Tour News: Ronnie about snooker domination, Hendry about his return

Ronnie spoke to Eurosport about the current “Big Three”:

MASTERS 2021 EXCLUSIVE: WHO DOES RONNIE O’SULLIVAN THINK WILL DOMINATE SNOOKER IN 2021?

Ronnie O’Sullivan has told Eurosport he expects Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby to dominate snooker in 2021. The world champion feels there is a “massive gap” between the three leading table lights and the rest of the chasing pack due to consistency of technique, scoring power and desire to lift trophies.

RonnieAtTheTable

Snooker is entering the era of the big three with Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby set to dominate the sport in 2021, according to world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Ahead of the 47th staging of the Masters involving the game’s top 16 players in Milton Keynes between January 10-17 – the first triple crown event of the year – O’Sullivan feels the green baize triple g-force are well clear of the chasing pack and perfectly placed to continue their trophy-winning exploits.

While O’Sullivan lifted a sixth world title at the Crucible last August, the rest of the potting pie in 2020 was snaffled up by a triumvirate with a real appetite for silver service.

Trump carried off a record six ranking events finishing his year with the World Grand Prix before Christmas, Robertson claimed three including a third UK Championship and Selby has started the 2020-21 season by picking up the European Masters and defending the Scottish Open.

Looking into the crystal snooker balls does not appear to bring a sense of overriding opportunity for the rest of the field.

This is my prediction. I think the top three are playing to such a high standard, it will be one of those three that win the majority of the events,” said O’Sullivan, who begins his quest for an eighth Masters title against Ding Junhui on Wednesday 16 January.

If there are 25 tournaments, I reckon 20 of them will go to them. Judd will win six, Neil will win five and Selby will win four. I just think it is that sort of level.

“Mark Allen might win one, Ding (Junhui) might win one, I might win one, someone will win the Shoot Out.

“I just think they are playing to such a high level and the players from 17 downwards in the rankings are all a bit hit and miss in comparison.”

Stuart Bingham was Masters champion last year, Stephen Maguire carried off the Tour Championship, Mark Allen won the Champion of Champions while Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel and Scott Donaldson were Championship League winners in 2020, but O’Sullivan feels trophy-winning chances are becoming thinner on the ground than the thinnest of snicks on the table.

The record 37-times ranking event winner edged Selby 17-16 in the World Championship semi-finals, but lost to his fierce rival 9-3 in the Scottish Open final.

He also suffered a 9-7 defeat to Trump in the Northern Ireland final before being flattened by the world number one 6-1 in the World Grand Prix last four last month.

Trump has remarkably lifted 20 ranking events in only nine years, leaving him only two behind Mark Williams in the all-time list with the Welshman’s 22 coming over a 24-year period.

Robertson and Selby are both on 19 titles with Robertson winning a trophy in the sport every year since 2006.

There’s a massive gap between those three and maybe the number 18 in the world,” explained the world number three.

“I’ve played those three now and you don’t get a lot off of them, but you seem to get away with quite a bit against the lower-ranked players.

THERE IS A MASSIVE GAP NOW BETWEEN THEM AND EVERYBODY ELSE.

“Allen slipped in and won one, Kyren Wilson won one. There will always be that chance for a player to maybe catch one of them on their off day in a final or a semi-final, but it is difficult.”

Desmond Kane  

I like the non-commital “someone will win the Shoot Out” … 😎

Nigel Slater reports about Stephen Hendry’s plans to return:

Stephen Hendry gives update on sensational comeback plans

Stephen Hendry says he will “probably” make his sensational return to professional snooker next month.

The seven-times world champion revealed he was looking at February’s Welsh Open as a possible tournament for which to mark his dramatic comeback into the sport.

The news was revealed when Hendry joined Eurosport snooker presenter Andy Goldstein in a live Instagram chat on Wednesday afternoon from his home.

The Welsh Open – one of snooker’s most established ranking events – is due to start on February 15 at a venue to be confirmed.

When asked by a fan when ‘Crucible King’ Hendry was planning to make a comeback, the snooker legend said: “Probably the Welsh Open.”

Hendry also said he was looking at playing the new Pro Series event in March, which World Snooker Tour announced at the end of 2020.

Last year Hendry took the snooker world by storm when he announced he would be coming out of retirement following an impressive semi-final run in the World Seniors Championship in August.

Stephen Hendry. Picture by Monique Limbos

Since then Hendry has been working closely with SightRight coach Stephen Feeney – a man who has coached recent world champions Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan – to get his game back to a top standard.

However despite the headline announcement, Hendry has not yet featured in the 2020/21 snooker season.

He was planning a return for the UK Championship but announced a delay to his comeback in November because he wanted to play in front of a crowd and not behind closed doors and stated at the time his game was not yet ready.

But the likelihood of fans returning to live snooker events by the time the Welsh Open starts is almost impossible with both England and Wales in lockdown until mid-February at least.

Returning in a slightly lower profile event is probably the best option for Stephen Hendry who, despite a rather poor record on the WSS tour so far, will face huge exprectations from his faithful fanbase. I’m very surprised that he is considering the Pro Series, but, on second thoughts, it’s actually a good idea. Lots of snooker in a short time span, against seven different opponents. Why not?

Snooker related news – 9 April 2020

There have been quite a few snooker related news in the last couple of days.

Barry Hearn suffered a heart attack – his second – but is now out of hospital

Barry Hearn thanks NHS after coming through his second heart attack

Phil HaighThursday 9 Apr 2020

Barry Hearn has sent his thanks to the NHS as he recovers from a heart attack he suffered on Sunday.

The chairman of the Professional Darts Corporation and World Snooker Tour suffered a ‘minor’ heart attack at the weekend and had an operation on Tuesday. The veteran promoter, 71, returned home on Wednesday and appears to be in good spirits as he makes his way back to fitness.

Hearn tweeted: ‘Humbled by the thousands of “get well” wishes so thanks to each and everyone of you. Massive shout out to Broomfield and Basildon hospitals – don’t know what we’d do without the NHS. God bless you all and stay safe.’

Hearn added on Thursday morning: ‘Memories like this keep you going. Can’t wait for more ! Patience people sport will be back soon but we have a bigger battle to win first. God bless the NHS.’

This echoed the sentiments of his son Eddie, who confirmed the news on Wednesday, tweeting: ‘As if we can’t thank the NHS enough, I want to particularly thank the staff at Broomfield & Basildon. My dad @BarryHearn was taken to hospital on Sunday after a minor heart attack and was operated on yesterday.He is up and well and returns home today in good spirits!Thank you’

Barry first suffered a heart attack in 2002 and his family have a long history of heart problems. ‘I’ve waited 30 years for it so it didn’t come as a surprise,’ Hearn told the Mirror after his 2002 attack, ‘My father had it, and his father had it before him. No male of the past four generations in our family has got past 45. So anything more is a bonus.’

The man credited with booms in darts and snooker in recent years, along with his legendary career as a boxing promoter, was inundated with messages of support on Twitter.

 

As all the readers of this blog will know by now, I don’t always agree with Barry Hearn’s views on the way snooker should be managed and promoted but there is no doubt that he has massively improved the state of the Tour over the last 10 years. There are a lot more tournaments, more exposure and more money … I just wish the latter was a bit more evenly shared so that lower ranked players wouldn’t struggle so badly to make ends meet.

All the same, I’m whishing him the very best and sincerely hope that he fully recovers.

Speaking of the past state of snooker, David Hendon has written this nice piece for the WST site.

Snooker, like all professional sport, is currently on hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone involved in the game is looking forward to its return but this is not the first time snooker has been forced to take a break, as journalist and commentator David Hendon explains…

Without Joe Davis, snooker’s first World Professional Championship may have arrived much later than 1927. And yet the game’s first star shone so brightly that he unwittingly played a part in its decline thirty years later.

Unlike the leading lights of today, Davis had no established players to watch, analyse or learn from but his father was a publican at the Queens Hotel, Whittington Moor in Chesterfield and the establishment boasted a full-sized snooker table.

Snooker was still in its infancy when Davis was in his. Billiards was the prevailing cue sport of its time and Davis, and his younger brother, Fred, became proficient players. Billiards, though, often lacked dramatic tension as a spectator sport because its matches could be so one-sided. In 1926, Davis lost in the world professional final by 6,500 points to Tom Newman. Audiences could admire the skills on show, but excitement was thin on the ground.

Davis saw an opportunity with snooker, the young upstart of the cue sports family, to make a name for himself and, more widely, for the game itself. Others had tried with little success. In 1924, Tom Dennis, a player and billiard hall owner, wrote to the then governing body for billiards asking them to consider promoting an open snooker tournament. The sniffy response he received read: “It seems doubtful whether snooker as a spectacular game is sufficiently popular to warrant the successful promotion of such a competition.”

Two years later Davis, supported by the promoter and table-maker Bill Camkin, managed to persuade them to reconsider. Ten players entered the inaugural championship and a trophy was purchased using half of the entry fees. It is still presented to the world champion to this day.

The tournament’s first match began on November 29, 1926. The following May at Camkin’s billiard hall in Birmingham, Davis defeated Dennis 20-11 in the final. The Billiard Player, the leading cue sports organ of the time, gave the event four paragraphs of coverage. There was clearly still a long way to go.

And yet the championship continued, albeit with a small but determined band of players. These were very different times. Davis had never driven a car but a rail strike in 1934 meant he could not get from Nottingham to Kettering to play Tom Newman, the only other entrant. Davis duly purchased a car, was given rough instructions on how to drive it and set off for the match.

Davis kept on winning and, as he did so, his reputation and celebrity grew. There was to be two decades of Davis dominance, interrupted only by the second world war. He won his 14thworld title in 1940 and his 15th and last when the tournament returned in 1946, after which he retired. This proved to be the start of snooker’s problems.

Davis had in fact only retired from competing in the championship but still played in other events, undertook exhibitions and television appearances and was by far the best known figure in the still fledgling sport. The fact he was not playing in the World Championship therefore seriously devalued it – like Hamlet without the prince – and the interest, such as it was, dwindled to the point that by 1957 no promoter wanted to touch it.

And so professional snooker entered a dark period of extended hibernation which was to last until 1964. This was the time of JFK and the Beatles. The 60s were swinging but snooker lay dormant. Perhaps it had been a fad after all, a novelty whose time had come and gone.

These were grim times for the players, who retreated back into normal life. Fred Davis had a hotel in Llandudno; Rex Williams a family printing firm in Staffordshire. Players still undertook exhibitions but making a living was hard, with the sport enjoying very little exposure outside of a few matches on black and white television, usually involving Joe and acting as filler between horse races on the BBC’s Grandstand.

Williams, who at 17 had won the English amateur title, was now 30 and restless. This should have been the prime period of his career. He took it upon himself to revive the World Championship on a challenge basis, with the reigning champion – in this case John Pulman – taking on a single opponent.

The governing body gave their sanction and Pulman beat Fred Davis 19-16 in the first World Championship to be staged for seven years. Pulman would win six further world titles on this basis against a series of challengers, Williams included, until 1968.

Williams believed that the players needed to take greater control of their destinies and pulled together a players’ association, which would become the WPBSA. Largely through his efforts, snooker’s profile was growing again. The players came back blinking into the sunlight of a new era, still uncertain but at least with playing opportunities and a World Championship restored.

The championship proceeded on a challenge basis until 1969 when the open format was revived. It coincided with the arrival of colour television, which led to Pot Black providing a national showcase. Suddenly, the leading players of the day were household names, from the head-masterly Ray Reardon to errant tearaway Alex Higgins. The public took to them, and to the game, and it led to increased interest from sponsors and television. Now, promoters could not get enough of snooker as a professional circuit was born and a boom beckoned.

And what of the man who had started it all?

In 1978, Joe Davis took his seat in the Crucible theatre in Sheffield, the new home for the World Championship, and watched Fred, at the age of 64, compete against Perrie Mans in the semi-finals. The match was so close, so exciting, and for Davis so personally involving, that he collapsed. He died a few months later at the age of 77.

Davis would surely marvel at the sport today, at its players, administration and global reach, but he had lived long enough to see the championship to which he gave life blossom into a major sporting attraction, and for snooker itself to rise from the ashes of indifference and burn brightly in the public consciousness.


Thanks to Roger Lee for the pictures.

And the BBC will show some Classic matches from April 18 on:

CrucibleClassics.jpg

Here is what’s on the menu from April 18 to April 24:

  • Saturday:  Davis v Knowles (82)
  • Sunday: White v Hendry (92)
  • Monday: Reardon v A Higgins (82)
  • Tuesday: N Robertson v Selby (2014)
  • Wednesday: Davis v Taylor (85)
  • Thursday: Davis v Johnson (86)
  • Friday: Hendry v White (88)

Crucible 2019 – Barry Hearn’s announcements

As customary on the second Wednesday of the World Championship Barry Hearn came up with a number of announcements.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn held a press conference at the Crucible on Wednesday.

Here are the key points:

Betfred’s sponsorship of the World Championship will continue until at least 2021. For more on that news, click here.

There will be four extra World Snooker Tour cards available at 2019 Q School. The semi-finalists of the three events will receive 12 of those, with the other four to go to the next four highest players on the Q School Order of Merit. There will be 128 players on the 2019/20 Tour.

Jimmy White has been given a two-year tour card in respect of his undisputed services to snooker.

The structure for the qualifying rounds of the Betfred World Championship will change next year as follows:

There will be 16 amateurs invited by WPBSA. They will join players ranked 81-128 in round one. Those 64 players play each other, with the 32 winners going into round two.

Round two: those 32 winners will face players ranked 49-80.

Round three: those 32 winners will face players ranked 17-48.

Round four: those 32 winners play each other, with the 16 winners going through to the Crucible to face the top 16 seeds.

Total prize money for the 2020 Betfred World Championship will go up to £2.4 million, with the winner to receive £500,000.

Next season, a new £1 million bonus for 147 breaks will be introduced. If there are 20 (or more) maximums in a season, the bonus will be triggered and the £1 million will be shared between the players who made 147s. A player making more than one of those 20 would receive a proportional share, for example if he made two 147s and there were 20 in total, he would receive £100,000. This replaces the previous ‘rolling prize’ system.

So what do we make of it?

Two more years of Betfred sponsorship – OK

Four more tour cards to be gained via the Q-school – OK

Jimmy White getting another 2 years invitational card – fine by me but will ruffle a few feathers

World Championship qualifiers going back to a tiered system – well, well, well … after stating and hammering that the flat draw is the future there we are. Personally I’m pleased. It rewards the better players who will have less matches to play. It will also make the draw less random, and we will see less complete mismatches. It will give lower ranked players a more winnable first round match and allow more of them to earn something for their efforts. All that is very good. That’s 112 matches to be played in qualifiers, same as it is now. It will however be one more match to win for the lowest ranked players and just the two for the 17-48. – Great

The one million bonus to be shared amongst the “maximum men/women” provided there are at least 20 during the season… that reminds me of the one million bonus offered if a player wins all four of the Home Nations. It’s not gonna happen. The most we ever had in one season is 13… I’m not sure that 20 is a realistic target, and I’m not sure that players will be that excited, or bothered to try. Basically that’s the rolling prize for a maxi gone to pot…  – Boooooh!

Barry Hearns Crucible announcements

As per usual  during the World Championship, Barry Hearn took the opportunity to make some announcements to the assembled media. There will be an increase in prize money, with £500000 for the WC winner, but also interestingly more money for the second and third rounds losers. There will also be more events.

New 8 players ranking event added 

http://www.worldsnooker.com/tour-championship-added-itvs-series-snooker-events/

The new Tour Championship will be added to World Snooker’s calendar for the first time in 2019, televised by ITV4.

The event will run from March 19 to 24, with the leading eight players from the one year ranking list, after the seeding cut off point, competing for total prize money of £375,000 and a top prize of £150,000.

This follows in the series incorporating the World Grand Prix, which is for the leading 32 players on the one year list, and the Players Championship which is for the top 16.

All three world ranking events will be televised by ITV4 for the next three years.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to add the Tour Championship to our global calendar, it will be a highly prestigious event for the best players in the world.

“The race to qualify for this series of tournaments begins from the very first moment of the 2018/19 season, and every pound earned counts. All players will be striving throughout the season to move up the one-year ranking list and make it to these three crucial and highly lucrative events.

“We’re also thrilled to be working with ITV on this series for the next three years. They are a great team to work alongside, with fantastic production values. The viewing figures they receive for snooker are outstanding and growing year on year so their appetite for broadcasting our sport is growing in tandem. This is great news for snooker fans as the amount of coverage on television throughout the season continues to increase.”

The venue and ticket details for the Tour Championship will be announced soon, as will the calendar and seeding cut-off points for the 2018/19 season.

That’s excellent news. ITV coverage is always excellent. However I hope it will be available on Eurosport somehow as well because ITV is not easy to access if you are not in the UK. Speaking to John Parrott and Stephen Hendry during the MSI of this afternoon match, Hearn said that matches in this event will be long format: best of 17, best of 19 and best of 25.

The Shoot-out to stay and be covered by Eurosport

http://www.worldsnooker.com/snooker-shoot-stay-eurosport-quest-agree-take-host-broadcaster/

EurosportSnooker’s Shoot Out event will be televised live by Eurosport and Quest for the first time next season.

The world ranking tournament, which has been running since 2011, has a unique set of rules, with matches lasting a maximum of ten minutes and a shot clock of 15 seconds for the first five minutes and ten seconds for the last five.

Broadcast of the event has now been incorporated into World Snooker’s long-term partnership with Eurosport and Quest, which runs until 2026. The Shoot Out brings the total number of events broadcast by Eurosport to 19 (17 in the UK) with qualifying rounds and other events available on Eurosport Player.

The 2019 Shoot Out will run from February 21-24, at the Watford Colosseum, with Eurosport and Quest as the host broadcaster.

The tournament features 128 players in a flat draw, each needing to win seven matches to take the title. Michael Georgiou captured the trophy for the first time in 2018, beating Graeme Dott in a dramatic final.

World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn said: “We are delighted to be working with Eurosport and Quest on the Shoot Out for the first time. We have established a fantastic partnership with them in recent years. Eurosport really is the Home of Snooker, broadcasting to 137 million homes in 54 countries. We have also seen incredible viewing figures on Quest since they first televised snooker in 2016.

“The Shoot Out is a wonderful event which has become one of the highlights of the season for fans who enjoy the fast and furious pace of play. The 2018 Shoot Out was the best I have ever seen, with so many matches going down to the last few seconds, including the final which was a great moment for Michael Georgiou. It’s a chance for up and coming players to make a name for themselves.

“I’m sure snooker fans will be thrilled that the Shoot Out will stay on the calendar and will be televised both on Eurosport and free-to-air on Quest.”

The agreement to broadcast the Shoot Out supplements Eurosport’s coverage of world-class snooker throughout the season. The pan-European broadcaster already screens in excess of 800 hours of live snooker action throughout the season.

Laurent Prud’homme, Senior Vice President Rights Acquisition and Syndication at Eurosport, said: “The idea of making snooker quicker and more appealing to a wider viewership through the Shoot Out concept aligns neatly with our own objective to appeal to new and younger and audiences.

“We’re delighted to secure the rights to showcase the Shoot Out on Eurosport and Quest in the UK and are already looking forward to seeing the best players in the world go toe-to-toe – not only playing against esteemed opponents, but also playing against the clock.

“The agreement supplements Eurosport’s coverage of world-class snooker, where we already offer fans in excess of 800 hours of live action from around the world throughout the season.”

Ticket details for the 2019 Shoot Out will be released soon.

I couldn’t care less if I’m honest…

And, finally, Hearn vows to clamp on slow play… 

Now that average shot times are available, Hearn wants to use that data in order to speed up the game in an attempt to make it more entertaining. If I understood correctly, players who get an average shot time above 30 seconds in a match, will be warned at first, get a “yellow card” (whatever that means ???) if they do it again, and get fined if they persist…

I’m not sure I’m convinced about this approach. There are basically two types of slow play. One is the slow pace dictated by the situation in the match and on the table and I strongly disagree with any attempt to “clamp” on that. It would only cut off a very important aspect of snooker, the battle of wits and encourage negative shot selections. The other is the deliberate and unnecessary slow play in an attempt to disrupt the opponent concentration and rhythm. That one is tackled by the section 4 of the rules: such behaviour is gamesmanship. That part of the rules is rarely enforced and that has to be addressed by encouraging the referees to use their discretion when they see it happen. Nothing more or different is needed. Some will tell you that this type of deliberate slow play isn’t an issue in snooker. I believe it is. There aren’t MANY culprits, but there are a few players who often resort to this. I have witnessed a prime example of it in the World Championship qualifiers last season, by a player who eventually DID qualify having used these tactics in the last two rounds.

Barry Hearn’s Full Press Conference

 

Ronnie news and snooker news

Ronnie was out on social media today to confirm that the sequel of “Framed” will be out in November and its title is “Double Kiss”

On twitter:

my new book, out Nov but pre-order it here and i’ll sign it too. thanks for your support Ro x

DoubleKissCover.jpg

And on Facebook

please to say my new book will be out in November. More stories of Frankie, you can order a signed copy here thanks for your support Ro x

As a reminder, here is the “trailer” …

The race is on. The stakes are high. Frankie James thought his troubles were behind him. He’s busy running his Soho Club, and his brother’s finally out of prison. But when a postcard arrives from Mallorca, he’s stopped in his tracks . . . Is it from his mother – the woman who’s been missing for eight years? When the goddaughter of London’s fiercest gangster, Tommy Riley, goes missing in Ibiza, Tommy knows there’s one man for the job – Frankie James. Just when Frankie was on the straight and narrow, he’s now faced with an impossible choice. If he agrees to help find Tanya, he’ll be thrown into a world of danger. If he doesn’t, Tommy could destroy him. For Frankie James, old habits die hard. One thing’s for sure, playing with this gang is no game. But with everything at stake, how can Frankie say no? Double-Kiss is the fast-paced, thrilling sequel to Framed, by snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Note that, unfortunately, whsmith delivers only in the UK, so this offer is only valid for UK readers…

Now about the snooker

It transpired on social media earlier last week that the Shanghai Masters 2017 was still no certainty, that the deal wasn’t done yet and the entry pack not out. Worldsnooker has since removed the tournament from its “live scores” calendar, so I reckon it’s not going to happen. That the Shanghai Masters disappears is a shame, that the week between 13 and 19 November becomes free would be good news, in my opinion at least. I’m not sure how the top players, who are only human, were supposed to cope with playing in China for the International Championship, next in the Champion of Champions in Coventry, then in China again for the Shanghai Masters, then back to UK for the Northern Ireland Open considering that there isn’t a single “free” day in that schedule. It would not have been just about the hectic traveling, it would also be about how the human body adjusts to time difference and broken sleep patterns.  You can’t realistically expect them to play in every of those tournaments AND to perform at the top of their ability in each. That said there is still a “China Ranking Event” in Worldsnooker Calendar but unless it’s all 128 at the venue, I wonder when the qualifiers could possibly be played, Maybe right after the English Open? Anyway, personally, I hope it’s scratched.

Players are currently in Yushan for the World Open and there have been a few notorious casualties already: Mark Selby, Michael White, Liang Wenbo, Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins and Graeme Dott are all out already (*) as the last 32 is starting tomorrow. Apparently the venue and conditions are very good. But the trip to get there is quite long and tiring – it’s a rather remote place – and a number of players arrived without their cue or their luggage. This of course isn’t Worldsnooker fault, but the more connections and different transports are needed, the likelier these incidents become. And there are complaints about the hotel(s) too. Why not stick to big cities, with easy connections? Surely this would allow more fans to come and watch live as well?

(*) Ali Carter, the defending Champion and Ronnie didn’t enter, Judd Trump didn’t qualify.

Ronnie has safely arrived in Beijing

Just a short one as I’m traveling home today from Scunthorpe.

RonnieSuperStar

Super Star Online, the sponsor of the World Seniors Championship and also the sponsor of Ronnie in China, has put a short video on their weibo earlier this morning showing Ronnie in the car, en route to his hotel, and expressing his pleasure to be in China and saying he’s looking forward to the tournament and meeting the Chinese fans.

Good news!