The Coming Mixed Doubles Challenges As Seen By Reanne and Rebecca

Reanne Evans and Rebecca Kenna have shared their thoughts, expectations and emotions ahead of the coming Mixed Double event.

Rebecca, who has been practising with Mark Selby, spoke to WST:

Kenna Hopeful Primetime Slot Can Inspire Next Generation

Rebecca Kenna is hoping this month’s BetVictor World Mixed Doubles event in Milton Keynes can “inspire” a generation of young girls across the country to pick up a cue.

After a summer that saw England’s Lionesses roar, a historic first Tour de France Femmes click into gear and England’s hockey stars strike gold at the Commonwealth Games, snooker is ready to take centre stage.

For the first time, the four women on the World Snooker Tour will be playing live on ITV. The event also marks 40 years since the network broadcast the inaugural World Doubles Championship back in 1982.

It’s just so fantastic that it’s on the main ITV channel because I never saw any women playing snooker on TV growing up,” said Kenna. “If I’d have seen women playing in a mixed doubles event with the world’s top four, as a five-year-old, I would have gone, ‘wow, I want to do that now!’ It’s a great incentive to see us on there. Hopefully, it does inspire some young girls to become professional snooker players and get the chance to play alongside those greats on live TV.

There’s also going to be a great incentive to join the women’s tour and get into that top four. And you never know, it might grow to a top eight and top 16. The tour might grow hugely from this and get more sponsorship, more players, better quality. Everything can then go in the right direction.”

Kenna will partner four-time World Champion Mark Selby for the event, in what she described as a “perfect” duo. But it won’t be the first time she has played in a team. Born in Keighley, just outside of Bradford, Kenna regularly played at The Liberal Club as a young girl with her dad by her side. Now 33, she hopes to lean on these experiences.

My dad was actually a big fan of Mark Selby. He unfortunately passed away in 2015. So it would have been really nice for him to see this. But, I hope he’s watching somewhere,” she said.

We used to play at club level and we never got nervous playing. But when he played with me, he’d say, ‘I’m a bit nervous, I wanna play well for you.’ And I’d say, ‘just relax, there’s no point in being stressed about it.’ So there is no point putting pressure on yourself or anyone else because there are other pressures. People watching on TV, people watching at home and in the crowd. If you have any external pressures on your shot, you’re not going to play very well. You just need to relax and play your own game.

Kenna heads into the event with momentum. A run to the final at the recent US Women’s Open in Seattle saw the women’s world number four not drop a frame in six matches before coming unstuck in the final against Jamie Hunter, losing 4-1.

While Kenna admits she didn’t deserve anything other than finishing second in the final, she enjoyed the experience of playing Stateside.

I loved Seattle,” she said. “There was a really good quality stream, with a commentator. People watching could get involved and talk back to us, they even had some players on commentary. They did really well trying to advertise it over there and it grew some new interest. Hopefully, more clubs might start to put snooker tables in their areas and not just play pool. But it was a really good experience. I hope we can go back in the future.

Just over two weeks have passed since Kenna returned from across the pond. A quick scan of her internal to-do list and she remembers she needs to check in on her shop, Cue Sports Yorkshire. Amongst practising, securing another sponsor and picking up a new car, Kenna found the time to make the journey down the M1 to meet the Jester from Leicester himself.

For the tournament, the rules state each player will take alternate visits to the table, rather than alternate shots, and Kenna admits the tactical side of the game is something she and Selby have discussed.

We’re not going to overthink it with who’s following who,” said Kenna. “We’re just going to play our own game and hopefully do well. You’ve got to take your chances and play the right shots.

The four men are all legends. And obviously, we know that they can score so heavily. So it might be on my mind that I don’t want to leave anyone anything. I don’t want to give them a sniff, because that might be the end of the frame. So I’ll be trying to pick out the best shot to play. If I’m in, try score, and if there isn’t a shot on, try play the best safety I can.

Those first quotes by Bex are very significant. I have written this many times: snooker, like all sports, is a number game. Girls need to see women play on the big stages to be inspired. Exceptional talents are … exceptional. The chances to identify one in a small “population” – which “female snooker players” currently is – are extremely low. Get more girls to play, make them feel welcome and the standard will improve.

Reanne was interviewed WST as reported by Phil Haigh and admits to mixed emotions

‘Mixed emotions’ – Reanne Evans on partnering Ronnie O’Sullivan at World Mixed Doubles

Phil Haigh Thursday 15 Sep 2022

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Reanne Evans will be tough to beat at the World Mixed Doubles (Pictures: Getty)

Reanne Evans admits there were some mixed emotions when she was partnered with Ronnie O’Sullivan for the World Mixed Doubles as performing in front of the greatest player of all time brings some pressure with it.

The brand new tournament starts on 24 September and sees the top four male players in the world team with the top four female players, which has obviously produced some exciting pairings.

Judd Trump teams up with Ng On Yee, Neil Robertson is paired with Mink Nutcharut and Mark Selby partners Rebecca Kenna, but Ronnie and Reanne is undoubtedly the highest profile team.

Clearly Evans was delighted to be drawn alongside the current world champion and world number one, but she admits it does come with some pressure as well as she doesn’t want to let the Rocket down.

Mixed emotions,’ Evans told WST on being paired with O’Sullivan. ‘I was like, you’ve got the best player in the world, the best player ever to pick up a cue, in my eyes. But then you’ve also got to perform in front of him as well!

He’s a great guy and I’ve had the privilege to play with him and against him in Snooker Legends and exhibitions.

Hopefully it’ll make me a little bit more relaxed because I’ve been there and done it. Obviously not on TV in a proper match, but I’m looking forward to it and hopefully he is too.

Whoever Evans was paired with, the team element of snooker is very different to a normal match and it does pile the pressure on.

I used to play league competitions with a team, you’re not just playing for yourself, its a different mindset, a different pressure,’ she explained.

If I miss I’ve let myself down normally, but now I’ve let Ronnie down, let my team down It’s a mix of pressures and emotions. But I’m looking forward to it, it’s exciting and a really good format.

I’m just going to go out there and try and enjoy it as much as I can, then hopefully we can win the thing, but it’s a flip of a coin. Anyone can win it, so I’m just looking forward to it.’

An Impromptu Interview with Jason Francis

Before you read further … I wanted to know more about the 900, and Jason had agreed to give me an exclusive interview for my blogs. Jason and I have known each other for many years and, well … our conversation lead us onto other subjects dear to us both, the Seniors and his future endeavours. That wasn’t planned but here goes … and enjoy!

M: On Tuesday next week, 8 players will compete in the first instalment of the 900 series. What inspired you to start this series and how did you come up with the concept?

J: I’ve always aim to create events that I, as a snooker fan, would want to watch or play in. That’s the main priority, at the end of the day I am a snooker fan. So whether it be the Legends Cup, the re-spotted black deciders, the team events, the doubles… its all about entertainment. So I created the Amateur Snooker League in 2021, ASL, and we did a trial event… it wasn’t right. So I listened to some tv companies, I tried to understand what is important to them… and I created the 900.

M: The players competing in the series are invited. How did this work and what criteria guided your choices? 

J: So I always said from the start the first event should reward those who have supported all my other events, no apologies for that. So many amateurs have taken time out to travel and play in whatever event I put on, many probably with no realistic chance of winning that event, but they’ve followed me so when I got this on I stuck by that promise, while at the same time making sure we tried to access every top amateur snooker champion in the world.

M: Organising such series of events comes at a cost and there is prize money as well. How is this series funded?

J: If you truly believe in something sometimes you have to be willing to back it, you have to set a level of prize money that is attractive, eye catching to amateurs but at the same time sustainable. On every event I have ever staged there has been no guarantee of me making money, that’s life as a promoter and what a lot of people just don’t get. There are plenty of people who sit in salaried positions in both sports I am involved in who can make decisions without that having any personal risk… I wonder sometimes if they would be making those choices if it was their money?

M: It is an amateur only series. Why is that?

J: That’s because we are televised and the WST professionals are not permitted to play on television without permission from world snooker and of course the 900 will clash with so many of their events over the course of the next 9 weeks. So many pros have asked me to play in it, I’ve told them in the future go and get permission and I will gladly have them in but the event trying to get sanctions comes with too many other restrictions that get imposed, especially around ownership of international tv rights outside the host broadcast.

M: On social media, you hinted at a “Professionals’ 900” and a “Women’s 900” in the future. Regarding the professionals in particular, how will that be made possible? Will they not be in breach of their contract considering that those events are televised?

J: As above… if the prize money is right I can invite pros and then its up to them to go and get permission, its seems they can all go and play pool at the moment so if a ‘professionals’ week happened on a non WST event week then why would they not allow their players to earn money in a week where they can’t provide a tournament? I think it would be pretty cruel to stop players earning money if they are not staging an event. The women’s is very much the same as no tv women’s event would have credibility without the top 4. Let’s see.

M: Among the players you invited, there is a significant number of “Seniors” players. I suppose that they are particularly keen to get their cues out as, this season, there is only one major Seniors event, the World Championship. What happened there? 

J: The 900 has a mix of Legends, Top Amateurs, Seniors, Juniors, Women and WDBS, it’s the inclusion of all that I am so proud of being able to do. Very few of these would have been on tv much, some not at all. They deserve their chance. The Seniors situation is a bit more complicated

M: In the last couple of years, a number of your Legends have definitely retired (Cliff Thorburn, John Parrott, Dennis Taylor). How does that impact the Seniors Tour? I’m mainly thinking about the promotion of the events here.

J: It’s simple, you’ve lost 4 commercially valuable and attractive names.. and so far we don’t have 4 to fill the gap but just because they are not hitting balls it does not mean that they are not of use at the events in other ways. Commentary, hosting, corporate hospitality. It’s a he problem though and one I was talking about way before it happened.

M: Younger “Legends” appear to be keen on playing on the Seniors tour. Mark Williams in particular has recently expressed his interest on social media. Currently, being a top player he can’t. However you hinted at changes that would make it possible next season. What are those changes?

J: So the truth is back in October 2021 I presented a blueprint for the future of seniors to my board, the WPBSA players board and WPBSA board itself

It was very much around the point above that we were losing ‘marquee’ names and we were not replacing them. The current agreement with WST allows us to invite players over the age of 40 ranked 65 and below, in return Seniors agrees not to clash events or approach any sponsors or broadcasters they work with. 

The agreement was right at the time we signed it, it no longer really works for either side so since January we have been trying to work on a new agreement with them and to explore my blueprint which requested to open up invites to the whole tour, even if it meant raising the age to 45. 

I also suggested if that was not acceptable it could be limited to tv invites to former major winners. This would not have affected the opportunities for amateurs, or any WST pro who was not invited, as that allocation of places would have remained the same. 

But the benefits would have been huge and to me it was so simple. The value of being able to invite Ronnie, Mark, John, Ballrun for example, 4 world champions to a seniors event staged at a time when no WST event was on, the commercial value of that to a sponsor, to ticket sales, TV, to the tour in general would have been massive in my opinion… and could have increased prize money significantly. 

And I go back to my very first point about putting on events I would like to play in… imagine winning a club qualifier knowing the chance to play Ronnie or John Higgins live on tv in the crucible is the prize? 

Anyway sadly it didn’t work out but that should not be a criticism of WST as at this time they are in a huge period of transition with their own challenges to face so I understand supporting seniors is not a priority. Barry stepping back feels a bit like a team losing their captain, then Nigel retiring as well means a hugely experienced operator is lost to the team, then you add on Pete and Eugene retiring who fitted all the tables and it’s no surprise that Jason Francis wanting Mark Williams in his senior events becomes less important to them.

M: What happened to the Uk Seniors in Hull

J: Lots of people ask what has happened to Hull, our home of the Uk Seniors for the past 3 years. That is something that has disappointed me. I found out that WST had placed the Tour Championship there early next year while I was actually in the venue for my darts. I worked so hard on that event and with the council, the mayor to try and get Hull on the map for snooker, maybe I did it too well as a major ITV just got dropped in right over the top of our planned 2023 UK Seniors. And what did irritate me, but was I accept an oversight, was that internally our sport talked about how great it was to get snooker to Hull, we’d been there three years! So anyway it was clear two events as close to each other would not work, and again me as a snooker fan am I going to buy a ticket to see Patrick Wallace v Darren Morgan (with respect to both) or am I going to go to a best of 19 between the likes of Ronnie and Judd? Not often I really get irritated but that was a blow as that decision was made without a single consideration of the Seniors tour.

M: So whats the future?

J: But the good news is from May, when the agreement ends, Seniors is free to do whatever it wants and my partners at the WPBSA have been so great in continuing to support their tour as they truly see the benefit of it. 

So whereas seniors fans and players may be disappointed for this season, please sit tight as with the freedom to stage events when and where we want, with no restrictions on who we talk to or invite, with my new broadcast partners on events in darts I think the Seniors could very well get back to where it was pre covid.

M: Back to the 900 … the line-up is extremely diverse, which is great to see. Notably, it includes female players. Yet you consider a “Women’s 900”. Why is that? 

J: I think a Women’s week special, just like the pros could work very well. Once again I would dip into my own pocket to get that on, its well-known I am a huge supporter of the women’s game, women in sport, and not just because I manage Reanne. Why more Women’s snooker is not on tv baffles me.

M: What about other “specific” 900s? A “Youth 900” maybe? Thinking “under 18”  and or “under 16” here. 

J: So this time the rules on betting meant I could not invite a Liam Davies, a Daniel Boyes or Stan Moody despite how good that would have been but what underlies the whole 900 concept is not just about this tv event. 

The software I have built with a young whizzkid called Aaron from Scotland can soon be licensed to clubs who can run their own events, their own leagues. 

The beauty of a game of 900 is its 15 minutes… it’s a couple of games in your lunch hour. In a night league format for 3 or 4 players to play a couple of games and be done before midnight. It suits the modern lifestyle. And then my events can be about leagues, clubs sending us their champions. It can be played as a doubles event, a team event… it’s so flexible. We already have enquires for clubs wanting to run their own 900 events.

M: Anything else planned?

J: You’ve known me long enough to know I never sit still but also a lot of people don’t know I’ve been fighting a criminal court case for almost three years after someone in the sport made up a series of lies and false allegations against me because I uncovered some financial irregularities in a company I was involved in with some other professionals. They tried to destroy my reputation, my role with seniors and me personally, it was incredibly stressful having to keep quiet about this during that period on legal advice. That all came to an end in June when the truth finally all came out in court, as I knew it would, and I was found not guilty, completely vindicated and got a costs order.

So that’s behind me and now I am free of that I am back on full charge…Doubles in November, Champs league for amateurs I hope to start in 2023. Added a 4th darts major, Legends is taking Ronnie to Bulgaria and Germany this season, working on exhibitions for Stephen H. Team Champs in April 23 and the small matter of 4 Seniors Qualifiers, 4 Super Seniors Qualifiers and 3 Seniors Open Events…keep up everyone lol

Thank you Jason and good luck in your endeavours!

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.

Ronnie was interviewed for Eurosport… and the hosts share their own feelings about the interview.

About two weeks ago, Ronnie was interviewed for the Breakdown podcast produced by Orla Chennaoui and Greg Rutherford who both work for Eurosport, as he does himself.

Here is the interview

A lot of what is in there has been heard before. He speaks about his 7th World title, how he detached himself from snooker and how it helps him to actually continue to play, the difficult years after both his parents were sent to jail, his addictions … and more.

Maybe, actually, the most interesting bit is the feedback by the hosts…

Some snooker and Ronnie news – 17.08.2022

WST has published the format for the Mixed Doubles tournament coming end September

2022WorldMixedDoublePoster

BetVictor World Mixed Doubles Format Announced

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump will be on opposing teams in the opening match of the new BetVictor World Mixed Doubles in Milton Keynes next month.

The innovative tournament sees the world’s top four men each paired with one of the top four women in a team format. Televised live by ITV, the invitation event runs over the weekend of Saturday September 24 and Sunday September 25 at the Marshall Arena at MK Stadium in Milton Keynes.

The teams will compete in a round robin format, each match played over four frames. At the end of the group phase, the top two teams will go through to the final, which will be best of seven frames. The two players in a team will make alternate visits to the table (rather than alternate shots)

The Saturday afternoon session fixtures, from 1pm, will be:

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Reanne Evans versus Judd Trump and Ng On Yee

Followed by Mark Selby and Rebecca Kenna versus Neil Robertson and Mink Nutcharut.

On the Saturday evening from 7pm, the two losing teams from the afternoon matches will go head to head, then the two winning teams will meet.

All four teams will be in action again on the Sunday afternoon 1pm session, with the order of play to be announced on the Saturday evening. The top two teams from the group stage will go through to the final on Sunday from 7pm.

2022WorldMixedDoubleROSEvans.png

A WST spokesman said: “It’s a fantastic format and we’re delighted to start the event with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump going head to head in their respective teams, reviving memories of their World Championship final clash earlier this year when the Rocket won his seventh Crucible crown.

It’s an incredible line up of players and we’re fascinated to see how they will adapt to the team format. Snooker is one of the very few major sports where men and women can compete together and this is a fantastic opportunity for us to showcase our sport to a huge audience both in the arena and on ITV’s main channel.

Now that the format has been released we expect to see any remaining tickets sell fast, so fans are urged to take the opportunity to see snooker’s most decorated stars compete in a unique format.

The video shared by in the comments section by Kalacs is part of the Breakdown podcast  episode where Ronnie will talk about pressure, training, anxiety and more The full episode will be  out next week. This information was shared on twitter by Eurosport and Ronnie himself. 

RonnieFoodBankPlansAugust2022

Ronnie is always looking for new endeavours outside snooker…. here is Phil Haigh reporting on his latest project

Ronnie O’Sullivan reveals hopes to open food bank: ‘I need challenges like that’

Phil Haigh Monday 15 Aug 2022

For years now he has tried to not put all his eggs in the snooker basket, diversifying his interests to keep the pressure off his potting and give his mind other things to focus on.

This is partly in preparation for when playing his chosen sport is no longer an option, but at the same time he believes it has helped him prolong his career at the very top.

It’s very dangerous for any sportsman to just invest totally in the sport,’ O’Sullivan told The Climb Podcast. ‘I see it with snooker players, they invest so much in snooker that when it’s over, it’s like, “Who am I? What can I do?

I don’t want to be that person who finishes his career and just feels lost. It’s so important to have a purpose in life. For me I’m always looking for the next purpose and it can never be snooker.

It’s too demanding, it’s too difficult, it’s too on your own, it’s too fickle. To try and invest your whole time and energy and it can be taken away from you – not because of anything you’ve done, but the competition might be better or you have a bad back – so you think, I can’t play, so what do I do? It’s difficult to make that transition, I think.

O’Sullivan does punditry work, has written books, occasionally opens a shop and is always engaged with his running, but he now has a new focus ahead of him.

The Rocket spent Christmas Day at a food bank in London and, along with not getting the satisfaction he wants from snooker, has been moved into wanting to set up his own.

I woke up the other morning and thought these last weeks since I won the World Championships, the first week I was knackered and a bit low and didn’t feel like doing anything,’ Ronnie continued.

Then I came out of it, but it wasn’t as good a payback as I thought, I’m not feeling the same high as when I won the first, or third of fourth one.

That’s not a good sign. I thought, what will actually make me happy and give me a purpose in life?

I thought, I know what I need to do, I need to open up a food bank, for people who can’t get the basics in life, a bit of food!

That’s probably the next thing I want to do because I worked with one in Walthamstow.

‘I was helping there on Christmas Day, it goes all year round it’s great what they do, but I was there on Christmas Day and I just looked at the people there and what they do, the people who come there and I just felt good being there, I felt good being around those people. The whole thing about it felt right, to be part of it.

It takes people giving their time for free, with no reward, other than them just wanting to give something back.

For me now I need challenges like that and things that make you feel good about yourself.

It’s a very generous idea but, quite frankly, I’m not sure Ronnie has any understanding of the size and complexity of such a project, nor of the level of commitment this would require…

That said, I’m sure he’s genuine in what he says. I have been with him at events, and at exhibitions, and on numerous occasions I have witnessed him spontaneously trying to help homeless persons he had just spotted in the street, usually by going to the closest shop to buy and bring them some warm food or drink and taking time to have a chat with them.  And that even happened right after matches he had lost.

More Singapore pictures and David Grace’s take on Ronnie and Zhao collaboration

Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe are back with their podcasts after a short summer break. The last one features David Grace, one of the nicest and most interesting character on the tour. The link to the podacast is in the article blelow.

The article itself reports on David’s opinion on Ronnie and Zhao’s collaboration and what he expects of Zhao in the near future.

Ronnie himself said that he can work with Zhao because they are similar, he wouldn’t be able to help players who are too different from himself.

This is what David thinks about Ronnie’s work with Zhao and the possible outcome of such collaboration:

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Zhao Xintong a ‘match made in heaven,’ reckons David Grace

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Zhao Xintong
Ronnie O’Sullivan is continuing to work with Zhao Xintong (Pictures: Getty/Zhai Zheng)

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Zhao Xintong seem like a match made in heaven, believes David Grace, as the Rocket continues to help the Cyclone develop his game.

The world number one was working with the UK champion last season, giving him general advice on the game and looking to impart some wisdom on shot selection and tactics.

The seven-time world champion thinks very highly of the 25-year-old, saying he has the talent to become the greatest player ever and wants to help him fulfil his potential.

With the greatest player in the game’s history in the corner of one of the most talented young stars in the sport, it is an exciting prospect and one that world number 55, Grace, reckons will work for all parties involved.

‘Seems like a match made in heaven, doesn’t it? I think Ronnie could only work with players as talented as Zhao,’ Grace told the Talking Snooker podcast.

He couldn’t come along and turn me into a heavy scorer or a 16 seconds-a-shot merchant, could he, let’s be honest.

He needs to be working with that level of player and that’s what will excite him. I think Ronnie will really enjoy it as well.’

Zhao began fulfilling his immense potential last season when he won the UK Championship and German Masters – his first two ranking events.

Much will be expected of him this campaign, but Grace has urged some caution and feels it will be a good season if the world number six can go deep in tournaments more consistently.

‘If he consolidates being a top 16 player and gets to the business end of a few tournaments, I think that’s fine for him,’ said the Yorkshireman.

He’s suddenly gone from where he was to winning two tournaments in such a short space of time, it’ll be difficult for him to do that again, I can’t see that happening again.

But you never know, that might be the breakthrough that he needed and he might go on to achieve things that people didn’t think he was capable of.

Betfred World Championship 2017 - Day 1
David Grace reckons expectations should be limited on Zhao Xintong this season (Picture: Getty Images)

O’Sullivan and Zhao’s great relationship has continued over the summer, with the Chinese star going with the world champion to Singapore to play exhibitions at the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy.

The 46-year-old is a big fan of the Cyclone on and off the table and wants to do for Zhao what the legendary Ray Reardon did for him earlier in his career.

He could be the greatest of all time with his talent, his ability,’ said O’Sullivan ahead of the 2022 World Snooker Championship. ‘I always say he’s Roger Federer with a snooker cue in his hands. But he’s got to develop and learn, and he will learn. He’s like me, he’s a quick learner and he’s shown that he’s on it.

SNOOKER-SIN-ROSSA-ACADEMY
Ronnie O’Sullivan has been with Zhao Xintong in Singapore as they launch the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy (Picture: Getty Images)

A bit like what Reardon done with me, he showed me how to defend better. Xintong attacks but it’s sometimes attacking because he’s forced to attack. I said to him, “If you do this better, you’ll always have the upper hand, the more you’ve got the upper hand the more you will feel comfortable. You don’t want to play snooker from desperation.

That’s what I used to do, play from desperation. Attack because I don’t know how to get out of trouble and pot my way out of it. Let’s not do that, get the odds in our favour, but you need to go about it in a certain way for that to happen.

Meanwhile, the pair is still in Singapore.

Some more pictures – well, a lot of more pictures actually – were shared on RoSSA facebook page. This series is about the official opening ceremony.

Here goes…

 

Ronnie was interviewed by the media in Singapore

Ronnie was interviewed by the media in Singapore and here what he had to say, reported by Eurosport:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: SNOOKER THE LAST SPORT I’D WANT MY CHILDREN TO PLAY, THE SPORT NEEDS TO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER

Seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits tennis, golf, football and athletics pose as more attractive options for parents when looking at sports their children to play. O’Sullivan is launching the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy in Singapore and will play an exhibition tournament this weekend alongside Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai.

BY MICHAEL HINCK

Ronnie O’Sullivan says snooker “needs to get its act together” after admitting he would advise children against playing the sport.

O’Sullivan is in Singapore to officially launch the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy, and is set to play an exhibition tournament on Saturday alongside China’s Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai of Thailand.

Speaking about the challenges snooker faces, world champion O’Sullivan admitted the sport is in a “tough position” given its competition.

It’s hard because obviously football is such a big sport now, tennis, golf,” O’Sullivan told SNTV.

You have all these sports so if you’re a parent, and if you’re looking at a sport for your son or daughter to get involved in, would you choose snooker? You probably wouldn’t.

So it’s really difficult to sort of get excited about snooker. You know, I love snooker, I’ve played it all my life, but also I’m a parent as well and I think if I was advising my children on a sport to play, snooker would be the last sport I probably want them to play.

I’d say maybe try tennis, maybe try golf, play football, maybe athletics, you know all that sort of stuff. So snooker’s in a really tough position at the moment, of where it goes, so it’s up against a lot of other good sports.

Snooker needs to get its act together I think, more importantly, and at the moment, you can’t compare it to all the other sports really.

Asked whether a big investment would help snooker, O’Sullivan added: “I think it’d be fantastic for the sport if that was to happen. You need someone like a big backer like the Saudi-people to just come along and say ‘look, this is what we are going to do’ and the players will be like ‘yeah, great’, they probably go for it. That probably would be a good thing for snooker.

It may be China, maybe Saudi (Arabia), maybe one of them places I think. You need someone with deep pockets that can afford to put maybe a hundred million aside, this is it for the next five years, the players’ futures are secured, they know where they are, you know then that would be great for snooker.

O’Sullivan won his seventh world title in May after beating Judd Trump 18-13 in the final.

The 46-year-old admitted he was not entirely enjoying his time at the Crucible, but felt the pressure to perform with a television crew following him for a documentary.

I decided a long time ago that if something got too much pressure, or I thought you know what, I’m not really enjoying this, then it’s probably better that I lose and let somebody else have that place.

And I felt that during this world championships. I didn’t really enjoy it. But I had this film crew following me so I thought, I better try hard because they’re following me. So that was why I won it. It wasn’t because I wanted to win it. It was just that I felt bad for the TV crew.

He added: “I don’t even actually like talking about snooker. I enjoy playing it but I don’t really want to be too involved in it. So obviously winning the world championships, it really turned everything around and everyone was like, ‘Ah you’re world champion this, world number one’, I was like oh no, I don’t want to be known as that person anymore.

I just want to enjoy my life you know, but when you’re in the spotlight, everybody gets excited. I’m like, I don’t really want to be that person anymore.

 

There a few things in this interview I want to comment on.

First, it’s very obvious that when Ronnie says that he wouldn’t want his son to embrace snooker, it’s “snooker as a profession”. Every parent wants the best for their kids and they want them to be able to earn a decent living and be safe economically. Whatever WST claims, only the top 32 are in that position in snooker, and to be in the top 32, you have to be exceptionally good at it. Only the very top can make enough money to be safe once they retire. Ronnie feels that other “good” sports provide better opportunities to earn, whilst, currently snooker isn’t in that position.

Ronnie mentions Saudi Arabia, no doubt because all the noise about the golf  “LIV” tour. I would hate it if Saudi Arabia was getting deeply involved in snooker. This is a terribly repressive regime that tries to rekindle its image – and secure revenues other than those provided by the oil sector – though sports. It’s called “sportswashing” and here is an article by the guardian explaining what their strategy is. It’s 18 months old but still totally relevant. Last March, Amnesty International again raised strong concerns after 81 persons were executed, some of them merely for peacefully protesting. Does the sport we love really want to be involved with such a terrible regime? Alas, they probably would … after all a very lucrative event had been planned to be played there and is probably still on the cards. Now, whilst the snooker authorities can’t possibly ignore the type of country they are dealing with, the players … I’m not so sure. Most of them don’t read much outside the UK news and even then, their interest is mainly about sports. And, of course, China is also a very repressive regime when it comes to ethnic minorities.

That said, that “sportswashing” policy inevitably brings more foreigners in the country. That, in turn, might, in the longer term, force those regimes to become more tolerant to diversity. No matter how hard you try to “hide” some realities, having more “foreign eyes” around will increase the risk of unwanted truths to be exposed. That’s inevitable: such events attract journalists, you can’t keep every single visitor in a “bubble” and some will see beyond the appearances and will talk. If it happens it will eventually backlash.

Finally about Ronnie’s “lack of desire”, I think his very emotional reaction after his win tells us everything we need to know. That said, he isn’t actually telling lies. The World Championship is a 17 days hard slog. Someone like Ronnie has to cope with a lot of tension, a lot of demands from WST and the media, a lot of expectations from the fans.  He’s naturally a rather anxious person. I do believe him when he says he doesn’t enjoy that… not after 30 years in the job and in the media spotligth. Having this documentary filmed gave him extra motivation to try his hardest.