, he fell out of position and was forced to take the pink, eventually clearing up with the third 146 break in Crucible history.

That took the scores to 11-9 at the interval, but when they returned Ding regained control of the match with a tremendous contribution of 87. He then looked set to clear up and secure the win. However, after stringing together 63 points, his attempt to go into the pack left only a tricky ball tight to the cushion to go at. Ding missed and O’Sullivan held his nerve to clear with a break of 73 to extend the match.

It could have been a hammer blow for the world number four. However, he immediately regained his composure and produced a break of 117 to reach the last four with a 13-10 victory. The pair embraced in an emotional moment after Ding deposited the final ball.

Ding remarked: “I played great. I kept my form from the first frame to the last frame and all match I tried put Ronnie under pressure. I don’t know if he felt it, but I tried to do it. I don’t have a good record against Ronnie. Every time I had chances I used to think too much about it, but this time it was quite easy.

“I didn’t know that the score was enough until people were clapping and I realised it was over. It was feeling good to play well every frame. Ronnie just said I look a different player, I’m looking stronger and he knows what happened. Every time I play him I’m really thankful to him, he is a top man and to be like him, you have to work hard.

“I’m proud to have support from Ronnie, my family, the people of Sheffield and China. I just try to do the best I can and this is my dream from when I was a child. Every year I am here and try to win titles, from last year I came through the qualifying to try and win the title, and this year I have more confidence.

“Mark Selby is number one and playing well at the moment. He is always favourite to win any tournament. He has had a good season but I have met him twice in finals this season and we have both won once. This is a big game for us.

O’Sullivan remained upbeat after the loss and emphasised his love for the sport, as well as paying tribute to Ding.

O’Sullivan said: “As I was coming off it felt really emotional. I’m quite an emotional person anyway. It was nice, he’s a special lad and a beautiful guy. I know his family really well, so I know he comes from a good stock, he hasn’t got a bad bone in his body. He wants to win this title so bad. Ten years on from our match at the Masters where he was in tears, he’s hugging me and beating me. Last time it was me beating and hugging him. It’s a decade on and he’s in a great place, I wish him all the best.

“I’ve never been one for chasing records, I won’t stop playing just because I’m not winning tournaments. I’ll just keep playing because I love playing. I’ve had the best year of my life and I’ve not won many tournaments,” said the 41-year-old O’Sullivan. “I love what I do, why would I not do it because I’m not winning tournaments? All the stuff that comes with snooker is the bonus, the real love is just getting the cue out of your case.

And some more pictures, thanks to Tai Chengzhe

Videos of interest:

The match

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Ronnie’s presser:

Ronnie features in itv documentary Paragon

Ronnie will feature in itv documentary Paragon, scheduled tomorrow at 10:40 pm (UK time)

He tweeted about it yesterday evening

Andy grant, world record holder 10k amputee. Great documentary on Wednesday. Paragon.

ITV REPORT
25 April 2017 at 10:24am

Running has replaced medication for me, says Ronnie O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan features in the ITV documentary Paragon.Photo: ITV

Ronnie O’Sullivan says he uses running rather than anti-depressants to give him a release from pressure and anxieties in a new ITV documentary.

The snooker legend speaks in PARAGON (ITV, 10.40pm Wednesday) which focuses on the story of Royal Marines Commando Andy Grant, who was on patrol in Afghanistan when he suffered 27 injuries after an IED was detonated.

After undergoing the amputation of his right leg, he sets out on a journey to become the world’s fastest amputee over 10k. In the documentary he takes advice from icons like Ronnie, Jamie Carragher and Scott Quinnell.

Ronnie tells him: “When I got into running, it kind of was like a release from all of the pressure and the anxieties that I was going through.”

Grant
Andy Grant and Ronnie O’Sullivan talk openly on Paragon – this Wednesday on ITV, 10.40pm. Credit: ITV

“And I’d been on medication and bits and pieces to try and control those anxieties… I found with running, and I was never a fan of taking anti-depressants anyway, so to find running and realise that running could take [the] place of a tablet, I just thought, ‘It’s up to me now whether I want the easy route or the one that’s a bit more effort, rather than dishing out pills or tablets.’

“You know, go out for a walk, go out for a run. Find a partner, commitment, and watch your life get better – watch your perspective on life improve. And that’s what running gave me, it gave me that outlet to kind of get rid of those negative thoughts or whatever was going on.”

“A lot of my success on the table is the fact that I found running, and that’s why I say it’s so important to me. Healthy body and healthy mind is what makes champions.”

The programme documents Andy’s story in Afghanistan, the injuries he suffered, meets the surgeon who amputated his leg, Andy talks about his road to recovery, and it shows the advice he takes from friends and icons like Jamie Carragher, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Scott Quinnell, along with the training and the run itself.

  • Watch PARAGON on ITV 10.40pm Wednesday 26th April
Last updated Tue 25 Apr 2017

Check the link for the trailer video

Crucible 2017 – QFs preview and press blunders

With only one last 16 match to be played to a conclusion, and plenty of time on my hands thanks to two early finishes this afternoon, I decided to write a bit of a QFs preview after all …

Mark Selby v Neil Robertson or Marco Fu 

I wasn’t particularly impressed with Mark Selby’s form up to now, but then, 1. I didn’t watch every ball he played, in fact I probably watched his worst session, the second of his last 16 match, 2. he did more than enough anyway and we all know how he can up his game when he needs to. Regarding Marco Fu and Neil Robertson, very little if anything separates them, and the current 8-8 scoreline reflects exactly that. Do they play well? Yes. Do they look unbeatable? No. So what do I make of this match? Well this will be the one revealing exactly how sharp Mark Selby is. If he is on form, there is only one winner, the defending champion. Between Marco and Neil I feel that, on form, Marco is most likely to cause Mark Selby problems. Predicted winner: Mark Selby.

Ronnie v Ding Junhui

Both of them played very well and looked focused in the last 16. It’s  very difficult to call a winner here, based on what we have seen so far. History favours Ronnie who has won 8 of their 9 encounters in main professional events (non-league) and whose only defeat to Ding came in 2006 … Of course Ding has matured as a player and a man  and reaching the final at the Crucible last year will give him confidence. Yet, I think Ronnie is the favourite in this one. Predicted winner: Ronnie

John Higgins v Kyren Wilson

John Higgins played impressively well against Mark Allen to reach this stage. Kyren Wilson may not have impressed as much, but he did beat Stuart Bingham fair and square and it came down to sheer will to win and keeping his calm and focus through the battle. Does he have a chance. Yes, definitely. Is he favourite, no, probably not, although Higgins hasn’t been the most consistent player through the season and has shown vulnerability under pressure at times. Would I love to see Kyren win? Oh yes. He’s the only under 30 player remaining in the field. Predicted winner: John Higgins

Stephen Maguire v Barry Hawkins

Now this is a clash of styles and personalities. Maguire can be absolutely brilliant but he can also be quite volatile and is prone to surrender to frustration when things go against him. Hawkins is solid, very solid, not spectacular but strong, in his game – one of the best all-round games on the tour – and mentally. He will try to the last ball whatever is thrown at him and he has a very good record at the Crucible over the last years. Therefore I’ll side with him. Predicted winner: Barry Hawkins

Other than that the media provided some bizarre pieces …

Mark Allen gave this post-match interview after his defeat to John Higgins only to claim that some of the things he said there were in jest after people raised doubts about his work ethic. I’ll leave it to everyone to make their own opinion …

The Daily Star published this article (maybe edited by now), allegedly by Hector Nunns. Which triggered this reaction on twitter

DailyStarBlunder

Tai is the assistant press officer at WPBSA and in charge of media when it comes to the Chinese press. Hector is a journalist I respect totally for the honest way he covers the sport. When I first read the article I was nonplussed: this is indeed not at all like the Ding Junhui I know. But going by this twitter snippet, it seems that the editor didn’t think that Hector’s piece was catchy enough and added some spice of his own… I totally loathe this type of press, and such twisted articles were the reason I started recording the players pressers.

Fans form an opinion on players based on the image the media give of them. Most members of the media I met are great guys doing their job properly, but I’m afraid it’s often the most sensationalist ones, the tiny minority, who catch the general public attention. And it sticks to players image for years. Shame!

Crucible 2017 – Mid way into the last 16 …

We are two days and a half into the last 16, with two more days to play, and here is how things stand.

We already know 4 of our 8 quarter finalists: Ronnie, Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Kyren Wilson. In the qf Ronnie will play Ding, Kyren Wilson will play John Higgins.

I have already covered the Ronnie v Shaun Murphy match  and I want to stress again that despite the previous comments and the needle, Shaun was very gracious in defeat, both in his postmatch interview and on social media.

What about the other matches:

Ding Junhui 13-12 Liang Wenbo

This was an incredibly high scoring match, with 22 breaks over 50, 12 from Liang, 10 from Ding. It was an attacking fest, very entertaining, played in great spirit, with the players embracing at the end of the match. Now that could be Ding’s undoing as Liang seems to suffer from a very nasty cough! Seriously, it came down to the mental strength in the end. Liang lead 12-11 but Ding remained calm and composed. The crazy shot Liang took and missed in the decider tells the story …

You can watch the decider here:

John Higgins 13-9 Mark Allen

This was another very high quality match and Mark Allen will be gutted. He scored 11 breaks over 50, but won only 9 frames, scores more points and potted more balls but still lost the match. John Higgins made 7 breaks over 50 himself . The key frames were frames 14 and 18. In frame 17 Mark Allen made a break of 70, failed to pot frame ball, left a possible 75 on the table  and John Higgins cleared with 72. In frame 18, Mark lead with 58, had a horrible kick, missed a red, and John Higgins, again, stole the frame with 63. That is John’s big strength: taking the frames he should have lost. Had Mark been able to make it 9-9 in that 18th frame we could have seen a different story. More than once this season John has been vulnerable when his opponent got on top, but if they leave him off the hook, they are doomed. The way that 18th frame went looked like it took the stuffing out of a very frustrated Allen. He too went for a very questionable “last” shot in the last frame…

Kyren Wilson 13-10 Stuart Bingham

I can’t really comment on this one as I didn’t watch it … Going by the stats it was a good match too. I didn’t expect Kyren to win it, not because he’s not good enough, but until now he didn’t have the best of seasons, lots of up and downs,  and Stuart is a more experienced player. He will now face John Higgins. Can he beat John? Most think it’s unlikely, but you never know. The pressure will be on John, he’s the one expected to win, that might play in Kyren’s favour. And one thing Kyren doesn’t lack is bottle when it comes to the business end of an important match. Just remember how he held himself together when he won his first raking title, the Shanghai Masters 2015: he beat Judd Trump in a decider having been pegged back from 7-3, 8-4 and 9-7 up.