We have a few day ahead of us without actual action at the table. I will take the opportunity to go through some articles/news that came out in the past weeks.
The first of those is an excellent interview with Martin Gould, by Phil Haigh.
Ronnie O’Sullivan comments can drive you mad, I did call him a few names, admits Martin Gould
Martin Gould was far from happy with Ronnie O’Sullivan’s disparaging comments about lower-ranked players in snooker, so much so he was preparing a winner’s speech to fire back at the Rocket.
During this year’s World Championship O’Sullivan said he would have to ‘lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50’ in the world, such is the cavernous gap in talent between him and the players at the lower reaches of the rankings.
The 44-year-old, who went on to win his sixth world title at the Crucible, was more commenting on the younger players in the game and the lack of talent emerging, but his barbs were felt by anyone outside the top 50.
Gould was ranked at number 60 at the start of the World Championship and was not happy at all with the Rocket knocking him.
The Pinner Potter has been in sparking form since July and has climbed to #36 in the world, thanks largely to a run to the final of the European Masters.
The 39-year-old beat John Higgins, Judd Trump and yan Bingtao en route to the finale in Milton Keynes and had prepared a speech that was aimed at putting O’Sullivan in his place, were he to beat Mark Selby in the final.
‘I had a little speech ready for the final if I’d beaten Mark, because it would have meant I’d have beaten Higgins, Bingtao, Trump and Selby,’ Gould told Metro.co.uk.
‘So I was going to cheekily say, “I’ve got rid of them lot, now all I’ve got to do is tie an arm and leg behind Ronnie’s back and see if he can beat me.” Because at that point he said that, I was in the ranking bracket that he was talking about.’
Gould would narrowly lose the final to Selby in a 10-9 classic, but it was another big step to recovering his best form, which he had lost over the last two seasons as he battled depression and injury.
The former world number 12 doesn’t think he was the specific target of O’Sullivan’s remarks, but does admit they wound him up.
‘I did call him a few names, I won’t lie,’ said Martin. ‘It’s just Ronnie being Ronnie, really, just take it with a pinch of salt and laugh about it.
‘I’m pretty sure he wasn’t actually including me in that bracket, I’ve played him a fair few times.
‘Ronnie’s just one of those types of people, he puts bums and seats, he can criticise people, but everyone still loves him. It’s just Ronnie being Ronnie, you can’t knock him.
‘He can drive you mad with some of his comments but people shouldn’t criticise him because he might just pack it in one day and the game…well it wouldn’t die, but it needs him.’
Gould followed up his run to the final of the European Masters by topping his first Championship League group to book his spot in the next stage of the competition.
He is enjoying a career resurgence as he nears 40, but he does feel there are some bright young things on the baize, particularly impressed by China’s Yan Bingtao, with the 20-year-old now up to number 12 in the world.
‘For me, Yan’s going to be someone who’ll be around for a long, long time yet,’ said Gould. ‘He just looks very, very good indeed and he will cause some damage. ‘The European Masters was the first time in three or four attempts that I’ve beaten him. He beats himself up when he plays a bad shot, seems to find it difficult to keep emotion in check, but different people do different things with that, each to their own.
I could definitely see Yan winning another event this season, adding to his tally.’
Gould is also a fan of Welshman Jamie Clarke after his headline-grabbing performances at the World Championship as he knocked out Mark Allen and then narrowly lost to Anthony McGill in a feisty epic.
‘Jamie is going to have a good season, I think,’ Gould said. ‘The only thing I thought, with what happened at the Crucible, I thought maybe Jamie was getting a little bit big for his boots at time.
‘I hope and pray that’s not the case because he’s a lovely kid and I don’t want to see him get overconfident. But he looked very solid and started to score heavily as well, which is a massive plus. He’s got an all-round game so I can see him doing well.’
One youngster who has done more than most to start proving O’Sullivan wrong is Aaron Hill, the 18-year-old who knocked the Rocket out of the European Masters in the second round with a superb performance.
‘I’ve never really seen Aaron Hill play, he looks good, looks useful, but he was on the table next to me when he beat Ronnie so I was concentrating on my own game,’ said Gould of the young Irishman.
‘It’s only his first year so we’ve got to give him a little bit of time to see what he’s capable of.’
Martin is right about the fact that Ronnie wasn’t thinking about him when saying what he said, no more than he would include Stephen Hendry or Jimmy White in his critiscism of the “under top 50” level. Martin has been in the top 16, and is a ranking event winner. Martin knows it and still felt hurt, and it motivated him to prove Ronnie wrong, which, I’m sure, is exactly what Ronnie wanted to see.
Ronnie, for all the ups and downs, loves his sport, it’s been his life for the best of the last 35 years, and he is genuinely concerned by the fact that hardly any young player has come through over the last 10 years. The top 16 has essentially remained the same.
Martin is full of praise for Yan Bingtao, and rightly so. He is the exception, he is the only one who came through the flat draw system to reach the top 16 at a young age. Martin’s assessment of Yan’s emotional reactions when not playing well is interesting too. It’s the mark of a perfectionist. Being a perfectionist is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it constantly fuels the motivation to get better. It’s a curse because it can lead to never ending dissatisfaction and totally unjustified self-deprecation. Eh Ronnie?
Yan is not helped by the constant criticism he gets from some commentators and I can’t help to think that if a 20 years old Brit was playing at the level Yan is playing, those same commentators would not be so harsh on them, on the contrary. They would see them for what they are, a young player still “searching” their best self at the table and sometimes unsure about their shot selection or strategy.
Martin is also right about Aaron Hill. He looks a very promising prospect, and him beating Ronnie, is a great story and one that could have a huge impact on the state of snooker in Ireland. But it’s too early to make a prediction on his future career. He’s only at the start of his first year. He hasn’t any battle scars yet. I don’t wish that on Aaron, but the current flat draw system has destroyed many young players’ enthusiasm and faith in their ability. It takes a very strong character to keep that going when you get beat more often than not in round 1, because, more often than not, you face a top player, and then you struggle financially, because you get nothing for your efforts, even if you pushed the world number one to the last black in a deciding frame.