Well as we all emerge from our 17 days inside the snooker watching bubble to find sadly that the world hasn't changed a whole lot, I just thought I'd note a few things that stood out for me over the two weeks.So here goes.
1. The Champ
There reallly is only one place to start isn't there & thats with the newly crowned six time world champion.
Such was the effect that his loss to Selby in the 2014 final seemed to have on Ronnie, I , like many others thought the chances of him adding to his previous five world titles were slim.This was borne out by some pretty insipid performances here since. The first signs that things might be different this year came in his second round match with Ding.This was a close match against one of the games other big names, but unlike in recent years he found a way to win it & then did the same against Williams in the last 8.We'll talk about the semi final later ,but his performance again on day 2 of the final was superb.He may conatantly talk down hw much these big wins mean to him,but make no mistake.equalling the record of his childhood idol Steve Davis will be very special for him.
2. The Defending Champ
Often the crown on a first time world champ weighs heavy throughout the next season & they struggle to produce their best snooker.That certainly was not the case this season for Judd Trump who, if anything, grew into role and dominated the year picking up a record 6 ranking along the way. He seemed to be riding the crest of a wave all the way to breaking the legendary "Crucible Curse" ,but then a global pandemic struck.The great inponderable for Judd willl be, what would haven happened if the tournament had been played as normal in April?, because since action resumed he hasn't looked the same player. His title defence here never really got going here & he only really limped past Tom Ford & Yan Bingtao ,before Wilson proved far too strong in the quarter final. It will be interesting to see just how he bounces back from this when the new season begins.
3. Underperforming Big Names
Once again a number of the big names failed to produce on the games biggest stage.First round defeats for Mark Allen ( who admittedy did knock in 5 centuries) Stephen Maguire & Shaun Murphy,who to be fair obviously wasn't there mentally after the recent death of his former manager & friend. Ding Junhui was perhaps a bit unlucky to run in to Ronnie in Rd2 just as he was just showing signs of finding some form. Neil Robertsons woes continued at the Crucible & its a glaring omission from his otherwise stellar cv that he's never again even reached the final since his victory in 2010.
4. Emerging Talent?
I think it says a lot for where the game has now got to that a world semi final between Wilson (28) & McGill (29) is seen as a battle of the "young guns" As so often is the case when Ronnie speaks, his over the top way of saying things & the resultant hysteria often belie the more serious point he is making. There are no doubt a lot of talented players down the rankings, but I'd struggle to name any who I could say with certainty would make the leap to the very top.
5. The Controversies
It wouldn't be a world championship if there wasn't a bit of controversy along the way and the first incident here happened before a ball was even struck.
Having battled his way through qualifying to reach the Crucible for the first time in 12 years, Anthony Hamilton withdrew from the championship on health grounds over fears of the crowd been let in to see the the matches.Anthony has asthma, as well as far as I know is living with his eldery parents & ,quite rightly in my opinion, saw the letting in of crowds ,all be they limited, as an unnecessary risk.
Obviously someone withdrawing so close the the event is ot ideal, but the reaction of Barry Hearn left a real sour taste in the mouth. He accused Hamilton of playing the qualifiers with no intention of ever playing at the venue & thus denying someone a rightful place. He repeated this on every media platform that would give him the space to do so & even took to twitter to take on any of Hamiltons fellow pros who dared support him.
The work Hearn has done to get snooker back to where it is has been phenomenal & getting this event on in the middle of a global pandemic was perhaps his biggest achievement, but that said , every so often the mask just slips a bit to show a pretty nasty guy.
The arguments didnt stop there & we had "Line of sightgate" between McGill & Jamie Clarke.This was pretty much storm in a teacup stuff & probably boiled down to Clarkes lack of experience in the venue & McGill. like all of us when we're struggling, finding every little thing annoying.It was a pity it blew up the way it did & seemed to have effect Clarke for the rest of that session.
The other big controvery which lit up twitter the other night was the comments of Mark Selby after his defeat in that extraordinary semi filal with Ronnie. Selby accused Ronnie of disrespecting both him & the game with his rather unorthodoxed way of escaping some of the snookers he laid.
Two things with this. Firstly whether he felt this or not, this was not the time to express it & it just had a air of sour grapes about it, Secondly there was no disrespect here to either him or the game. What Ronnie did was exorcise some of those 2014 demons where he allowed Selby bog him down. Here he made a conscious decision to go out on his own terms. (Anyone who watched his brilliant Q&A's with Hendry during lockdown will have heard his views on that final) In doing so he may have lost a couple of big frames, but he kept his momentum & backed himself to score if he got the chance. he then produced a stunning burst of three frames that will long live in the memory.
6. BBC Coverage
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced in the week before the championship that Hazel Irvine wouldn't be part of the team for this year,but we really shouldn't have worried. I think the coverage this year was superb. Jason Mohammad really grew in to his role as main presenter, bringing a perfect mix of in depth analysis from the pundits & also throwing in some good fun too. Also excellent was Seema Jaswal & Radzi who brought a real infectious enthusism to proceedings.
7.Those Semi finals!
Last Friday has been hailed as the most exciting day in snooker since the '85 final & it's hard to argue. Plenty has been written about both so I'm not going to rehash them,but I think the most notable thing here was the amount of texts & Whatsapps I got from people on friday who would not be big snooker people.This is what snooker & in particular the world championship brings.That long unfolding drama,with two players with nowhere to hide leaving everything on the table. Its why snooker makes the blood flow through our veins and the hair on back of our necks stand like no other sport can!!
Conclusion "Born to Run"
Finally in my life I have been lucky enough to see Bruce Springsteen live on a number of occasions & I always felt the highlight & lowlight of every gig is hearing "Born to Run"Its the highlight because its my favourite song & the lowlight, because once its over I wont hear it again. The secret of course is to try not to think of it in either of those terms & to just enjoy it & savour it in the moment. I think we also need to look at Ronnie that way & instead of constantly talking about the record books & arguing over who is the GOAT, lets instead enjoy the now with our own "Rock & roll star".Long may he reign.