Draw For First Two Days Of ManBetX Champion Of Champions Confirmed
The draw for the first two days of the ManBetX Champion of Champions has been made, with defending champion Shaun Murphy to open his defence in Group 1 against Jimmy Robertson on Monday, November 5.
The 16 player field is split into eight seeded players and eight unseeded players. The eight seeded players are headed by defending champion Shaun Murphy followed by the next seven players on the current World Ranking List.
The eight unseeded players were drawn at random to play a seeded player, with the first two days now scheduled. Due to the International Championship concluding in Daqing on Sunday evening less than 24 hours before the ManBetX Champion of Champions begins, the draw and schedule for the remaining two days of group play will be completed later in the week once the availability of more players is known.
Monday, November 5 Group 1
Shaun Murphy (1) vs. Jimmy Robertson
Ding Junhui (8) vs. Michael Georgiou
Tuesday, November 6 Group 4
Ronnie O’Sullivan (4) vs. Stuart Bingham
John Higgins (5) vs. Ryan Day
The ManBetX Champion of Champions features World Snooker tournament winners from the previous 12 months, including World Champion Mark Williams, UK Championship winner Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy, who will defend the title he won last November.
The tournament begins with four groups, each featuring a semi-final and final on the same day with the group winners progressing to the tournament semi-finals on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th November. Sunday’s final will be played over 19 frames with the winner taking home £100,000.
Jack Lisowski made back-to-back centuries in the last two frames as he came from 5-4 down to beat Martin Gould 6-5 at the International Championship.
Lisowski will now meet close friend Judd Trump in the quarter-finals in Daqing. It will be their fifth meeting in a ranking event within the past 20 months, Trump winning three of the previous four matches.
Gould came from 4-2 down today to lead 5-4 with a top break of 139, only for world number 21 Lisowski to finish superbly with runs of 103 and 106.
“He shut me out from 4-2 to 5-4 then I made two great breaks in the last two frames so I’m very happy with my performance,” said Lisowski after taking another step towards the top 16 in the race to the Masters. “It’s a lovely feeling in the last frame when you reach 70, you know you have won and you’re just potting the last few balls.
“The tables are playing so nice this week, the white ball goes exactly where you hit it, the cushions are lovely, the pockets are playing slightly generous because the conditions are so good. There has been a lot of high scoring but you still have to pot the balls.
“I played Judd at the English Open and it wasn’t a good game. Tomorrow I expect we’ll both be really good or rubbish. I don’t like playing him because he’s my best mate. We just have to ignore each other for three hours. We are used to it because we have been playing each other for years. I’ll probably go for breakfast with him and then after that we’ll stay apart until the match.”
Trump scored an impressive 6-1 win over Yan Bingtao with a top run of 104 and has now conceded just two frames in his three matches this week.
“Jack has been doing well recently so we are meeting a lot more,” said Trump. “If I don’t win a tournament then I’d want him to win it. But this time I want to push on. He has taken longer than me to break though but now he is reaching the later stages of every tournament and it’s only a matter of time before he wins one. There’s more pressure on me than him because everyone expects me to beat him every time. So in a way I have nothing to gain. Hopefully I can just go out there and relax.”
Mark Selby kept up his bid to win this title for a third consecutive year as he beat Stuart Carrington 6-3. From 3-2 down, world number one Selby won four frames in a row with top breaks of 85, 77 and 53. He now meets Neil Robertson or Yuan Sijun.
Martin O’Donnell thrashed David Gilbert 6-1 to reach a ranking quarter-final for the second time in his career – having done so for the first time at last month’s China Championship. World number 66 O’Donnell made breaks of 55, 59 and 64 as he earned a match with Ding Junhui or Matthew Stevens.
Matthew Stevens knocked home favourite Ding Junhui out of the International Championship in China, coming from 3-1 down to win 6-5 and reach the quarter-finals.
It was a bad day for Chinese players in Daqing as Ding, Yan Bingtao and Yuan Sijun were all knocked out at the last 16 stage.
Former UK and Masters champion Stevens has dropped to number 56 in the rankings but proved he can still compete on the big stage with a fine display against Ding. From 3-1 down, the 41-year-old Welshman knocked in breaks of 61, 67 and 127 to lead 5-4.
Ding made a 66 for 5-5 and had a clear chance in the decider but could only make 29. Stevens knocked in a long red to initiate a match-winning run of 63. He is through to the last eight of a ranking event for the first time since 2014.
“It’s a massive win for me,” said Stevens, who now faces Martin O’Donnell. “I had never beaten Ding before to to do so from 3-1 down in China gives me a lot of confidence. I haven’t played great this week but I’m still here. I still like the buzz out there, that’s what we play for.”
Ding said: “After the interval Matthew potted a lot of long reds and my safety wasn’t as good as his. He made the most of his chances. He’s in good enough form to win the tournament. It’s still too early for me to make an assessment for the season because I’ve only played two ranking tournaments.”
Neil Robertson scored a 6-4 win over teenager Yuan to set up a match with Mark Selby, who beat Stuart Carrington earlier in the day. Robertson trailed 4-3 and he was 72 points down in frame eight. But he got the snookers he needed, cleared for 4-4 and then finished the match in style with breaks of 127 and 125.
Australia’s Robertson, who won the Riga Masters earlier this season, said: “It was a huge frame at 4-3, Yuan was unlucky. Every time I play one of these young Chinese players I think he’ll be the next one to win a ranking event – there are so many of them and it’s exciting to see. They are technically amazing and nothing seems to bother them. I expect Yuan will fly through the rankings. He shows great sportsmanship and the match was played in a good spirit. The hard part for them is settling in the UK, playing in the qualifiers and the tournaments there.
“I’d love to push on and win four or five titles in a season, which is what the likes of O’Sullivan, Williams, Higgins and Selby have done, that’s what I need to do to make that next step up. I feel that myself and Ding have already done enough to establish ourselves as great players because we have come from different countries to live in the UK without any family with us. If the tour was based in Australia I would have won a lot more titles. People will never understand what it’s like to be an overseas player, that’s why I think myself and Ding have done amazing things for the game. We were the ones who broke the UK dominance of the sport.”
Ali Carter top scored with 132 in a 6-4 win over Sunny Akani to set up a match with Mark Allen, who saw off Alfie Burden 6-1 with top runs of 112 and 101.
Quarter-finals Mark Selby v Neil Robertson Judd Trump v Jack Lisowski Martin O’Donnell v Matthew Stevens Mark Allen v Ali Carter
I can only comment on the two matches I watched.
Judd played very well, he didn’t push the boat out, didn’t rush his shots and looked very focused. When he’s like that, he’s a joy to watch. Yan Bingtao never really settled in the match, Judd kept him under pressure from the word go, and, I guess, playing on home soil only added to this pressure.
Matthew Stevens played well in his match today, the best I have seen him play for many years. Often in recent years it seemed that he was looking for problems, taking a long time considering shots. Today he looked natural and fluent, which was great to see. Ding wasn’t at his best, but he wasn’t terrible either. Matthew’s long potting was excellent and that made the difference.
Selby is a fan of Leicester City and has close links with the football club, particularly since he won the 2016 World Championship on the same day that the Foxes won the Premier League title. The club’s owner Srivaddhanaprabha tragically died in a helicopter crash last Saturday.
After beating Robert Milkins 6-4 today with top breaks of 102 and 131, Selby said: “This week was always going to be tough for me, given what has happened in Leicester. I just need to try to deal with it, go out there and try to play as well as I can and maybe bring the trophy back for Vichai. Snooker is our job, you have to pick yourself up and carry on.
“People back home have been supporting me and telling me to try to win it. I have to try to stay focused because there is no point in playing if your head is not right. If I do lose I’l be getting home as fast as possible to pay my respects.”
Mark Allen made a rare break of 146 as he beat Hossein Vafaei 6-3. Northern Ireland’s Allen was runner-up to Selby in this event last year and will make the quarter-finals this time if he can beat Alfie Burden on Wednesday.
World number 12 Allen trailed Iran’s Vafaei 2-0 but hit back to win six of the next seven frames with runs of 142, 53, 54, 68, 78, 146 and 65. The 146 was the third of his career and puts him in line for the £3,000 high break prize.
“I started slowly today but dug in and scored heavily from 2-0 down,” said Allen. “The balls play nicely here and the conditions are good so it’s a chance to score heavily.
“I feel as if I should be competing for titles, especially given how much work I have been putting in on the table. It’s a tough school, there are a lot of good players around and everyone is sharp because there are so many events. I’m getting closer to the form I had when I won the Masters earlier this year, I have scored well this week.”
Stuart Carrington earned a match against Selby as he enjoyed a tremendous fight-back to beat Ian Burns 6-5. World number 48 Carrington was 5-1 down and needed a snooker on the last red in frame seven, but got it and cleared up for 5-2. He then rattled through the last four frames with 116, 76, 64 and 70.
Neil Robertson came from 4-2 down to beat close friend Joe Perry 6-5, making a 76 in the deciding frame. Home favourite Ding Junhui top scored with 112 in a 6-4 win over Zhao Xintong.
“I played ok today, hopefully I can play better tomorrow,” said Ding. “It’s still the early stage of the season and it hasn’t gone that well for me so far. Zhao is a brilliant player, he is very solid and making progress too. He has had a fantastic season so far and he will get the experience he needs.”
Judd Trump eased to a 6-1 win over Michael Holt while Yan Bingtao edged out Ryan Day 6-5 by coming from 55-0 down in the decider to clear with 64.
Martin Gould scored a 6-3 victory over Barry Hawkins while Jack Lisowski beat Marco Fu 6-3 with a top break of 112, which could prove a significant result in the race to the Masters.
As for what I saw …
Jack Lisowski played really well to beat Marco Fu who wasn’t playing badly at all himself.
Yan Bingtao was dominating the match against Ryan Day until frame 9. Then he had an opportunity to finish the job with a 6-3 win. He just needed to clear on the colours up to the blue. Incredibly, he missed a rather simple yellow. Ryan didn’t take advantage. Then Yan missed the match ball blue and left it. Incredibly again, Ryan missed it too, and left it … only for Yan to miss the match ball blue again. And again he left it. Ryan potted it, but immediately missed the pink, and left it… oly for Yan to miss another match ball, the third in a few minutes. This time Ryan made no mistake. It was 5-4 to Yan instead of 6-3. After this extraordinary end of frame Ryan went on to win the next frame to force a decider, and was first in too in the final frame. At that stage I thought that Yan’s head was gone. Not so. Quite extraordinary, really.
Robert Milkins made Mark Selby work for his win. Neither player was at his best, but neither was terrible. It was a decent match … bizarelly, my thought at the end of it was that Robert could have won it, had he been a bit better with the rest. He missed about every pot he attempted with the rest and there were a few!
Finally, the 146 by Mark Allen was his third, and that’s a record … that he now shares with Ronnie.
The first two days of the International Championship brought some surprising results, with a number of big names being beaten. Probably the biggest “shock” was Kyren Wilson’s defeat by 6-2 to Yuan Sijun. Yuan is a good player, but to be honest, Kyren hasn’t been at his best by any means since his defeat to Ronnie in the Shanghai Masters semi-finals. At the time he said that he was feeling tired and he probably still is because he hasn’t really had a proper break after a very busy and succesful start of the season.
The two English Open finalists, Stuart Bingham and Mark Davis also were beaten. And so was Mark Williams who was poor against Sunny Akani. Williams, it has to be said, has been celebrating and not been really practicing since he won the World title last May. It was always going to catch up at some point. Anthony McGill, Liang Wenbo and Ben Woollaston are also out. With John Higgins and Shaun Murphy failing to qualify, this tournament starts to look fairly open.
For some of those who did win, it was far from plain sailing.
Mark Selby really struggled against Li Yuan who definitely should have won their held-over match. The shots he took on the last blue and pink were baffling and can only be explained by the pressure he was under. Mark however appeared to have been really affected by the tragedy that hit his favourite football team Leicester FC. Today he played much better although, TBF, Ken Doherty, just back from Hull, offered little resistance.
Ding played terrible against Robin Hull and was only good in patches against Zhang Anda. He looked unhappy out there all along. Robin Hull already made it clear that this season will be his last as he’s suffering from a condition that causes tremors in his body and arms and it badly affects his ability to play. Yesterday he missed all sorts and it was really sad to watch.
Judd Trump won very easily against an out of sorts McManus, who was suffering from a small hand injury, but one that clearly made him uneasy on the shots. But the fact remains that Judd repetitively left him an open table, one that a sharper player would have probably cleared the way the balls were situated. If Judd wants to win this title, as he claimed he does, he will need to keep it tighter.
Defending champion Mark Selby won a 42-minute deciding frame to beat Li Yuan 6-5 in the first round of the International Championship.
World number one Selby needed four hours and 17 minutes in total to shrug off a determined opponent in Daqing.
China’s Li, ranked 81, came from 4-3 down to lead 5-4 but Selby took frame ten with a break of 58 then won the decider by potting the final blue. He now meets Ken Doherty in the last 64.
World Champion Mark Williams and home favourite Ding Junhui both scored first round wins at the £775,000 world ranking event.
Ding had a tough test against Finland’s Robin Hull, winning 6-4. Breaks of 82 and 71 helped Ding build a 4-2 lead, before Hull fought back to 4-4. A superb 128 saw Ding regain the lead, and he finished the match in frame ten, earning a last 64 meeting with Zhang Anda.
Williams eased to a 6-1 win over Zhang Jiankang, knocking in runs of 92, 81 and 106. He now meets Sunny Akani.
Chinese teenager Yuan Sijun beat Kyren Wilson 6-2, making breaks of 62 and 70. English Open champion Stuart Bingham suffered a surprise 6-3 reverse against Eden Sharav, whose top run was 85.
Yan Bingtao top scored with 104 in a 6-0 win over Jimmy White while Ali Carter saw off Kurt Maflin 6-0 with a top run of 90.
World Champion Mark Williams suffered a surprise 6-3 defeat against Sunny Akani in the last 64 of the International Championship in Daqing.
World number two Williams was outplayed by his Thai opponent who goes through to the last 32 to face Zhou Yuelong. Akani, ranked 65th, has scored some fine results over the past year, notably reaching the last 16 of the 2017 UK Championship, but this is perhaps his best result yet.
Welshman Williams led 3-2 but 23-year-old Akani reeled off the last four frames with top breaks of 108, 101 and 62.
“I was poor all the way through, I don’t know if I can play much worse than that,” said Williams. “Sunny deserved to win. He made some good breaks but he is very slow and methodical.
“Snooker is a tough game and you get what you deserve. I have put nothing into it so I’m getting nothing out. I know I should be practising, but whether I will or not, I don’t know.”
There was no such trouble for Mark Selby as he beat Ken Doherty 6-0 and he will now gain ground on Williams in the race to retain his world number one position. Selby, aiming to win this title for the third year in a row, fired breaks of 100, 55, 124, 117 and 52 as he set up a meeting with Robert Milkins.
Fight-back of the day came from Mark Allen as he recovered deficits of 4-0 and 5-2 to beat Liam Highfield 6-5. In a high-quality match, Allen knocked in breaks of 120, 127, 125 and 85. He now plays Iran’s Hossein Vafaei, who beat Graeme Dott 6-3 with a top run of 136.
Allen, who was runner-up in this event last year, said: “If I had lost 6-1 I would have had no complaints, Liam was awesome at the start. He completely froze me out. At 4-0 I was just trying to be patient because I didn’t even know how I was playing, it wasn’t as if I had missed chances.
“Intervals can change matches and I scored really well to get back into the match. I have reached two finals in this event and lost them both so it’s good and bad memories. It would be nice to go one better this week.”
Ding Junhui was pushed hard in a Chinese derby with Zhang Anda but crucially came from 60 points down to win the ninth frame on a respotted black to lead 5-4, then sealed a 6-4 victory in the next. Ding now plays Zhao Xintong, who fired breaks of 104, 137 and 116 to beat James Wattana 6-5.
Neil Robertson was in fine form in a 6-1 thrashing of Matthew Selt, compiling runs of 55, 65, 82, 73, 113 and 55. Marco Fu came from 2-0 and 4-3 down to edge out Andrew Higginson 6-5.
Michael Holt also showed his break-building skills as he made 107, 140 and 106 in a 6-4 win over Luo Honghao. Judd Trump top scored with 123 in a 6-0 whitewash over Alan McManus.
As for Ronnie, he was on twitter and, apparently, watching the snooker. Once again he stated that he’s not ready to play in poor conditions in qualifiers, neither to live on the road. His feeling clearly is that Worldsnooker is sacrificing quality to quantity, and “cutting the corners”. He believes that the players deserve better. He also said that he will probably not play in the German Masters, but will be there as a pundit.
Regarding quality, there was a record number of centuries during those two days. Joe Perry reflected that the conditions are good, the tables are playing well – it’s cold and dry in Daqing – but that the pockets are “massive” which is a “leveller” (sic). To me, a lot of what Barry Hearn does, including “levellers” like favouring the shorter formats, forcing players to play faster, making the Shootout a ranking event, or having an event like the Championship League Snooker, are aimed at one thing: to please his main source of sponsoring, the gambling/betting industry. Levellers tend to make match outcomes less predictable and that suits them to the core.
In a couple of hours the Seniors UK Championship 2018 will start, and once again, Stephen Hendry will pick up his cue and try to win. I thought that this is a good time to share my thoughts about his biography “Me and the table”
The first thing I’ll say about Stephen Hendry’s biography is what it is not: you won’t find any detailed analysis of any match played by the great man, neither will you find much about the most significant shots he played. If this is what you are after, this book isn’t for you.
What this book IS though, is a recollection of Stephen Hendry’s psychological and emotional journey from the carefree debuts on the small table he got as a Christmas present, to winning everything, to not winning anything and, eventually to retiring, and going to promote and play 8-balls Chinese Pool in China. Stephen Hendry takes us with him through the kaleidoscope of his emotions: excitement, hope, realisation of his own talent, reaching his goals, the years of invincibility, the first doubts, the denial, the pain, the depression, and finally a kind of acceptance. It’s quite engrossing and certainly portrays a man very different from the “Iceman” image he carried around for most of his career. Reading this book you won’t learn much new about his matches, but you will certainly come to know and understand the human person behind the cue much better.
Stephen Hendry also opens up about some aspects of his private life, and his relationship with his manager and some of his fellow players.
The seven-times world champion on his duels with Davis, Higgins, White and O’Sullivan and how his famed mental strength disintegrated leaving him no choice but to quit
“It was a mixture of embarrassment, anger, frustration, sadness, everything,” Stephen Hendry says as he remembers how his dominance of snooker unravelled into, in his mind, a shambling wreck of a game. When the end came, in the quarter-finals of the 2012 world championships, Hendry was so besieged by psychological demons “there was nothing positive left”.
Hendry’s favourite sportsmen are Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Nick Faldo and AP McCoy and he was once as imperious as they had been. He holds the record for the most world titles, with all seven being won in the 1990s, and he was world No 1 for eight successive seasons. But the great champions feel it most when vulnerability takes over.
“It started about 12 years before the end,” Hendry says of his slow decline. “Of course it’s psychological and, when you strike a cue ball, you’re supposed to accelerate through the ball. But as you tighten up you end up decelerating. By 2012 my game was shot. You’re sitting on your chair watching players leagues below you play shots you can’t. That destroyed me.”
In his new book, which provides graphic insight into this implosion, Hendry accepts that people compare his condition to a golfer’s ‘yips’. He scrunches up his face. “That trivialises it. I hate the word because it’s much more than that.”
It resulted in humiliation for Hendry. He had to qualify for his final world championship by playing at the Institute of Sport in Sheffield instead of his beloved Crucible. “It felt degrading. That’s no disrespect to other players but I had owned the Crucible for a decade with seven wins and two finals.”
Hendry ground his way through qualifying and in the first round against Stuart Bingham at the Crucible he sank a 147 maximum. Hendry had already decided to retire and become an ambassador for 8-ball pool in China. “I got to the Crucible having flown to China and back, with one day there to meet my new employers. Somehow the 147 came about. It was amazing because, of the 36 shots, only six were played properly. My game had debilitated so far it was mostly shots I wasn’t hitting properly. I’d given every shot a pint of blood to get it in the pocket. The outsider was probably saying, ‘That’s amazing.’ Inside, it felt horrible.”
He beat John Higgins in the second round but, 3-0 down to Stephen Maguire in the quarters, it was over. “Clearing up in the fourth frame, I knew if I didn’t get perfectly on the blue I’d leave myself this pink. So consequently, on the brown, you’re thinking about two shots later and ‘I can’t play it.’ I was finished.”
He lost 13-2 to Maguire and retired but Hendry had suffered worse moments. “The lowest was losing [to Robert Milkins] in China. It was such an embarrassment. In China they called me the emperor of snooker but I kept losing in the first round. I broke down. It’s the only time I’ve cried from losing. Milkins is a journeyman, someone you should never lose to.”
Hendry does not mean to sound cruel towards Milkins – but he is intent on describing, with crushing honesty, how far he fell. “I loved being the best player in the world. There was no pressure staying there. I’ve heard [current World No 1] Mark Selby say: ‘It’s hard being the target man.’ I loved it.”
He admired the way in which Woods, at his most swaggering, rarely looked surprised or elated when winning. “I really empathise with that. When you get a trophy why go jumping and crying? Winning’s a great feeling but everything else is an anticlimax. I really had to force a smile because winning was my job.”
In his book Hendry details the way in which his manager, Ian Doyle, controlled him. Doyle even made Hendry break up with his girlfriend, Mandy, because he believed the young Scot should be consumed by snooker. Later, when he had finally married Mandy, Hendry horrified Doyle by mixing with other players. But Hendry believes now that losing his Ice Man image undermined him.
“Without a doubt. In the 90s I never socialised with other players. That changed. I wanted to spend more time in the players’ lounge. I became friendly with Mark Williams. There’s no doubt it affected my invincibility. Ronnie O’Sullivan is still the best player in the world on his day now and he doesn’t mix with the players. You need that coldness. But I missed out as a teenager and thought: ‘I want to enjoy being with people and going out for dinner.’ It was to my detriment as a competitive animal.”
During his 26-year career Hendry straddled different eras and faced a range of compelling players from Alex Higgins to O’Sullivan. He describes how drink once ran through the game. “Jimmy White and the others would have half a lager while playing. Bill Werbeniuk had to start drinking four hours before a match. He had this condition where he either took beta blockers, which were banned, or alcohol to calm his heart rate. If he had a match at 10 in the morning, he got up at six to start drinking beer. Alex obviously liked to drink. Sometimes we practised and he used the table to hold himself up. But he still played unbelievable snooker.”
Higgins was initially kind to Hendry but “it turned to resentment. He directed it at Steve Davis and then me because Alex believed he made snooker. In a way he was right. But when he wasn’t as good as us he couldn’t cope.”
Hendry was still disappointed when many younger players failed to travel with him to Belfast for Higgins’s funeral in 2010. He feels even deeper affection for White, his boyhood hero, whom he beat in four of his seven world championship final victories.
“He’d get introduced and 95% of the audience would go mental. I’d walk down the stairs to the odd boo. I liked it – being the bad one, the one who’s going to beat him. But you’d never hear a bad word from Jimmy about anybody. Higgins used to be nasty – but if Jimmy said anything, it was in jest. And he took losing with such grace.”
Hendry was still a teenager when Davis demolished him in every frame of a six-game exhibition. “I hated it, losing to Steve night after night but I would do the same in his position. I’d be willing to kill the young upstart every night.”
Davis did not compliment Hendry when the Scot finally beat him – and Hendry shared that mentality. “I’d practised with John Higgins for years and when he became world champion I couldn’t congratulate him. A normal person says: ‘Well done.’ I couldn’t. It didn’t matter if it was my best friend, my brother, I didn’t want anyone else to win. It still hurts me, watching people win at the Crucible. Steve let it go years ago. That’s why he played longer than me. He treated it as a day out. I could never do that.”
Hendry and O’Sullivan have fallen out occasionally but now “we get on”. Mates is probably too strong a word because Ronnie is complex. There are times you’ll be his best friend and times he’ll virtually not say hello to you.”
There is, instead, respect and rivalry. “Ronnie’s the best player I’ve ever seen and people forget I actually played him. I was obviously on my way down and he gave me some hammerings.”
Hendry responds emphatically when asked what would happen if he and O’Sullivan met each other at their very peak. “I believe I would win. If we had a four-session match, where things change, I would back myself every time. I was stronger mentally. But he’s more talented than me, making shots left-handed and sinking a 147 in 4½ minutes. My fastest maximum would be over nine minutes.”
Flying to China 15 times a year, to promote Chinese pool, and working as a UK snooker pundit, Hendry admits that, “compared to the 1990s life now is dull. Back then you were the world’s best player. Nothing could touch you. I’ve not got a bad life now but I have days where I think: ‘What is there to look forward to? What’s the buzz?’”
He takes solace in his belief that, as arguably the greatest snooker player in history, his world championship record of victories remains safe. “I can’t see anyone beating it. O’Sullivan’s got five. He can do it if he keeps playing. But there are four others playing at that level. At his absolute best Ronnie wins. But he’s getting to that age where he’s not doing it often. He’ll talk all sorts of bullshit, saying he doesn’t care about the record. But deep down he wants to beat me while, of course, I want to hold on to the record.”
Hendry sounds, briefly, like a perennial winner again. But he is too likeable now not to give in to honesty as, considering his involvement in a new senior circuit, he admits his game is still ruined. “I’ve played it a few times and in practice I’m fine because no one’s watching. But once it starts I’m totally embarrassed by my shots. It’s horrible.”
The 49-year-old former world champion laughs ruefully. He then shakes his head when asked if he will ever free himself of these demons. “There’re probably people out there who think they can cure me but it’s a mental thing. At exhibitions I have a couple of drinks before I play to relax. It works sometimes but that’s not a way out. I have to live with it now.”
I really liked the book, but can’t help wondering whether Stephen Hendry would have been able to re-invent himself the way Ronnie has done with the help of Steve Peters. In his biography, he tells us that he turned to various people in order to get help. But the help he was looking for was mainly aimed at changing his game in order to recapture his confidence and invincibility feeling. He wasn’t ready , or able, to try to change his own mentality nor his own expectations. “I didn’t want to go there” is a sentence that comes around a few times in this book.
I certainly recommend every snooker fan to read this book.