All-time top 10: Who are snooker’s greatest long potters?
Where to start with this one?
Well, maybe, with this question: how do you define excellence in long potting? It’s not as straightforward as it reads.
Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, the two players topping this list, go for and get a fair percentage of difficult, and spectacular long pots. However, if you pay attention to stats, they often have a lower long pot success rate than their opponents. If you don’t believe me, open your eyes and ears whenever snooker is back and they play. This, of course, is because they go for more, and more difficult ones than most others on the tour. Also, both of them have tremendous cue power and frequently play in such a way that the cue ball comes back to relative safety in the baulk area. Therefore, they aren’t punished that often when they miss. What we, fans, tend to remember most, are the misses that proved costly. Shaun Murphy also has a similar style.
Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Ronnie are different. Stephen and Ronnie in particular were/are very attacking, they go for a lot, they didn’t/don’t want to be caught in long drawn out affairs. But, contrary to the ones above, they almost always play for position as well as attempting the pot. Usually, playing either for black or blue. Because of this, they know that they will likely be punished, should they miss. That adds a lot of pressure. As mentioned in the above article, confidence is a huge factor in long potting success, and pressure will always play on your mind, no matter how good you are. In the last year and a half, Judd Trump has also been playing that way more often than he used to do.
A lot of players are fearless when young, and as they age, battle scars undermine their confidence. That was blatant with Stephen Hendry, and it happened as early as in his late twenties. I can’t help to believe that his defeat to Ken Doherty in the 1997 World Final was a turning point in Hendry’s career. He won only one major after that and he was only 28. He won his last World Championship at 30, the age Judd Trump is now, played for another 12 seasons and won only five more titles, none of them “majors”. I’m convinced that losing to Ken that year, and the way of it, delivered a killing blow to Stephen’s confidence, and effectively to his career at the very top. He still remained a top player for years, but no more a serial winner. Think about it this way: Stephen made 5 centuries in that final, his highest break was 137, whilst Ken highest break was 85. Yet, eventually, Ken won by 18-12; the match wasn’t even really close. His all-attack strategy, and “safety is overrated” moto hadn’t worked. Ken had shown that he could be beaten and how.
A lot of very young players are excellent long potters because they have very few battle scars. Other parts of their game may let them down, but usually potting in general isn’t the issue.
One player who, IMO, should be in the list above is Kyren Wilson.
Then you have this weird concept of “single ball potter” that inevitably comes in the conversation when Mark Williams is mentioned. I write “weird” because potting just one ball isn’t really an efficient approach in snooker. What it means in Willo’s case is that, more often than most, he goes for a ball, without intending to gain position. What he wants is to gain the initiative, and control over the next shot, often combined with getting rid of a “danger” ball, one that could possibly give his opponent an opening.