Before looking forward then,a brief look back.
When you consider the depths the sport had sunk to At the start of the century,its quite remarkable to see it such rude health today and of course that is down to the genius of one man,Barry Hearn.
Without going in to too much detail the headlines speak for themselves,More tournaments in more places than ever before,with in total 54 more ranking titles on offer this decade compared to the previous one,an increase in prizemoney from £3.5 million to over £!6 million with the promise of more to come & a bigger world wide audience watching the sport than ever before,there really hasn't ever been a better time to be a professional snooker player.
Yes not everything has been perfect, the flat 128 format is not to everyones liking,the shortening of the matches in the UK Championship has knocked some of the sheen of a once great tournament & it'll be a cold day in hell before I recognise the Shoot Out as a ranking event,but the positives far outweigh any negatives and you shudder to think where we'd be if "Bazza" hadn't won that vote!
The other main change in the last decade has been the rise in the average age of the tournament winners. the accepted wisdom of the last 25 years.of this been a young mans game,has been shattered as 40 became the new 20.The reason for this are two fold.Firstly, in the past the thing that happened as players got older was their appetite for practice diminished,With so many tournaments now, players are in a constant state of match fitness, so the hard hours down the club have taken slightly less relevance. The other reason,is sadly a real lack of top talent coming through at the younger end of the scale.
So where does this leave as we look ahead to the "20's"
The Class of '92 have continued to thrill us much longer than any of us could have expected,but tide or time wait for no man & with Williams seemingly already slipping in to semi retirement,Ronnie missing more than he is playing this season & Higgins still fighting valiantly,to the point of yet another cue change,to try and find some consistency again,the end for this remarkable trio could be appearing soon on the horizon. That said I would be shocked if, before they do eventually leave the the stage, they didn't all have another title or two in them with a fair chance Ronnie could still add to his Triple Crown tally
Also heading towards the veteran stage of their careers as the new decade beckons are former triple crown winners Selby, Robertson & Murphy.It was perhaps appropriate that Selby, as the decades most prolific ranking winner,should win last nights Scottish Open & in the next few years he'll surely add to his already impressive 17 ranking titles .The same probably applies to Robertson & Murphy, but we are seeing now with all three a real struggle to get the consistency of old.So yes I do see them all winning more tournaments, but as to whether they will be winning them at the ages the three mentioned in the previous paragraph have ,I have my doubts.
All of which means is that we may well be entering a prolonged period of Judd Trump dominance in the sport. it could even be said that we are already there,with his victories at this year Masters & World Championship,as well as his big wins already this season. There is no reason why he can't add multiple Triple Crown victories to his cv in the coming years.Of his peers, his main competitors are probably Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson & a recently resurgent Ding junhui,but they will have to step it up to another level on a consistent basis if they are to compete with the Trump of the last 12 months.As for the players coming behind,I really don't see anyone capable of reaching that level & therein lies possibly the main problem facing the sport in the coming years.
Its something we have been hearing for many years ,& as of yet it has failed to materialise, but by pure weight of numbers coming through the teen ranks,it looks like China could well be the sports preeminent nation by the time the next decade finishes. We have this season seen Yan Bingtao rise above the others around him,becoming the third Chinese player to win a ranking title as well as reaching the UK semi finals and if the likes of Zhou Xintong,Zhou Yuelong,Yuan Sijun & Luo Honghao can make the leap,or indeed the next crop of young players who are inevitably coming through, the majority of the sports silverware will be heading East in the not to distant future.
From an Irish point of view, the opposite sadly applies. We started the decade with Ken Doherty & Fergal O'Brien flying the flag for the Rep.Of Ireland & despite a few false dawns with players getting on & then falling off the tour,we finish the decade with those two still our highest ranked players. There is a serious problem with snooker in this country at the moment & a big effort is needed by the governing body RIBSA to arrest the slide in interest. Just what they can do is another question! The one bright spark on the horizon is young Ross Bullman,who hopefully can gain a main tour place in the next year or two.
Staying at home, it'd be great to see a big tournament return to these shores sooner rather than later. The couple of years the PTC Grand Final were held in Galway they were well attended & the crowds that go to Goffs every year for the the "Legends Tour" show there is still an appetite for live snooker in this country. Personally my dream would be to see something return to Goffs,but anything anywhere could only be a shot in the arm for the game here.
Anyway thats it from me for now. Please feel free to add any thoughts of ur own to the above here or on Twitter,
Till next time
Terry Griffiths to all