As we’re now approaching the climax of the World Championships at the Crucible, it seems that my comment about Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fall from grace was ever so slightly misguided. The Rocket has somehow been sparked into life in this Championship, with a scintillating run of form taking him to a semi final against Matthew Stevens that he won comfortably in the end 17-10. In the final, he faces qualified pilot Ali “The Captain” Carter, who triumphed 17-12 against in-form Scot Stephen Maguire; whom forced the great Stephen Hendry into retirement with a crushing 13-2 victory in the Quarter Finals.
Many snookering anoraks, whatever the amount of knowledge that they possess, would never have even contemplated the Final line up that has become as a result of the preceding matches. I think I would be right in saying that many predictions for the big finale would have included young gun Judd Trump and/or Aussie Neil Robertson in them. But such has been the quality of competition so far that this isn’t the case.
Barry Hearn has definitely been the driving force behind the new wave of snooker popularity, but I do think that he probably shouldn’t be so dismissive of talk of a 50-week season causing “burnout” from the players on the tour. Sometimes, Player Power can be helpful to the progression of the game, which Hearn hasn’t really seemed to get the grasp of quite yet. But I don’t really see any die-hard fans complaining! Since the quarter final stages at The Crucible, there hasn’t been a spare seat going. Although some Championships have seen the numbers of frames played “neutered” slightly recently, the length of the World Championship matches has (thankfully!) stayed the same. This means that we can all watch the drama unfold over the course of two days, just like it has always been! Change has certainly been necessary in some aspects of the game, but some parts should be left well enough alone.
Snooker has gone through a big transition in the last couple of years, and the retirement of Stephen Hendry is most likely the signal of a new era in snooker, and the sport is looking like it’ll come out the other side all the better for it.