Let’s start with the bad news, and, if confirmed it’s VERY bad news.
Apparently, the China govt has published an advice/recommendation/law – I’m not sure how to name this – on July 6 that basically means that there will be no International sporting event of any kind allowed in China, hence no snooker tournaments in China until 2021 the earliest.
Here is the source:
I don’t understand any Chinese but I have no reason to doubt this is genuine.
That means that the idea to have a string of Chinese ranking events at the start of the next season is as good as ruled out, and there would be no Shanghai Masters either. This may hit the game hard, because the Chinese events are actually more lucrative in general than the European ones. It’s a big loss of revenues for the payers. It could probably impact the perception and broadcasting of snooker in China as well, and with it the financial support China gives to the sport.
If this decision is extended further in 2021, it could be a disaster. If not, then, WST will probably have to rethink the calendar, pushing events that are usually played early in the season, after the new year. It will probably also have an impact on the Champion of Champions criteria.
And them we have another David Hendon and Michael McMullan podcast. They answer fans’ questions – there are some interesting ones – then turn to discussing the “Crucible Curse” and why it’s no curse.
davehendon · Snooker Scene Podcast episode 115 – Be Here Now
At the time of writing the draw for the World Championship Qualifiers is yet to be announced. My guess is that there are quite a few “non-entries” and WST is still busy contacting amateur players to fill the draw, whilst making sure that they will actually be able to attend.
Meanwhile, some images of the practice tables being installed in the “Bubble Hotel” were shared on social media:
Other than that Phil Haigh has published another article about Ronnie and here is the link.
The content is nothing new really. Ronnie shares how, in the past, his own perfectionism and expectations have held him back and even driven to depression. It’s something he has spoken, and written, about before in other interviews and his his biographies.
here is the most relevant excerpt:
‘I just want to be the best that I can be,’ O’Sullivan told Stephen Hendry on Instagram.
‘I’ve played tournaments, played terrible, but won, then felt suicidal! ‘But I’ve lost matches, played really well and thought, “Yeah! I can’t wait for the next tournament!”
‘For me it was about how I played, and that’s the wrong way to be and that’s why I’ve changed.
‘It’s about getting through, getting the job done, live to fight another day.
‘Once the penny dropped, working with Steve Peters, it’s very hard to go back to how I was pre-Steve Peters.
‘I was all over the gaff really. Yeah I’d win tournaments if I was on it, but if I wasn’t I had no chance really.
‘Whereas now, I’ve won so many tournaments where I’ve gone into it feeling like I’m playing absolutely terrible. Because I’ve had the right mindset I’ve worked my way into it, got to the quarters, started to fly and then won other tournaments off the back of it.
‘That wouldn’t have happened pre-Steve Peters. I’m a much better winning machine than I was.’
Phil also quotes Steve Peters speaking on the BBC about his work with Ronnie back in 2013
‘When Ronnie approached me he expressed what he wanted to do with his emotions, his mind, his thinking and the frustrations of why he couldn’t do that,’ Peters said.
‘I see people, when I work with them, as students really. All I’m there to do is to give them the equipment to deal with their minds, to work with it the way they want to work with it. Ronnie’s been an amazing student.
‘I work with a model, which is called the Chimp Model. It’s a simple way of understanding how they mind works and what the rules are.
‘When you walk out there to play snooker, inevitably the chimp will kick off and say “I don’t want to be here at all, this is going to be threatening.” Who knows what it’ll say? It’s about learning what your particular emotions are going to do to you.
‘Then behind that there’s a back-up system that I call “The Computer” which is try to understand the belief systems you’re holding when you go in there and what are your values.
‘We all feel pressure under certain circumstances and Ronnie’s saying he’s learned how to deal with it now, rather than just succumb to it and react to it.
‘It’s a learning process. He’s much better this year than he was last year , he’s making improvements so long may it continue.’
Ronnie was also in contact with Steve Peters, during the CLS aka the”Covid Classic”. Hopefully, Steve Peters will be able to help him coping with the unusual conditions during the coming World Championship.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is set to participate in his 27th straight World Championship as he chases a sixth title that would see him equal the Crucible hauls of Steve Davis and Ray Reardon.
It will be a serious business for O’Sullivan and the rest of snooker’s leading players with the game’s most coveted trophy and a £500,000 first prize on the line in Sheffield when the delayed tournament begins on Friday 31 July.
O’Sullivan has plenty of memories since first appearing at the Crucible as a teenager in 1993, but can also still enjoy the lighter side of the sport as a fan.
The five-times world champion – who is seeded sixth at this year’s event – recalls watching a match between then defending world champion John Parrott and Tony Knowles in 1992 when Parrott benefited from a blunder by legendary referee Len Ganley on his way to a 13-4 win in the last 16.
“One of my favourite moments was a match between John Parrott and Tony Knowles. I remember watching it on the box,” said O’Sullivan.
“John Parrott was in a snooker on the brown. He missed it, and the referee said: ‘foul four, and a miss’. Tony Knowles has said to the referee: ‘Yeah, put the white back’.
“Parrott suddenly gets down to pot the brown, blue, pink and black to clear up. Knowlsey is going mad. He is saying to the referee: ‘He couldn’t see that brown.’
“Poor Knowlsey. He was getting out of his chair, and was fuming. But it was funny to watch.”
It might be perceived as a bit mean to find that incident funny, but, myself, I have witnessed Tony Kowles getting quite worked up about something related to snooker and he got so passionate about it, despite the fact that nobody was disagreeing with him in that particular case, that indeed, it became actually funny.
Regarding the above incident, what puzzles me most is the fact that John Parrott must have known that the white had not been correctly replaced, and said nothing. Unless, of course, Tony’s perception of the situation was wrong from the start. That’s possible because, a player sat in his chair at the Crucible, certainly does not have the best view on the table.
Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he will always regret engaging with boxing trash talk before his World Championship semi-final with Stephen Hendry in 2002.
Ahead of his Crucible clash with seven-times world champion Hendry 18 years ago, O’Sullivan infamously said he would like to send his opponent “back to his sad little life in Scotland”.
It is a moment the Essex player always regrets – he later apologised to Hendry – but believes his close friendship with former world featherweight champion boxer Prince Naseem Hamed did not help before getting inside the ropes with his fellow 36-times ranking winner.
“I wonder – rightly – whether he’s been listening to a certain Sheffield boxer with a penchant for shooting his mouth off,” said Hendry in his autobiography Me and the Table.
“In the last couple of seasons, my pal Prince Naseem has visibly switched his loyalties from me to Ronnie, and the latter has been spotted hanging out with Naz’s entourage. So it’s not surprising there’s a bit of fighting talk.”
The pre-match barbs backfired on O’Sullivan as he lost 17-13 to a fired up Hendry in the semi-finals, who also admitted it is the only grudge match he ever played at the iconic Sheffield venue.
Hendry rolled in breaks of 125, 124, 122, 113, 100, 81, 73, 65, 63, 59, 58, 55 and 53 as he won five of the last six frames to progress to the final, punching the air in completing victory.
“That was terrible. I blamed myself for that,” said O’Sullivan.
“It should never have happened. But I’m also blaming Naz for getting me so revved up. He said to me the day before the match: ‘You should be more like this, or more like that.’
“It was okay for Naz because he was a boxer, but I’m a snooker player. You have to respect your opponent. In boxing, they like that sort of trash talk to sell tickets. It wasn’t really me. I was easily led. When I said it, and when it came out, I was gutted.
It is something I will always regret for the rest of my life. Stephen was my hero, and still is. I never a meant a word of it. I’ve told Stephen that, and apologised to him. I have a lot of time for Stephen, and he accepted my apology. We’re good mates now – we have a solid friendship.
“It was a big mistake on my part.”
It was indeed a very bad idea and it backfired big time. It also led to quite heated – and colourful – discussions between fans of both players on forums and message boards, notably on BBC 606, long after the players themselves had patched things up!
Two days ago David Hendon published this podcast on his soundcloud channel:
davehendon · Snooker Scene Podcast episode 114 – World Championship Predictions
David Hendon and Michael McMullan first reflect on Stephen Maguire’s Tour Championship win, as well as on his career so far.
They then turn their attention to the 2020 World Championship seeds and discuss who they fancy to reach the one table setup. Looking at each quarter, they each give their opinion on the chances each player has to get the the semi finals, why, and, in case they pick a different player to go through, they push the debate further until they find an agreement.
Judd Trump (1) / Qualifier Yan Bingtao (16) / Qualifier Stephen Maguire (9) / Qualifier Kyren Wilson (8) / Qualifier
John Higgins (5) / Qualifier David Gilbert (12) / Qualifier Jack Lisowski (13) / Qualifier Mark Allen (4) / Qualifier
Mark Williams (3) / Qualifier Stuart Bingham (14) / Qualifier Ding Junhui (11) / Qualifier Ronnie O’Sullivan (6) / Qualifier
Mark Selby (7) / Qualifier Shaun Murphy (10) / Qualifier Barry Hawkins (15) / Qualifier Neil Robertson (2) / Qualifier
In the first quarter, they both picked Judd Trump. Looking at his season as a whole, it’s a logical choice. However, he didn’t play well neither in the Championship League, nor in the Tour Championship. In the latter, his postmatch interview very much reminded me of the Judd Trump of the past. At the Crucible, a huge weight of expectations and the attention of the media will be on him. There are reasons why a first time champion has never defended successfully. Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if he lost on the first day. If we look back at the last decade, we had three first time World Champions: 2010, Neil Robertson, 2014, Mark Selby and 2015, Stuart Bingham. As defending Champions, Neil and Stuart lost in the first round, Mark Selby, who went on to win three times in four consecutive years, lost in the last 16. That’s how hard it is. My pick in that quarter would be Stephen Maguire. I don’t think pressure will be an issue in the early rounds, and he certainly is the man on form.
In the second quarter, they picked Mark Allen, and I agree. Michael McMullan makes him the favourite to win the tournament. I’m not sure about that. Mark often seems to run out of steam in the latter stages. The reason for that, in my opinion at least, is that Mark isn’t physically fit enough. The World Championship is am endurance test, mentally and physically. I’m certain that Mark has the game to be a World Champion but I’m not sure that he currently has the required stamina.
In the third quarter, Michael went for Stuart Bingham and David for Ronnie. Eventually they settled on Ronnie, but are not expecting him to go much further. Stuart and Ding are in that quarter and they had a similar season in that both won a “major” – Ding won the UK Championship, Stuart won the Masters – but didn’t do much else. Ronnie had a poor season as compared to the previous ones, but he still won the Shanghai Masters and made the final of the Northern Ireland Open. He won 77.78% of his matches so far this season. As a comparison Ding has won 67.44%, Stuart has won 57.58%, Selby despite winning two ranking tournaments is at 66.28%, Mark Allen at 69.49%, Neil Robertson at 72.86%, Shaun Murphy at 75.76% … Judd Trump, winning six ranking events, is at 82.61%. So clearly Ronnie isn’t playing badly, but he hasn’t played enough which has put him under huge pressure and, at times, it showed. To me, IF Ronnie was to reach the one table setup, he would a good chance to win the event. But he will be under pressure in the early rounds. Also, I’m not sure that he will cope with the “Bubble” conditions. He struggled in Milton Keynes and it was a much shorter event. During one of his instagram chats with Hendry, he admitted being several time on the phone with Steve Peters whilst there.
The last quarter, with Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy is loaded. They settled on Mark Selby, and Mark is also David’s pick to win the event. I’m not sure I understand why, other than the fact that, mentally, Mark is probably the best equipped for the very long formats. His form however has not really been there recently.
The World Snooker Championship is losing entrants but not through lack of effort to solve problems
The 2020 World Snooker Championship is going to be a unique event and one that some players are opting out of competing in, but that is not through a lack of effort from tournament organisers.
The rescheduled main event of the snooker season will run from 31 July – 16 August at the Crucible in Sheffield, with the qualifiers taking place from 21-28 July at the English Institute of Sport in the same city.
While there are a plethora of concerns about a World Championship with no fans in attendance and keeping players, staff and officials safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a serious worry that international players will not be able to compete.
It appears that a number of Chinese players will not be playing, with the South China Morning Post reporting that Zhou Yuelong, Xiao Guodong, and Zhao Xintong are three of ‘at least 10’ players from China who will not be travelling to South Yorkshire.
World number 10 Ding Junhui is expected to return from China for the event, while the likes of Yan Bingtao and Liang Wenbo are already in the UK so will compete.
Safety concerns regarding COVID-19 have put off some players returning to the UK, while the 14-day travel quarantine for arrivals from abroad is also a problem. Flights are much less regular than in normal times, and more expensive, but they are running.
WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson insists that no player is unable to play in the event, some are opting to out of their own personal choice, and every effort has been made to allow them to play in Sheffield.
‘We’ve been in contact with every single player,’ Ferguson told Metro.co.uk. ‘We’ve put in place travel and financial support for all players to help them get back to the UK, support for visas and everything.
‘Some of them are thinking, “shall we or shan’t we” but our job is to present the opportunity for every single player to get here. On that we’ve not failed.
‘We’re doing more than ever before on a very individual basis, chasing them to see if they’ve got paperwork sorted etc. We are on top of it.
‘It’s down to personal choice, and we respect that choice, if it’s down to family reasons or safety reasons, that’s down to the players.
‘We don’t want to lose any, we want a full contingent, but if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels.
’ While it is more than understandable that some players do not want to risk travel to the UK at this time, the safest environment possible is being created for those that do.
Any players arriving in the country before 7 July can quarantine in a residential address, while those arriving after that will quarantine in a designated hotel. They will be tested for COVID-19 before entering and then stay there up to and including qualifying.
There will be practice tables available and secure transfers to and from the venue when they play.
Ferguson also made it clear that the entry deadline for the World Championship is not until 6 July, so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play.
Little is ideal about this year’s World Championship, and undoubtedly playing in it is much trickier for international players than those based in the UK.
Everything possible is being done to accommodate the overseas players, though, with WST and the WPBSA attempting to make the very best of a bad situation.
Tournament organisers in China are confident that events will be back up and running there in the near future, with the possibility of a string of Chinese events being held early next season.
While little could make up for a player missing out on the World Championship, China and its players, along with players from Thailand, mainland Europe and elsewhere, are in no means being forgotten about by snooker’s decision-makers.
The “bold italic” has been added by me.
That’s a very impressive effort by the governing body. They are clearly doing everything in their power to get everyone involved. Being from mainland Europe myself, I was afraid that non UK players would be left on their own devices in this unprecedented situation and would be unable to attend for any number of reasons. I want the World Tour to really be a “World” tour and not a somehow “extended” UK tour and I’m very happy to read the above.
About the bits I highlighted …
Like many, I assumed that if players were withdrawing, the first round would simply be made shorter. Apparently, this is not the case: “if we get a few gaps we will fill up through the normal channels”. If I understand this correctly, quite a number of Q-school top-ups might get an invitation…
Jason Ferguson is clearly trying his best to get all players on board. His “public” offer to concretely help those who would wish to change their mind is as unprecedented as the situation we are in: “so any players that are considering not playing, or have already decided not to, can still change their minds and help would be in place to get them to the UK to play”
And it’s reassuring to read that tournament organisers in China aren’t throwing the towel at snooker, but on the contrary are working to have it up and running there asap. I sincerely hope that, this time, those events will be run with all 128 players at the venues. It would be the sensible thing to do, avoiding difficult rounds trips from and back to China and it would definitely be fairer on Chinese players, who, for years now, have been forced to travel to UK to qualify for their home events.
Ding Junhui will lead a 10-member China legion to the snooker World Championships in England next month, but at least 10 more of the mainland entourage will not join as the pandemic continues to be a massive concern in the UK.
Reports in the mainland said Ding, who is still looking for his first world title after twice reaching the final, has already booked his ticket to England, where he will need to go through a 14-day quarantine before the July 31-August 16 tournament kicks off at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
The world No 10 will leave Shanghai next week and will be joined by the talented Yan Bingtao, the world No 16 as the two Chinese players in the main draw that features top 16 players.
However, the next three highest ranking players from China have all turned their back on the major including Zhou Yuelong (world No 22), Xiao Guodong (world No 28) and Zhao Xintong (world No 29), although they would have been placed in the qualifiers to compete for the remaining 16 slots in the main draw.
Ding, Zhou and Xiao, along with other Chinese professionals, fled England in mid-March after organisers decided the 2020 world event would be postponed from April to July due to the pandemic.
Ding finally touched down in Shenyang in northern China after five previous plane ticket bookings had been cancelled. Zhou and Xiao made it back to China through Hong Kong and Shanghai respectively as thousands of Chinese and Hong Kong residents rushed home to avoid the coronavirus outbreak in England.
Zhou, who warned his fellow countrymen the threat of the pandemic during the Gibraltar Open in March, said he was fortunate to arrive in Hong Kong the day before all arrivals from England would require a 14-day quarantine. He then went through the Shenzhen Bay Port before returning to his home in Sichuan.
Other Chinese players that will start in the qualifiers are Lyu Haotian, Liang Wenbo, Lu Ning, Luo Honghao, Tian Pengfei, Fan Zhengyi, Chen Feilong and Si Jiahui, according to reports in the mainland.
Hong Kong No 1 Marco Fu Ka-chun decided not to take part in the tournament this year because of the epidemic. The world No 50 is still troubled by the eye problems that almost ended his career two years ago.
The Hong Kong Billiard Sport Control Council, meanwhile, said their two other players – Ng On-yee and Andy Lee Chun-wai – had yet to decide if they would take part in the qualifiers. The Hong Kong Sports Institute, where the two players are based, has warned that players should not go to England if the 14-day quarantine still applies.
Ng made it to the qualifiers as one of the top three players on the women’s tour while Lee, who has a ranking of 102, will start in the first qualifying round that consists of the 48 players ranked between 81 and 128.
Again I have put some interesting parts in “bold italic”
The article mentions the problems Ding had to go back home. He wasn’t the worst affected though. Some players had to go through a 14 days quarantine when arriving in China, before being allowed to get on a domestic flight towards their final destination – their home – only to be quarantined again for another 14 days upon arrival in their home region. It’s easy to forget that China is vast as a continent and the virus didn’t affect all areas at the same time, nor the same way. It’s understandable that those who went through that aren’t too keen to repeat the experience.
Some people are NOW calling for the World Championship to be cancelled. That would be ridiculous after so much effort, and considerable resources, have been devoted to get it up and running. I was in favour of not playing the event, and extending the season up to May 2021, resuming it gradually with more modest events. No relegations, no Q-School. I still think it would have been the best option. But that was only an option at the start of the lockdown, before all those efforts had been made, it’s no more an option now.
After the CLS and Tour Championship, I’m reasonably confident about the World Championship, qualifiers included. I’m still very concerned about the Q-School …
The Tour Championship 2020 starts tomorrow in Milton Keynes, without a crowd, under social distancing rules, and with a shortened format. The prize money though has not been shortened, and, although the event will have no bearing on who will have to qualify for the World Championship, it can and probably will have an impact on the top 16 seedings.
The Crucible Seeding Race 2020 – Tour Championship Preview
18th June 2020
Ranking event snooker will return to our screens this Saturday with the start of the Coral Tour Championship – an event which will also see the final seeding list set for the Betfred World Championship later this summer.
In the context of wider events this year’s snooker calendar of course takes an unusual shape, with the cancellation of the China Open and the postponement of the season’s final two tournaments until the summer. Below we outline the implications for the current seeding list and the importance of the next week of action at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
The final seeding list for the 2020 World Championship will be finalised following the conclusion of next week’s Tour Championship. At this cut-off points from the Tour Championship will be added to the current world rankings, with no points to be removed as this event was not staged in 2018 and points from that year’s China Open have already been deducted.
With each of the eight players competing in the tournament already within the provisional (and actual) top 16 therefore, we already know that the top 16 automatic qualifiers for the tournament cannot change (subject to all players entering the tournament).
The Crucible Draw
With a first prize of £150,000 to be won in Milton Keynes however, there is still much that can change in respect of the order of the top 16 players.
This is crucial because as always, the 16 seeded players at the World Championship are placed in the draw in a very specific manner, for example the top seed is always scheduled to meet the 16th seed in the second round, the second seed is always poised to meet the 15th seed and so on.
As it stands, the last 16 draw (if all first round matches in Sheffield were won by the seeded player) would currently look as follows:
Trump (1) v Yan (16) Murphy (9) v Wilson (8)
Allen (5) v Lisowski (12) Bingham(13) v Higgins (4)
Williams (3) v Maguire (14) Gilbert(11) v O’Sullivan (6)
Selby (7) v Ding (10) Hawkins (15) v Robertson (2)
Of these players, Judd Trump is of course cemented as top seed, not only as the sport’s runaway world number one on the official world ranking list, but also as defending champion. Neil Robertson too is already assured of second place, with closest challenger Mark Williams not having qualified for the Tour Championship.
However, every other position can still change next week, meaning that the final placement of the remaining 14 seeded players is likely to change depending on results over the coming days…
Themes to Follow
So what do we know heading into the season’s penultimate event?
Mark Williams looks well-placed to head to the Crucible as third seed this year despite not being involved next week, with only John Higgins able to displace him by going all the way to the title in Milton Keynes. With a significant gap between the £150,000 first prize and £60,000 cheque for finishing as runner-up, nothing less than victory would be sufficient for the Scot.
As for Higgins himself, if he were to lose his opening match then Mark Allen would overtake him with a run to the final, while Mark Selby would need to win the title to potentially vault three places up the list from seventh position.
Similarly, Allen can only be caught by Selby, with the three-time world champion actually being able to finish level with Allen if he were to reach the final with the Northern Irishman losing to Shaun Murphy first up. If this were to happen, Selby would take the position on countback. If Allen is able to win at least one match however, nothing less than the title would be sufficient for Selby.
One big name who won’t be in action next week is of course Ronnie O’Sullivan, who currently sits in sixth position heading to Sheffield. As it stands both Selby and Murphy can overtake the five-time world champion, but only one with the pair situated in the same half of the draw in Milton Keynes. A run to the final would be enough for Selby, while Murphy must win the title to rise to sixth position ahead of both players.
More immediately, Murphy can leapfrog the absent Kyren Wilson with a single win over Mark Allen next Tuesday and himself can only be overtaken by Stephen Maguire if the Scot were able to claim the title at the Marshall Arena. Entering the tournament in 14th place behind four players not competing next week, a single victory would be enough to see him rise two places above Stuart Bingham and Jack Lisowski, but beyond that he would need to go all the way to rise further.
Finally, the player currently ranked 16th and set to face Judd Trump at the last 16 stage in Sheffield Yan Bingtao can also move out of that position in the draw with a run in Milton Keynes. Victory against Mark Selby would potentially enough to see him rise two positions (subject to Maguire’s result), while the title would see him surge into the world’s top 10 for the first time.
So, specifically for Ronnie, the lowest he could be seeded is 7th, which would keep him in the same half of the draw and away from Judd Trump until the final. As it stands, he would then be on course for a second-round match against Ding. Ding’s participation however is no certainty. He already withdrew from the Tour Championship, citing concerns for his family health and safety, and Marco Fu officially withdrew from the WC qualifiers for the same reasons.
Yan Bingtao has enjoyed a fine season, securing his place in the top eight of the one-year list and qualifying for next week’s elite Coral Tour Championship in Milton Keynes.
The 20-year-old Chinese star will face three-time World Champion Mark Selby in the first round on Monday. On his way to qualifying, he sealed a maiden ranking title in the season opening Riga Masters last July, beating Mark Joyce 5-2 in the final. Yan was also runner-up in the most recent Coral Series event, the Players Championship in Southport, losing out 10-4 to Judd Trump in the final.
We’ve caught up with Yan, who elected to remain in Sheffield during the coronavirus pandemic, to find out how he has been dealing with lockdown and to look ahead to his clash with Selby…
Yan, how have you been coping with lockdown and what have you been doing to keep yourself occupied?
“I haven’t done a lot during lockdown. I’ve been playing quite a lot computer games, watching a few films and sometimes watching videos of my own snooker matches!”
How pleased are you to have decided to stay in Sheffield, especially given the difficulties Ding has had returning from China, which have caused him to withdraw from this event?
“I feel quite lucky, if I went to China then I would not be able to play at the Tour Championship and possibly not even the World Championship. These are most important events, so I feel I made right decision not going back to China.”
How much did you learn from the experience of reaching the final at the Players Championship and facing Judd Trump?
“The final against Judd meant a lot for me. It was such a big event and I got to face the best player at the moment. I got to see the gap between myself and Judd. It was a good experience, because I’ve never played a match of that importance against someone like Judd. It is important to get used to being in finals, I am always learning from the best and hopefully I can improve myself in the near future.”
You didn’t play in the recent Championship League, which Mark Selby did, does that give him an advantage in your upcoming match?
“Mark is like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump and John Higgins, these kind of players are always very difficult to beat in any match. I’ve played against Mark before and he always controls the pace. His safety and attacking play are all really good and he has a good mindset. Having played in the Championship League, he will feel more used to the venue than me. It will be a difficult match, but I will just try to enjoy it. I just feel lucky to have a snooker event on during the pandemic. I’m not thinking win or lose, I just want to learn and improve.”
I sincerely hope that Yan can do well in the Tour Championship. The sport needs young players coming through, and, on results – which, at the end of the day, are the only things that matter, certainly at the early stages of a sporting career – he IS the best prospect snooker currently has. China is important for the survival of snooker – they have invested a lot in the sport – and, if Ding goes missing, they need another hero. Yan could be that hero. Granted, he doesn’t come across as the most flamboyant personality, but he’s grounded and mature beyond his years. BTW, anyone who knew Ding some 10-15 years ago, will remember how shy he was back then.
Stephen Hendry and Ronnie had another instagram chat yesterday evening, and it was again enjoyable although the first thing they talked about was, quite naturally, Willie Thorne’s passing away. Neither of them had played Willie at his best, but both knew him fairly well, and are saddened at his untimely death. Stephen of course works as a commentator and pundit for the BBC just like Willie did. Ronnie has done quite a number of exhibitions with the Snooker Legends, with Willie as a host, compère and commentator.
The next subject they discussed was the CLS, won by Luca Brecel last week. They both enjoyed the final and were full of praise for both Luca and Ben. Ronnie enjoyed playing in the event, but struggled with being locked-up. Both Stephen and Ronnie enjoyed the format, but would have preferred to have it with only 32 players. Ronnie was again rather harsh on some lower ranked players, who, in his opinion, are not at the level they should be as professionals. They can pot, he said, and they can make 147s, but there is a whole aspect of the professional game that they don’t master. He’s right about that; anyone who watches both professional and amateur events will notice how differently the players approach their matches. Young players are often excellent potters, but have no answer when older, hard match players tie them in all kind of knots. The situation is even worse nowadays than it was when Ronnie was a rookie himself, as the amateur game has gone backwards, in the UK certainly, and young players really aren’t ready when they turn pro. So, Ronnie is right in his assessment, but at the same time, he’s harsh on those young pros, because it’s not their fault that they are less ready when turning pro than Ronnie’s generation was.
They then discussed the prospect of the World Championship being played in similar conditions and Ronnie reckoned that he would probably struggle. He seems determined to try is best but is not sure that he can handle those lockdown conditions for 17 days. Hendry, who used to keep himself to himself when competing, admitted that even he would probably struggle as well. Ronnie explained that he was tested twice. The first test went ok, but the second one left him with a minor injury, resulting in a very runny nose for almost two days, which was very uncomfortable.