Yes, indeed, the first round starts tomorrow, at the English Institute of Sports in Sheffield.
This is the draw:
Rounds 1 to 3 are best of 11, Round 4 is best of 19.
These are my predictions as to who will reach the Crucible:
Ricky Walden, Lu Ning, Stephen Maguire, Jordan Brown, Jak Jones, Jamie Jones, Ding Junhui, Ashley Hugill, David Gilbert, Oliver Lines, Robert Milkins, Ryan Day, Ali Carter, Joe Perry, Graeme Dott, Hossein Vafaei.
That is not necessarily who I want to see there … Indeed there are a number of players who have been on the tour for a long time, who are not necessarily “old players”, and who are in danger to drop off the tour: Kurt Maflin, Theppy, Sunny Akani, Michael Holt, Matthew Stevens, Dominic Dale, Marco Fu … to name a few.
The covid-19 crisis has hit everyone, but non Brtish/Irish players have suffered the most.
Marco Fu will be back in action after two years away from the main tour competition. It will be interesting to see how far he can progress and if WST will consider to give him a wildcard.
Someone who will definitely NOT be there is Liang Wenbo. Indeed, Liang has been suspended both from the Main Tour and from the CBSA competitions, after he was found guilty of sustained violence against a woman and of domestic abuse.
Statement On Liang Wenbo
We are aware that Liang Wenbo has been sentenced following an incident of domestic-related assault. We strongly condemn all forms of violence. This matter has been passed to WPBSA Disciplinary and their Chairman Jason Ferguson has released the following statement:
WPBSA Press release
Following the conviction of Liang Wenbo for domestic-related assault at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court on 9th February 2022 and subsequent sentence on 1st April 2022, the WPBSA has decided that Liang has a case to answer for misconduct under the WPBSA Disciplinary Rules.
The charges are that Liang Wenbo’s behaviour was unbecoming of a sportsperson and has brought the sport into disrepute. This is contrary to the WPBSA Members Rules and his contract with World Snooker Ltd to compete on the World Snooker Tour.
Jason Ferguson, the Chairman of the WPBSA has today, 2nd April, taken the decision to suspend Liang from attending or competing on the World Snooker Tour with immediate effect. This suspension will remain in place until the conclusion of the hearing or hearings and the determination of this matter. Liang has the right to appeal this decision.
Jason Ferguson said: “The decision to suspend a player with immediate effect is not one taken lightly. However, due to the violent and criminal nature of this offence, I have reached the decision that this is the only appropriate action to be taken pending the outcome of the formal disciplinary process.”
The matter will be referred to the WPBSA Disciplinary Committee where a formal hearing will take place at a venue and date to be confirmed.
WPBSA Rules and WSL Player Contract extracts
WPBSA Members Rules
OBLIGATIONS OF MEMBERS
- General Obligations
1.1 Members shall, at all times (i.e. whether at a Tournament or not), behave in a proper and correct manner consistent with their status as professional sportsmen.
1.3 A Member shall not make or cause to be made any statement or commit or cause to be committed any act which in the reasonable view of the WPBSA is likely to bring into disrepute the games of snooker and/or billiards.
WSL Players Contract
- OBLIGATIONS OF THE PLAYER
3.1 General Obligations
In consideration for the Player having the opportunity to participate in the WSL Events by WSL entering into this Agreement with the Player, the Player shall:
3.1.5 Behave in a professional and reputable manner befitting a professional sportsperson.
The full WPBSA Rules can be found here
At the time of writing, Liang’s name is still in the World Championship draw and it’s unclear what will be done but given the structure of this tournament, I expect his opponent to get a bye to the next round.
Someone who will almost certainly be there, but isn’t looking forward to it is Judd Trump. This is what he had to say after his defeat to Luca Brecel earlier this week:
“My main aim in snooker always is to enjoy it, and at the moment I am not,” Trump, who dipped his toe into the pool world earlier this season, said.
“So whether I have to start missing more events or even do what Ronnie did and miss a season out, I don’t know. I certainly aim to have a couple of holidays, but the calendar doesn’t look great for the first few months of next season at the moment. There are not a lot of events to play in.
“So maybe it is the best chance or time I will get to take a little break out of the game.
“It has been a long three seasons for me, and mentally draining. Not being able to keep that form up and struggling, it is quite tough to take mentally.
“Apart from the odd tournament, the odd game really, I have produced that kind of standard like against Luca all season.
“The sooner the season is over, the better for me I think. I think the best thing I could do for the next couple of weeks is nothing, and basically not play until the World Championship. Maybe I need to take my mind off snooker and just turn up there in Sheffield. At this moment in time I don’t even want to play in the World Championship, so I’ll go away and think about things.
“It has just been a bad season. I am not enjoying my snooker, and even when I have won it has been papering and patching over the cracks and getting by. So for me the sooner I can get this season over, have a break, and get into the next one, the better for me.
“Right now the World Championship feels like just another tournament and there are no expectations from me, I will turn up because I have to.”
Every player, no matter how brilliant has ups and downs in the course of a career. It’s normal and it can be hard but I must admit that I struggle to feel much sympathy here. All his bluster over the last two or thee years doesn’t make him very likeable to me I’m afraid.