Snooker News and Talking Points – 15 September 2022

Talking point: Shaun Murphy’s ideas about the World Championship

Yesterday I shared news about a podcast with Shaun Murphy, who branded the World Championship format as scandalously unfair. As you would expect this divided opinions, including among the players.

One player who definitely disagreed with Shaun is Kyren Wilson. Speaking to “The Sportsman”, this is the report on what he had to say:

However former Crucible finalist Wilson, 30, has reacted strongly to the Magician’s outspoken rant. 

And The Warrior claims that the current arrangements are very successful, offer a justified reward to top players for two years’ effort, and guarantee fans booking in advance will see their favourites. 

Wilson said: “I don’t agree with what Shaun has said at all. The World Championships has been the same for many, many years and all the former champions won it coming through the same process. 

It is an event that sells out for most sessions a year in advance. So in this sense it is absolutely perfect the way it is, and doesn’t need touching. 

The fans pay good money to play the top players in the world and I wouldn’t want to touch that.  

And for the top players, there does need to be some reward for being where you are in the world rankings having earned that over two years. And I think this is one of those. 

There is room for many different formats on the tour and it should be mixed up, many with all in from round one and others like the World Championship where they aren’t, or an FA Cup style draw. 

If I were ever to try and modify anything at the World Championship, you could maybe tweak the distance of the semi-finals and final because the best of 33 and then best of 35. 

I only experienced the final once but those really take it out of players and could maybe be shorter.” 

When the World Championship was first staged at the Crucible in 1977 there were eight seeded players going straight through to the iconic Sheffield theatre, with the other eight having to battle through qualifying to take them in in the first round proper. 

That was the case until 1982 when the first round was expanded to the current 32 players, with the top 16 in the rankings seeded and parachuted directly into that stage.  

Since then no one has touched that aspect of the tournament though there have been plenty of changes in the actual qualifying process. 

Until relatively recently the qualifying process was tiered, so that those ranked 17-32 only came in at the end for the last match and therefore had to win only one to get to the Crucible. That all changed in 2015, when the remaining pros were topped up with 16 wildcards for the qualifying event and all players regardless of ranking had to win three best-of-19 frame matches to reach the promised land. 

And there have been further tweaks since then, with some of the earlier rounds reduced to best-of-11 frame contests with just the last round over the traditional distance. And the most recent alteration will come for this season’s competition when once more there will be three rounds for all 128 players, and all restored to the fuller distance for 2022-23.

Kyren is right. One aspect that Shaun totally overlooked is that the sponsors and broadcasters have a huge say when it comes to the events’ format as well as to who gets on the main table. The top players are the ones bringing the money to the game and every other player benefits from it. They are the ones putting bums on seats, and “selling” the “snooker product”.

Also, most of the players who actually complained, are players who are about the same age as the “Class of 92”. They had exactly the same opportunities as those three to climb the rankings and get at the top, only they didn’t. The “system” was and is the same for everyone.

Personally I stay with what I said yesterday. I believe that more “tiered” events would benefit the young players by helping their development. I know for certain that Mark Williams 100% shares this view and has said so on social media in the past. He’s one of the top players who is really involved with helping the aspiring youngsters in his area.

News: WST has posted the “rules” for the Mixed Doubles

BetVictor World Mixed Doubles – The Rules

Here are the rules for the new BetVictor World Mixed Doubles, which runs on the weekend of September 24 and 25 in Milton Keynes.

Tickets for the ITV-televised event are still available – for details click here.

The Rules

  • The opening round is played on a ‘round robin’ league table basis with each pair playing the other three pairs in four frame matches, where all four frames will be played.
  • Each frame is played under the published Rules of Snooker with particular reference to ‘Four-handed Snooker’ found in Section 3, Rule 18 (pages 33 and 34). To specify, this is alternate visits and NOT an alternate shot version.
  • One point will be awarded for each frame won in a match to determine the league table. In the event of two teams being tied on points, the result from the match between those teams will decide the positions, winner progressing. If this result was a 2-2 draw or in the case of multiple tied positions and results, the individual highest break in the event from the players involved will be the deciding factor, then the second highest if still tied and so on.
  • The pairs finishing first and second in the league table will play each other in the Final, over the best of seven frames.

The Teams
Ronnie O’Sullivan & Reanne Evans
Judd Trump & Ng On Yee
Rebecca Kenna & Mark Selby
Neil Robertson & Mink Nutcharut

News: Mark Williams is the next snooker player to join “Ultimate Pool”

Here is the announcement

Three-time world professional snooker champion Mark Williams is heading for the Ultimate Pool circuit, and is set to make his debut as he teams up alongside Carl Morris in the Pairs Cup live on FreeSports and ultimatepool.tv on Monday 10th October.

One of snooker’s all-time greats – with 24 ranking titles and two invitational Masters triumphs to his name – Williams will also become an Ultimate Pool professional player for the 2023 season, competing in events around his schedule on the snooker circuit.

“The Welsh Potting Machine” is the first professional wildcard to be announced by Ultimate Pool for the 2023 campaign, with 8-ball pool’s top tier expanding in numbers once again.

Williams will partner 1998 WEPF World 8-Ball Pool Champion Morris – still the sport’s youngest-ever world champion – during Group 11 of the unique Pairs Cup. The duo will face very tough opposition in the shape of Adam Bassoo & Dave Fernandez, Lakesh Badhan & Ben Flack and Andy Blurton & Neil Raybone, as they aim to top the group and qualify for the last 16 phase later this year.

As well as several other major Ultimate Pool ranked events that he would be eligible to enter, Williams will be part of an 88-player professional roster for the ten-event Pro Series next year.

The current world number 8 said: “I’m really looking forward to giving the Ultimate Pool circuit a go. I have been playing a lot of 8-ball pool recently and it has been fun.

Ultimate Pool looks exciting to get involved with and I’ve been impressed with the events and high standard on show. It’s going to be very difficult for me, but I will enjoy the challenge!”

Williams is the latest high-profile snooker player to enter the Ultimate Pool arena after appearances from Mark Selby in the Pairs Cup and Mark Allen in the Players Championship.

News: The 900 Series will begin on September 20, in the afternoon

This was initially scheduled on September 19. The change in schedule is motivated by obvious reasons.

It all starts with this group:

It will be streamed here: https://www.sportystuff.tv

Jason Francis, on social media, has hinted at a “Professionals 900” and “Women’s 900” coming in the future…

Shaun Murphy’s ideas and why I disagree

Shaun Murphy is doing a podcast with MC Phil Seymour and in the last instalment he aired ideas … that, to say the least, I strongly disagree with (and I’m not the only one).

Here is what it’s about, as reported by Phil Haigh

Shaun Murphy wants change to ‘absolutely ridiculous’ World Snooker Championship format

Phil Haigh Tuesday 13 Sep 2022

Shaun Murphy believes the World Snooker Championship format is ‘absolutely ridiculous’ as he feels that the top 16 in the rankings beginning at the last 32 stage ‘doesn’t make sense’.

Before all the drama at the Crucible every year there is a rigorous qualification competition, to see which 16 players lower down the rankings will join the world’s top 16 on the sport’s most famous stage.

While some would argue that they have earned it, Murphy feels that it is far too big an advantage for the top 16, of which he is one.

Players near the bottom of the rankings need to win four matches just to make the Crucible and Murphy believes the advantage being given to the best players is akin to Usain Bolt starting races 15 metres in front of his rivals.

The 2005 world champ says it is almost scandalous and would have a flat draw for the sport’s biggest tournament.

‘If it were up to me the entire format of the World Championship would change,’ Murphy said on The onefourseven podcast. ‘The top 16 would NEVER start three or four rounds ahead of everyone else on tour.

I think it’s absolutely ridiculous, scandalous almost that the best players in the world start three rounds ahead of everyone else. I think it’s ridiculous and one of those very strange nuances in sport.

Usain Bolt, the fastest man in the world, the equivalent is saying: “Usain, we know you’re the quickest so you can start 15 metres ahead of everyone else.” Doesn’t make any sense to me at all.’

While he was in the mood for changing things on the World Snooker Tour, the Magician also reckons the Masters should be a ranking event.

While the top 16 play in the London competition, his argument is that it is not invitational, anyone on tour can win their way into the top 16 so prize money should count on the world rankings, which is not currently the case.

The one thing I would change to the Masters tomorrow, because it’s done on the rankings and in my opinion, certainly over the two-year ranking list people have the same opportunities to be in it,’ said the 40-year-old.

If it were up to me all events would count on the money list. That would be the only think I would change about the Masters.

I think it’s very, very strange that what has widely become acknowledged as our second biggest tournament in the game doesn’t count. I think that’s a weird one and I don’t subscribe to the arguments against that.’

Let us first dispatch the thing about the Masters. Murphy himself says “certainly over the two-year ranking list people have the same opportunities to be in it“. What about those in their first year then? Did he forget they exist? They would obviously be put at a disadvantage, wouldn’t they? Contrary to the “Series” events, for which qualification is based on the one year list, qualification for the Masters is based on the lat 2 years and therefore it can’t and shouldn’t be ranking. It’s that simple.

Now about the World Championship … for me, most events should be played in this tiered format, rather in the current dominant flat draw format, provided that

  1. They are played right before the main event
  2. They are played at the same location, and preferably at the same quality venue as the main event, with spectators.
  3. They get the same media coverage as the main event with quality broadcasting and media on site

These are the reasons behind my opinion

The gap between amateurs and pros has widened in recent years. It’s plain for all to see. There are many reasons for that, but that’s not the object of this post. The young pros coming on the tour need more matches, and more winnable first round matches to help their development. The current flat draw is far too brutal. It is soul destroying. It offers no path for development.

They also need to “sample” the atmosphere of the big events. This is why those qualifying rounds should be played at the main venue, with full media coverage.

They need to be played right before the main events. Currently, players beaten in the qualifiers may have weeks without anything to play in. This season there will be players who may have only the shoot-out to play in between mid January 2023 and the World qualifiers early April. That’s not going to help their development and it’s soul destroying. Those players will arrive at the World qualifiers without any “match sharpness”. It’s simply not right. It’s totally counterproductive.

And, finally, but importantly, the tiered format ensures that less players are on zero prize money. To be precise, it would be 32 players in that situation instead of 64. Even with the guaranteed prize money this season, it’s important. It’s important because it’s money they actually won, which matters psychologically, and it’s ranking points.

Would it offer “protection” to the top players? Not really. They will come cold into the latter stages against players who will have at least one match under their belt with money and ranking points already guaranteed. Yes, financially, they will be protected, but not in terms of ranking points. So unless they win, that “protection” won’t last.

The comparison with Usain Bold doesn’t hold. Giving him 15 meters head start would “translate” into giving the snooker top player a one or two frames advantage at the start of a match. BTW, as far as I know, in most track and field competitions even top athletes go through some qualifying rounds.

There… persiste et signe … as we would say in French.

David Hendon thoughts ahead of the 2022/23 season

I know that the season has already started but it’s been a bit low key over the summer. In about a week’s time it will start in earnest, and David Hendon, writing for Eurosport, is sharing his thoughts about what is at stake for various players this season:

The snooker season will soon be fully awake after a few months in which it’s opened its eyes only to close them again.

The British Open, which gets underway later this month, is only the third event since the new campaign began in June. The calendar has been difficult to plan because of ongoing uncertainty over Covid in China, which means the five lucrative competitions previously staged there remain in cold storage for now.

But suggestions of crisis have been overstated. There are 15 ranking events on this season’s schedule, 12 of which are open to the whole tour, plus the usual elite invitation tournaments and the new World Mixed Doubles Championship.

So players at the top end of the game will soon have plenty to play in while those lower down the rankings have recently been offered a £20,000 earnings’ guarantee by World Snooker Tour to ease some of the financial burden. Discussions are meanwhile ongoing for new events in Europe, with the potential for these to be added to the calendar this season.

But which players will come good when the action finally restarts?

Ronnie O’Sullivan begins the season in a stronger position than ever. World champion for a record equalling seventh time and world no.1, this sporting colossus has never enjoyed a higher profile and it will grow even further when the documentary filmed about him over the last 12 months is aired later this year.

t’s been said many times, but what a career he’s had. His first ranking title came in November 1993, his most recent in May 2022. He has had to face an array of formidable challengers in those three decades, sometimes coming up short but always coming back.

Looking down now from the mountaintop, O’Sullivan has nothing left to prove, which makes him especially dangerous to his main rivals, none of whom can approach the new term with the same relaxed attitude.

Perhaps the greatest unknown quantity is Mark Selby. Last season was a write-off for the four times world champion as he faced up to problems he had long kept bottled up. He is in a better place now but, to complicate things, he recently suffered neck pain which has required treatment.

Selby is ranked third in the official two-year list but factoring in the points which will come off his ranking, including the 500,000 he won at the Crucible in 2021, his provisional end of season position is currently a perilous 24th.

There is plenty of time for that to change before May, but Selby needs to start winning matches soon. Otherwise it is not impossible that he could head to Sheffield in the spring in danger of being relegated from the elite top 16.

Judd Trump suffered what was perhaps an inevitable backwards step last season after three extraordinary campaigns from 2018 to 2021 in which he won 14 ranking titles, plus the Masters.

That hit rate was always going to be hard to keep up. Last season he won one ranking title, the new Turkish Masters, plus the prestigious Champion of Champions and reached the world final, not a bad year but not as impressive as what had come before.

By now it may have been expected, not least by Trump himself, that he would have taken over from O’Sullivan as the sport’s preeminent figure, but he was outplayed by him for long sections of their Crucible final. The challenge for Trump this season is to wrest back trophies but also the limelight.

Those perennial warhorses John Higgins and Mark Williams each produced a high standard last season but were left rueing several near misses between them. Higgins reached six finals but won only one. In three where he finished runner-up he had been a frame from victory, most notably 9-4 up to Neil Robertson in the Tour Championship only to lose 10-9.

Williams won the British Open but lost a decider to Robertson in the Masters semi-finals after the Australian needed two snookers, a last frame thriller to O’Sullivan in the Tour Championship quarter-finals and yet another deciding frame in the World Championship semis where Trump beat him 17-16 in a Crucible classic.

Higgins and Williams are the very opposite of underachievers but these close defeats still sting, even 30 years on from turning pro.

Robertson has been on an extended break after a stellar season in which he won four big titles before coming up short again in Sheffield, losing 13-12 to Jack Lisowski in the second round despite making a maximum break in the final session.

The Melbourne left-hander will play in the mixed doubles competition but has not entered the campaign’s first three tournaments and so won’t be seen in a ranking event until the Northern Ireland Open in October – six months after his Crucible defeat.

This may seem odd but Robertson has enough money and ranking points in the bank to take a lengthy break, and there have been so few events in the meantime that, even if he is rusty, it’s not as if anyone else will be particularly sharp.

The main challenge to the established order seems likely to come from China, with Zhao Xintong, 25, and Yan Bingtao, 22, leading the charge.

Zhao sensationally broke through last season by winning the UK Championship and swiftly followed this up with victory at the German Masters. Things unravelled a little at the end of the campaign when he lost 10-9 from 8-4 up to Higgins at the Tour Championship before a second-round exit at the Crucible.

When players suddenly achieve success, expectations change – their own as much as other people’s. But Zhao is an outstanding talent with an apparent ability to just enjoy what he is doing. He doesn’t have the mental scars of the older players and plays an eye-catching game that makes him an obvious crowd favourite.

Yan is younger than his good friend but his game is more layered. He won the longest frame in Crucible history against Selby last April, an 85-minute grind, and was also completely unfazed by a pigeon landing on the table during the same match.

However, Yan also lost 9-0 to Zhao in their German Masters final, so if anything a lack of consistency seems to be his Achilles’ heel. If he can achieve a more reliable baseline level of performance he could do some real damage.

Kyren Wilson, a top player lacking the titles of those around him in the rankings, made a good start to remedying that by winning the European Masters in Germany last month. Barry Hawkins had played superbly before his form collapsed in the title match, a worrying trend for a player who has now lost six of his nine ranking finals.

Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen have shed so much weight between them this summer that they’ve had to invest in new wardrobes. They remain players who, on any given week, could win any given tournament. What difference will the new healthier approach make? Snooker is not a physical sport but stamina is important, as is mental health, and fitness can do wonders for that.

A familiar question looms over Lisowski: can he finally win a ranking title? Dashingly talented but at times frustratingly erratic, he has done superbly well to bed himself into the elite top 16 without landing a trophy. Lisowski demonstrated genuine steel to beat Robertson at Sheffield and took Higgins to a decider in the quarter-finals, a display which suggested that the next step for him isn’t far away.

A player to watch closely is Hossein Vafaei, Iran’s representative on tour who seems to be improving all the time. He won the Shootout last season and has every chance to end the current campaign as a top 16 player.

Last season we saw unlikely title wins for the little known Chinese player Fan Zhengyi, an out of form Joe Perry and Robert Milkins, whose game seemed to have completely gone before he came good at the Gibraltar Open. There is greater strength in depth through the ranks now than ever, so further success for players down the list often derided as journeymen is entirely possible.

Young talent in Britain is thinner on the ground than it once was but 21 year-old Welshmen Jackson Page and Dylan Emery are both promising prospects. Chinese hopefuls such as Pang Junxu and Wu Yize could also be dangerous.

The problem for everyone is plain: there are only so many tournaments so there can only be so many winners. Plenty of players will produce a high standard but ultimately come away empty-handed.

The snooker season is one long game of thrones, where heart, nerve and luck are all required to weather the various storms a player will face. Some weeks you’re up, some you’re down. Sometimes nothing clicks, and then suddenly it all comes together.

Fans of the sport these days are rewarded with a greater variety of winners, some familiar, some unexpected. These are the players who we now rely on to rebuild snooker’s profile after such a lengthy break. 

I’m a bit surprised that there is no mention of Luca Brecel, Stuart Bingham and Ricky Walden in David’s analysis. Those three are currently in the top 16. Stuart has been a strong presence at the top since he won the World Championship in 2015. Luca is only 27 and has three ranking events to his name. Last season he reached the final of the UK championship and won the Scottish Open. This summer, he has already won the ranking Championship League, the season opener. He could do really well this season. Ricky is also the winner of three ranking events. Back injuries have derailed his career but he is now back in the top 16 and I rate him very high.

Me, I will of course follow the two Belgian rookies: Ben Mertens and Julien Leclercq. Other than those two, I will look at the performances and results of Michael White and Lyu Haotian, two players who showed phenomenal talent as teenagers but whose careers derailed badly because of a combination of external factors and personal issues. I hope that both can finally do their talent justice.

This is how the calendar looks like (without the qualifying rounds except for the World qualifiers)

Championship League – 28 June-29 July, Morningside Arena, Leicester – Winner: Luca Brecel

European Masters – 16-21 August, Stadthalle Fürth, Fuerth, Germany – Winner: Kyren Wilson

World Mixed Doubles – 24-25 September, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes

British Open – 26 September-2 October, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes  

Hong Kong Masters – 6-9 October, Hong Kong Coliseum, Hong Kong

Northern Ireland Open – 16-23 October, Waterfront Hall, Belfast

Champion of Champions – 31 October-6 November, University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton

UK Championship – 12-20 November, Barbican Centre, York

Scottish Open – 28 November-4 December, Meadowbank Sports Centre, Edinburgh  

Championship League – 6 December-9 March

English Open – 12-18 December, Brentwood Centre, Brentwood  

The Masters – 8-15 January, Alexandra Palace, London

World Grand Prix – 16-22 January, The Centaur, Cheltenham

Snooker Shoot Out – 26-29 January, Morningside Arena, Leicester  

German Masters – 1-5 February, Tempodrom, Berlin, Germany

Welsh Open – 13-19 February, Venue Cymru, Llandudno

Players Championship – 20-26 February, Aldersley Leisure Village, Wolverhampton

Turkish Masters – 13-19 March, Antalya, Turkey

Tour Championship – 27 March-2 April, Bonus Arena, Hull

World Championship qualifiers – 3-12 April, English Institute of Sport, Sheffield

World Championship – 15 April-1 May, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

Events marked in blue have already be played. Events marked in red are non ranking.

Ronnie talks about his arm injury and how it might impact his snooker in coming months

Ronnie has been speaking with Hector Nunns:

Ronnie O’Sullivan Admits He Needs To Carefully Manage Tennis Elbow Injury

Ronnie O’Sullivan admits he needs to carefully manage his tennis elbow injury in the coming days ahead of scheduled tournament appearances. 

The Rocket has been suffering with the condition in his right cueing arm for many months with it flaring up badly after his record-equalling seventh world title success at the Crucible in May. 

It troubled him throughout the summer, forcing the 46-year-old to withdraw from the European Masters event in Germany. 

O’Sullivan is keen to play in the revived Hong Kong Masters in October – a prestigious and lucrative invitation event in front of a huge crowd of up to 5,000. 

But before then he is entered in the new World Mixed Doubles later this month paired with record 12-time women’s world champion Reanne Evans – and then the British Open in Milton Keynes. 

O’Sullivan has not yet withdrawn from those tournaments on medical grounds raising hopes he will be at both – and he insists he would prefer to arrive in Hong Kong match-sharp. 

O’Sullivan said: “I have just got to rest it as much as I can so that has meant no gym as usual and no sports involving my arm

Some days it feels like it is getting better and other days it feels like it isn’t but over six months to a year hopefully it be all okay. 

I am doing everything I can to speed up the healing process but with some things you just can’t, you just have to go with nature

It is a repetitive strain injury from doing that same thing with your arm playing the shots. It’s the same thing for tennis players and golfers. It has got nothing to do with those sports as such, that’s just the name given to it.

It needs to heal. I had managed it for 10 months and it was okay up until the end of May and then I went in the gym and went a bit bananas. 

I have played a few exhibitions and did the Championship League early this season but it was getting so painful I couldn’t play any power shots which is no good for competition

I still hope to play the mixed doubles and also the British Open. For me Hong Kong is the most important tournament coming up in the calendar, it’s a great event.  

But obviously ideally I’d like a tune-up before heading there and after the mixed doubles we are into the British. That will give me something to practise for and I hope to play in them.  

I had pain before but it was manageable, and then I just overdid it. Getting older I just have to get smarter and realise I can’t do what I used to, but I have some really good people taking care of it

And it’s not been terrible! I have had a couple of nice holidays and enjoyed the time off. This season I will just play what I can.” 

The world mixed doubles at Milton Keynes will feature in addition to the O’Sullivan/Evans pairing the teams of Neil Robertson and reigning world champion Mink Nutcharut, Mark Selby and Rebecca Kenna, and Judd Trump and three-time women’s world champion Ng On-Yee. 

The tournament, to be played over two days at the Marshall Arena, will first see a round-robin group played out in best-of-four frame matches. And the teams finishing in the top two places will contest the final on the evening of September 25th. 

O’Sullivan and Evans are good friends having regularly played and gone on the road together on the Legends Tour. 

And then in the British Open ranking event starting on September 26th at the same venue presuming he is fit to take part the Rocket has been drawn to face Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher in the first round carried over from qualifying to the venue. 

The British Open was revived last year after a gap of 17 years – and played at the Morningside Arena in Leicester was won by Wales’ Mark Williams. 

After that just the top six players in the world as per the rankings at the end of the World Championships head for Hong Kong where they will be joined by On-Yee and the men’s local hero Marco Fu in an elite eight-player draw.  

Robertson, Selby, Trump, John Higgins and Zhao make up the field. Kyren Wilson is the unlucky man to miss out having got into the top six since Sheffield. 

So, that’s a bit of “mixed feelings” inducing news but there is no choice really. Obviously, provided Ronnie is able to play in the British Open, we shouldn’t expect too much especially as Alex Ursenbacher isn’t the easiest opponent at the best of times, never mind when coming in cold and under-prepared.

Neil Robertson about Ronnie, the Women’s game and going to Hong Kong again …

Neil Robertson was Phil Haigh’s and Nick Metcalfe’s guest on their “Talking Snooker” podcast recently. It was a mammoth “episode” as they chatted for three hours! You will find the link to that piece below.

Here is an article published by sportinglife, reporting on some of the subjects Neil discussed.

Neil Robertson hoping to learn from Ronnie O’Sullivan in new snooker season

Neil Robertson told the Talking Snooker Podcast that he hopes to learn from Ronnie O’Sullivan’s latest World Championship success as he prepares for the World Mixed Doubles and beyond.

Robertson was named World Snooker Tour’s Player of the Year for the 2021/2022 season, having won four major titles, but the Australian is still keen to learn from the best as the new season picks up pace after a slow start. 

After defeat in the last-16 in Sheffield ended what was an otherwise glittering campaign, Robertson admitted to having watched O’Sullivan closely as he marched to a seventh Crucible crown – picking up pointers for next year’s World Championship and more immediately, the coming weeks of the new season. 

Robertson told Talking Snooker in a special podcast produced in association with Sporting Life: “I watched Ronnie closely in the World Championship. I noticed how easily he was winning sessions and matches, even though he wasn’t playing that well. 

I actually don’t think he played that well, but he controlled the matches, he was more composed, and he created chances easily. 

“I found that interesting, and I’m hoping to take some of the things I learned from watching him at his year’s World Championship to carry into this season, and especially when it comes to Sheffield.

Mixed Doubles no longer a formality

Before that, Robertson has the small matter of defending titles such as the Masters and Tour Championship, as well as the World Mixed Doubles where he will partner Mink Nutcharut at the end of this month. 

The event will be televised live on ITV as part of their growing commitment to snooker, and Robertson is already looking forward to the challenge. 

Robertson said: “I don’t think it’s been held officially on television for a very long time. 

It has been held before. It was held in my old snooker club in Cambridge, and it seemed to be that whoever was partnered with Reanne [Evans] would win it. 

I had that opportunity to play with her once and we won it, which was great. There was a lot of tactics involved in terms of who followed who, but with Reanne, who was head and shoulders above the other players, you couldn’t really rely on the order of play.

If you were partnered with Reanne it was two heavy scorers following whoever were to miss or make a mistake. 

But you look at women’s snooker and how much it’s progressed over the last five or six years, where the women’s players are winning matches on the tour and competing in a lot of matches, and all the players involved are going to be really competitive – which is what you want to see for an event like this. 

I’m very excited to be partnered with her [Mink] because it was a couple of years ago that she made that 147 recorded on video, and I’ve seen her play since. She beat Mitchell Mann a couple of weeks ago, so she’s a really good player. 

It’s great to see the younger female younger players coming along. It’s very exciting. I hope the format is really good and it gets the exposure it deserves.

After the World Mixed Doubles, Robertson, O’Sullivan and six more of snooker’s biggest stars will head to Hong Kong for the valuable Hong Kong Masters. 

Robertson has fond memories of the event, having won the last edition of the tournament in 2017 by beating O’Sullivan 6-3 in the final. 

He added: “It will be the first time going back to Asia since the pandemic. 

All the players involved in Hong Kong are really excited to get back out there and start playing snooker in other countries, which is a big part of why we play – to play in different cultures and in front of different sets of fans. 

I remember the last time the tournament was held when I won it. I played Ronnie in the final in front of 3,000 people and they clapped for almost every single shot – it was just amazing. 

I hear the venue this year is also going to be fantastic, so I’m just really looking forward to getting out there and experiencing that. If it’s anything like last time, it’s going to be an amazing experience for all the players involved.”

‘History doesn’t wait for anybody’

Upon returning from Hong Kong, the season finally kicks into gear following an unusually quiet period in the calendar and Robertson is hoping to maintain the sort of success that has seen him become one of the modern-day greats of the sport. 

Robertson concluded: “I just try to improve. At the end of every season I think ‘what could I have done better, or what did players maybe try to exploit?’ because players are trying to work me out more than I’m trying to work them out. 

Players are trying to stop me from playing – which is a good thing because that’s what you want, you want your opponents to have to think about how they’re going to stop you from playing.

I need to find ways where they can’t find any chinks in my armour and in terms of goals, just make my opponents work harder for their chances and try and win as much as I can. 

Try to improve, because this sport is about improving. I want to win more tournaments, of course, but however many more tournaments I win until I retire isn’t really going to change much in how I’m regarded as a player. 

While I’m at an age where I can keep improving, keep improving, because there will become a time where I will start getting worse at the game – history tells you that. History doesn’t wait for anybody.

LISTEN TO THE FULL TALKING SNOOKER PODCAST WITH NEIL ROBERTSON

In other parts of the podcast, Neil speaks about his wife mental health struggles and how Ronnie helped them.

He was also one of the first to express his support to the guaranteed prize money scheme. Of course he would: he once was a expat teenager, away from his family, with no money and a very “raw” game that needed improvement. He knows what some players go through and he understands fully how this will help them.

Snooker News and Talking Points – 10 September 2022

WST has published the draw and format for the 2022 Hong Kong Masters

Here is the announcement:

Hong Kong Masters Draw And Format

The draw and format for next month’s Hong Kong Masters is now available.

Click here for the draw

Click here for the format

Six of snooker’s greatest players – as well as the two local favourites – will compete. World Snooker Tour and Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council (HKBSCC) recently announced that the tournament would be staged for the first time since 2017 and would be held at the Hong Kong Coliseum venue for four days from October 6th to 9th.

Tickets are on sale now and certain ticket types have already sold out. For details follow the official website of the tournament: www.snookermasters.hk

Prize money:

Winner: £100,000
Runner-up: £45,000
Semi-finals: £35,000
Quarter-finals: £22,500
High break: £10,000

This tournament is under exclusive sponsorship of The Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), as one of the many initiatives supported by the HKJC’s approved donation of HK$630 million to the Government of the HKSAR to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR. The Hong Kong Jockey Club is resolute in pursuing its purpose of acting continuously for the betterment of society, all in support of creating stronger communities together.

Talking point: the guaranteed £20000 prize money

Although generally well received, that initiative by WPBSA/WST has triggered some discussions.

David Caulfield (SnookerHQ) has been listening to the players reactions and analysed the pro and cons. You can read his article here.

He mentions an important element I was not aware of:

An important stipulation is in place that requires participation in every ranking event of the 2022/23 campaign, barring exceptional circumstances.

The possible pitfalls mentioned by Mark Allen and David are indeed potentially problematic. Of course players enter the tour with ambitions to succeed as professionals and, in this respect, prize money duly earned by winning matches will remain all important when it comes to ranking and tour survival. With this in mind they should have all the needed motivation to try and win. But what about a player in their second year of their tour card who knows that, realistically, they have no chance whatsoever to finish the season in the top 64 or to qualify for the Crucible. Then it could be tempting to just let go… or worse.

The simple truth though is that WST probably can’t afford the cost of the initiative plus giving away the full prize money on top of it.

My view on this is simple: there should be a “success threshold”: barring exceptional circumstances, players over 20 who haven’t won at least x matches – x to be defined – over their 2 years spell should NOT be allowed to enter the Q-School for the next two years. I know that this will be controversial BUT consider the following: why do we see so few rookies coming out of Q-School? For me an important factor is that players who just dropped off the tour are used to the conditions and environment and that’s a massive advantage. The “just let go factor” could be minimised if players know that they may not get the opportunity to immediately re-qualify unless they continue to try their best.

There is also the issue of the invitational tour cards, the women’s “development” tour cards, and to an extend the regional nominations.

There have been numerous fans on social media citing Jimmy White and Reanne Evans as players who might stay on tour for a long time without needing to go through the regular qualifying process and might therefore benefit from the initiative for many years without actually ever reaching the required level of excellence.

Regarding Jimmy, my views are simple: he tries very hard, at 60 he still wins a few AND he still puts bums on seats. Jimmy still has high commercial pulling power, the fans love him. Giving Jimmy a tour card still is a valuable commercial investment.

Regarding Reanne, people assume that she will stay at the top of the women’s game for many more years. I’m not that sure. Time will tell. If the women’s tour manages to expand and attract more girls – from Asia in particular – things could change rapidly.

Snooker and Ronnie News – 9 September 2022

2022 British Open – Held-over and Last 64 draw and format

Here is the announcement by WST:

Cazoo British Open Format Announced

The format for the upcoming Cazoo British Open has been announced, with defending champion Mark Williams opening proceedings against Estonia’s Andres Petrov on day one.

Click here for the round one/two draw

Click here for the format

The event runs from September 26th to October 2nd at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes. With the world’s finest in attendance and random draws in operation throughout the tournament, fireworks are guaranteed.

The top 16 seeds have had their first round ties held over, while the remainder of the draw completed their opening round matches at the qualifying event.

All of the outstanding first round matches will be played on day one and include World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan against Swiss number one Alexander Ursenbacher and Judd Trump against Si Jiahui.

The draws for the remaining rounds will be conducted as the event progresses.

Ronnie’s first match will be on the Monday 26th of October, at 7pm UK time. Should Ronnie win his first match, Joe O’Connor awaits him. That match will be played on the Tuesday morning. The order of play isn’t decided yet.

Ronnie will do two exhibitions in Bulgaria, on 25 and 26 November 2022

They are organised by Oleg Velinov and you will find the details here

Those dates overlap with the 2023 German Masters Qualifiers.

Ronnie’s arm is improving and he has been practising

Also the prize money has been confirmed for this season’s Mixed Doubles and Hong Kong Masters

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