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Monday, 10 December 2012

UK Championship final + Reflections on the week

The 2012 williamhill.com UK Champion is Mark Selby after he defeated Shaun Murphy 10-6 last night to add the UK title to his two Masters titles and  leave himself two thirds of the way to completing the holy trinity of major snooker titles.The last of these is of course the World Championship,but the fact he could win this title without ever playing at his best will give him confidence that if his game is up to speed come April he can claim that prize as well.

That is talk for another day though as we reflect today on what we saw yesterday as well as on the week as a whole.

In many ways it was fitting that these two players came to meet in the final.Having come through the ranks at roughly the same time they have known each other and been friends for many years,also in a time where many of their fellow professionals grumbled about the amount of tournaments & travelling the new era has brought, these two have fully embraced it adopting a "have cue will travel" attitude.Putting it simply they love the sport and fully appreciate the life it has given them.

It was also a fitting final as both men had a various stage during the week looked as if they were on the way out of the tournament only to pull the matches out of the fire.This one had the potential to be a classic but in truth it turned into a slog as maybe those earlier fights took there toll on both.

On to the match itself I suspect Murphy will look back at the afternoon session where he appeared to be in the ascendancy at 4-2 only for Selby to win the last two and make it 4-4 as the point he lost the match.

The evening session was a very nervy affair with both players missing unexpected pots but they still couldn't be separated at the mid session interval,the score now 6-6.It was at this stage though that Selby seemed to find that little bit extra to make his final push for the line.He opened a two frame lead to go 8-6 and had a healthy lead in the next when Murphy came to the table with three reds remaining.Murphy to his credit has adopted an attacking philosophy all week and a series of super pots put him within touching distance of closing to 8-7.However in a miss reminiscent of the famous Willie Thorne one all those years ago he failed to pot a straight forward blue to the middle and Selby cleared up to take the frame. The end was now not far away and he captured the next to seal a 10-6 win.

The post match interviews again showed what fine ambassadors for the game these two men are and we should be rightly proud in a world where it is anything but the norm we have a sport that on the whole is played by gentlemen.

For Murphy he seemed genuinely happy to be competing in another major final even if it did end in failure.He can take a lot of confidence from the way he played especially in the semi final and its hard to believe a man who strikes the ball as well as he does wont be in the winners circle soon again.

Selby on the other hand can reflect not just on this triumph but on 2012 as a whole with some satisfaction. In a year where at one stage his career could possibly have been threatened with a serious neck injury he has overcome that to not just win this title but to also reclaim the World no.1 ranking.He will no doubt take great confidence from this and will have learnt a lot from his previous time at the top of the ranking when it seemed  to weigh heavy on him.You get the feeling he will be more prepared for it now.

So the curtain came down on the 2012 UK Championship with A smiling Mark Selby accompanied by his wife Vicky holding the trophy aloft but what can we take from the last nine days of snooker action?

The fear of many over the last month when it became clear that World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan would not be competing was that without him it would be a case of "Hamlet without the Prince"  and despite what some might protest he was missed. That is not to say that snooker can't continue without him,of course it can but I don't think anyone would argue that things are certainly more interesting with him around.

 That said he wasn't so lets look at what we had. The overall standard it has to be said was perhaps not as high as we would like.We keep been told that the standard keeps rising but I think we are in danger of mixing up a rise in standard with a leveling of of things. I don't see anyone at the moment capable of producing the quality that a Davis,Hendry,Higgins or O'Sullivan did in the past.

The beautiful thing about snooker though is that you don't need flawless play for it to be enjoyable,indeed it is often at its most dramatic when players are missing.That was the case last week when in the space of 4 days we were treated to some the most dramatic of games we will ever see.I still don't know how Higgins missed that pink and thats the point,it is things like that that keep us watching.

There were  of course other things of note this week.Judd Trump's attempt to defend his title fell at the first hurdle when he let a 5-2 lead slip against Mark Joyce.If Trump is to become a great in the sport he will have to become more ruthless in finishing these type of matches off..

Mark Davis finally got his reward for 21 years of toiling away on the circuit by reaching the semi final and thus securing a place in the top 16 for the first time in his career.He will now look forward to playing at The Masters for the first time come January.

Apart from Selby though no doubt the star of the week for many will be 17 year old Luca Brecel who lit up this tournament getting within a couple of missed pinks of eliminating Shaun Murphy in the quarter finals. For someone experiencing something completely new he seemed to revel in the atmosphere and it was great to see him really enjoy what he was doing.If he can replicate this form in the minefield that is the qualifiers it surely wont be long before he's knocking on the door of his first professional title.

So a week of wall to wall snooker draws to and end. As I said earlier although the standard at times wasn't what we'd expect the dramatic conclusions to so many matches served to show us one again why we love this game and we're not finish for the 2012 yet with action this weekend from the PTC in Scotland.I can't wait.
@thegreenbaize




Saturday, 8 December 2012

UK Championship semi final 2

Shaun Murphy will do battle with Mark Selby  on Sunday over the best of 19 frames to decide who will be crowned 2012 willianhill.com UK Champion after the Leicester man  defeated Mark Davis 9-4 at the Barbican Centre in York tonight.

After all the drama of the last few days we wondered what today would bring but in truth from early on it was obvious that this one was only going to go one way.For Mark Davis ,playing in his first major semi final after 21 years on the circuit,, to have a chance he needed to settle early and that just didn't happen.Selby won the first two frames to go 2-0 and although Davis did win the next he still trailed 3-1 at the interval.

Selby was still not playing at his absolute peak but wasn't having to as Davis just couldn't find the form that had got him this far in the tournament as. 3-1 quickly became 5-1.To his credit Davis cheered on by the crowd managed to win the next to go 5-2 but Selby won the last of the session to take a commanding 6-2 lead into the evening.

Davis now needed a fast start to keep his slim hopes alive but missed an easy red when well in and Selby cleared up 7-2.The next two frames were shared to make it 8-3 and the end looked in sight. Davis did at least manage to avoid the indignity of defeat before the interval .which considering his play this week would have been undeserved.but there was to be no miracle comeback from 8-4 tonight.as Selby won the next to seal the 9-4 victory

Davis will be disappointed he didn't do himself justice in this one as understandably the occasion possibly got to him.He can still reflect on a great week though that included a win over John Higgins and indeed a great season that has seen him now secure a place in the worlds top 16 for the first time.No one can say after 21 years as a pro that it is not deserved.

Selby on the other hand may well be wondering how he has gotten to the final after looking dead and buried on more then one occasion this week.. He hasn't been at his best by any means but has confirmed what a great match player his is with some gutsy displays.Although this win means he will regain the position of World no.1 he will be well aware that he needs to step up on what he has shown this week to live with Shaun Murphy in the final.

This one could be a classic and a bit of late Sunday nigh drama is what this tournament deserves after what has been an extraordinary week.

Friday, 7 December 2012

UK Championship Semi Final One

Coming into this years williamhill.com UK Championship there were those who feared the tournament would suffer as a result of the absence of Ronnie O'Sullivan and I think it's fair to say that in the opening few days the tournament did struggle to find it's feet.We has some decent snooker but things just hadn't caught fire.The tournament needed something and my God did it get it as since Tuesday we have been treated to as dramatic a few days of Snooker as I can ever remember.

Todays dose of daily soap opera was provided by two of  smoothest cue actions in the game as Shaun Murphy faced Ali Carter.A free flowing  game was always on the cards here and so it proved to be.

As the match started it was Ali who got the better start and raced into a 2-0 lead before Murphy came back to level at 2-2. Both players were producing high quality snooker but with the help of a bit of run and Murphy's inability to convert good breaks into frame winning ones it was Carter who lead 5-3 coming into the evening.

The night started with both players trading frames they should have lost to move the score to 6-4 before Carter made what seemed at the time a match clinching burst to lead 8-4 at the interval.Carter at this stage could nearly smell the final and it seemed there was no possible way Murphy could come back.

It was Bob Dylan who sung though that  "When you aint got nothing you got nothing to lose".Murphy came out after the interval determined to go down swinging and suddenly the balls started to fly in.8-4 quickly became 8-5,then 8-6.Carter was now becoming ,if not over negative certainly a little cautious as he tried to wait patiently for the one chance he wanted to claim the frame he needed for victory .That chance just wasn't coming though and Murphy made a century to make it 8-7 before also claiming the next to force the decider.

Carter must have been wondering what was happening so it was to his great credit that from Murphy's break off he potted a super long red to get his chance.Unfortunately for him he couldn't make it a winning one and broke down when attempting a tricky red with the rest ,Murphy got in and although he couldn't clinch it in one visit he did enough to win the frame and secure the most improbable of comebacks winning  9-8

One cannot but feel for Carter after this,to have got so close to the final only to see it so agonisingly snatched away will be hard to take for the Essex man You feel it will take a while for these wounds to heal.

For Murphy though this will be a very satisfying win and having been on the brink of exiting the tournament for a second match in a row he will possibly begin to feel his name may be on the trophy..

Tomorrow see's the second semi final as the Marks, Selby and Davis do battle.The way this week is going you wonder what more drama this tournament has left in store for us..

Thursday, 6 December 2012

UK Championship Quarter final round up.

It's a funny old game is this snooker,sometimes you get tournaments that start with a flourish in the early rounds only to fizzle out when they reach the latter stages and sometimes you get the reverse with tournaments starting slowly and building momentum as the rounds progress.I think as far as this years William Hill.com UK Championship is concerned we are very much talking about the latter.

So to the action and yesterday the crowd in York were on the edge of there seats as Mark Davis scraped by John Higgins and the question was could any of todays ties match the tension.Cue then Shaun Murphy and Luca Brecel.The story of the championship so far in many ways has been the run of Luca Brecel. The question was what could the 17 year old do against Murphy.

If the young man was feeling the nerves coming out to play the biggest match of his life he certainly wasn't showing it as he took the first to lead 1-0.Murphy clinched the second to level and then  took at 2-1 lead with a classy 122 break.The tone for the match was to be set here though as Brecel won the fourth to leave it 2-2 at the interval.That would go on to become 3-3 and the 4-4 as the players traded frames and we were yet again set up for a grandstand finish

The match was now effectively a best of three and it was Brecel who took the advantage with his highest break of the match,a 64 to go 5-4. It looked as though we might be going to have an upset in the next as Brecel looked to be clearing up for victory but missed a crucial pink allowing Murphy to force the decider.5-5.

The eleventh frame was one of those frames that makes our sport what it is. Both player had chances in the last but it looked like Murphy was clearing up to win only to get a massive kick on the final red when only two pots from victory.Luca came to the table with the chance to clear for a famous win but with the adrenaline flowing he screwed back too far when potting the brown.That left him the wrong side of the blue and although he potted it he couldn't get back enough to make the pink a certainty.He wobbled it in the corner pocket ans a visibly relieved Murphy potted the pink in the  middle to reach the semi finals.

For Brecel there will be hugely disappointment the way the match finished but he can take a lot of positives from not only the way he played but the way he battled this week He has shown himself to have a fine big match  temperament and looked extremely comfortable in the big arena.The hope now having experienced the bright lights is that he can readjust to the cubicle situation of the qualifiers and make sure his appearances in the final stages of events become a regular occurrence.If he can there is a every chance we could be looking at the first World Champion from mainland Europe..

Murphy on the other hand must ready himself for a best of 17 frame semi final where his opponent will be Ali Carter.who beat Stuart Bingham 6-4 n the other table.Bingham has been riding the crest of a a wave of late and started the brighter here to take the opening frame.Carter though is becoming the man for the big occasion and played almost faultless snooker to lead 3-1 at the interval.That became 4-2 after the interval but it was Bingham who then dug in to win the next two to level the match at 4-4 and set up a tight finish.It was to be he Carter who showed the greater resolve though and won the next to make it 5-4 before sealing victory in a tense tenth frame.

The other semi final will see Mark Davis play Mark Selby after they both enjoyed victories in tonights quarter finals,

Mark Davis after 21 years on the circuit is enjoying the greatest form of his life and came into tonights match with Matthew Stevens on a high after his closely fought victory over John Higgins last evening.If there was a fear perhaps it was that he would be mentally drained after such an exhausting encounter and.it looked as if that may be the case as Stevens started the better to lead 2-0.There is one thing however that this recent run of good form has thought Davis though and that it is not to panic.He would soon found his feet to take three in a row to lead 3-2.Stevens was now floundering and though he did show some resolve to level at 3-3 and 4-4 it was Davis who prevailed winning in the end 6-4.

The last of the quarter finals between Neil Robertson and Mark Selby had the potential to be a classic or a slog and this one turned out to be a slog though it was no less enthralling for that

.In a match where neither player got their cue arms flowing it was Robertson who made the better start winning the first four frames to lead 4-0 at the mid session interval.At this stage it seemed there could only be one winner but there is one vital thing all Snooker players need and that is the ability to win ugly when the situation calls for it. In the modern game there are few better at this art then Msrk Selby.Slowly he grinded his way back into it and although Robertson had his chances Selby leveled things up at 4-4..That became 5-4 when Selby won another marathon frame on the colours.to take the lead for the first time and he sealed the  6-4win with a fine 101 break in the last...

Tomorrow see's the arena become that little more intimidating when it goes down to one table and the matches revert to best of nines..First up will be Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy with Mark Davis and Mark Selby enjoying a day of rest before they do battle on Saturday.If they can live up to the drama of the last couple of days we are in for a fascinating weekend. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

UK Championship Rd 2 round up.

I was sitting at my computer this evening trying to figure out how I felt about this tournament so far now that we have two rounds completed and  the one thing that came to mind was an old Johnny Nash song which has a tagline in the chorus that goes "There are more questions than answers and the more I find out the less I know".I think that sums up this years UK Championship completely as although at start of play tomorrow we have only eight men remaining only a very brave man or fool would try predict who will lift the trophy come Sunday night.(needless to say I will try predict a winner at end of article)Before that lets have a look back at the round 2 action.

Ali Carter was the first man to book his Quarter final place with a 6-2 win over Mark Joyce.Joyce who of course beat Judd Trump in the first round couldn't recover from a bad start in this one and in truth Carter was never put under any pressure as he ran out  a convincing winner.

Carters opponent in the next round will be Stuart Bingham who beat one of Round 1's form men Stephen Maguire 6-4 in a high quality match.After years on the margins if the top ranks Bingham has really kicked on from winning his first ranking title in Australia last year as well as some PTC events and is currently playing like a man full of confidence..The way he wrapped up this one from 4-4 with a century and two 50 odds in the last shows us he is now someone who is not afraid to win..He will be fancying his chances of making it back to back titles after his recent Premier League win.

The other Quarter Final in the top half of the draw see's former World champion Shaun Murphy take on young Belgian sensation Luca Brecel.

Murphy reached this stage with a comfortable 6-2 win over Graeme Dott. who never really threatened to derail the 2008 winner quest for a second UK title.That said Murphy at times showed the fluent break building style that had many predicting great things from him when he burst on the snooker scene in his teens.

With that in mind who better then Murphy to know then how 17 year old Luca Brecel will be feeling listening to all the same plaudits been bestowed on him as his fairytale run in this tournament continues. Brecel who it must be remembered had to come through four rounds of qualifying just to get here shows call the signs of someone who is completely at ease on the big stage and is thoroughly enjoying himself .Today he showed his battling qualities to come back from 3-0 to beat Mark King 6-4.Whatever happens in his match with Murphy we have seen enough this week to confirm what we suspected at the Crucible earlier in the year,Luca Brecel is a name we will be hearing an awful lot of in years to come.

In the bottom half of the draw we had  battle between two men who will both feel they have under achieved in the game when Matthew Stevens took on Marco Fu.,indeed if ever a tournament summed up a players whole career it was this one for Marco Fu.In his first round match he was fabulous in beating Mark Allen but starting here he could hardly string more then a few pots together.That said to his credit he did battle back from 4-1 to 4-4.He actually looked well set to make it 5-4 but broke down when allowing Stevens the chance to counter attack,This he duly did to take the frame and then clinch the match in the next.to seal his Quarter final place.

His opponent will be Mark Davis after a late night 6-5 thriller against John Higgins.In a match that took it's time to get going from a break building if not safety perspective Davis had a 3-1 lead at the interval.Higgins not playing anything like his best made it 3-2 before Davis cooly knocked in back to back centuries to move within one of victory at 5-2.If there is one thing we know about John Higgins though it is that he will fight until the end.In the next he delighted the York crowd by knocking in a superb 147 and followed up in the next with another big break to close to 5-4. In a tense tenth frame Davis feeling the pressure missed some good chances to win it but it was Higgins who forced the decider. At this stage you could only see one winner but to his credit Davis got in first in the last and established a 53-0 lead,Back came Higgins.and it seemed  for all the world like he was clearing to win only for him to miss the final pink.A few safety shot followed but it was Davis who cut it into the yellow pocket to secure the biggest win of his career.A thoroughly deserved win for a player enjoying the best year of his 21 year career.

We often talk in snooker about how one shot can change a players whole outlook in a game and that was certainly the case in the match between Mark Selby and Ryan Day.In an encounter where both player struggled to get going it was Day who opened up a 3-0 lead,Selby somehow ground his way back to 3-2 before the games pivotal  moment arrived.Day having missed numerous chances to seal the frame finally potted the blue to leave Selby requiring one snooker.He then rolled the pink over a pocket confident it was job done,Selby however had other idea's and played the shot of the tournament so far to get his snooker and then went on to pot a great pink and black to make it 3-3.This seemed to light a fire within him as from nowhere he found his form to knock in a 99 and a 105 to  make it 5-3. Day managed to win the next but Selby clinched a 6-4 victory to move into the next round.

Selby's reward for this win will be a mouth watering clash with Neil Robertson.The Australian has in many respects been the player of the tournament so far with two high quality displays in his first two match's moved through to the quarter finals with a 6-2 win over Barry Hawkins.He didn;t quite reach the heights of his victory over Tom Ford in round 1 here but will still will be many people idea of the winner. Selby however will be eyeing a quick return to the top of the rankings which is something he will achieve should he reach the final here,This is certainly a match not to be missed.

Thats day five over then and as I promised earlier,I gvie you my prediction for the title I think we have all seen this week why snooker is such an impossible sport to predict but going purely on form shown Neil Robertson is still the player they all have to beat.While I'm at it the player from the top half I expect to reach the final to be Shaun Murphy.I have been wrong before though!!








Monday, 3 December 2012

Uk Championship Rd 1 round up

Three days in to the 2012 UK Championship and with round one completed I think it's probably fair to say the Snooker at times hasn't been of the standard we would expect.That said it has been no less entertaining for this with some stand out performances and one major shock.

Lets get the shock out of the way first.Judd Trump came here as the man in form this season and having recently become World no.1 the defending champion was expected by many to claim another UK title. Mark Joyce having recovered from a career threatening assault though .had other idea's and battled back from 5-2 down to clinch a famous 6-5 victory.Trump will feel no doubt have had a sleepness night after this one.He was in complete control of the match at 3-0 and 5-2 but somehow let it slip.This is not the first time this has happened him in the last twelve month's and if he is to be the real "snooker great" his talent suggests he could be he will have to become much more ruthless in his finishing of match's.

The reward for Joyce is a second round match with Ali Carter who beat Steve Davis 6-2 in a match that in truth never really got going.

Stuart Bingham who is brimming with confidence following his recent victory in the Premier league negotiated a potentially tricky first round match against young York debutant Jack Lisowski.sealing a 6-2 win.He will play Stephen Maguire in the next round.Maguire produced one of the stand out performances over the weekend when he visibly upped the gears from 2-2 with Fergal O'Brien winning 6-2 with a run of three centuries and a 70.

Belgian wonderkid Luca Brecel  produced an astonishingly mature performance to reach round two with a dramatic late night 6-5 victory over Ricky Walden.Walden had lea 2-0 and 4-2 but with neither player really playing at their best it was Brecel who showed the greater composure in the end to seal the win.We do at times get these players who show promise at an early age only for things to fizzle out but I really don't see that happening with Luca,I believe we will be hearing a lot of this chap in coming seasons.His second opponent will be Mark King who again proved a thorn in the side of Mark Williams winning this one 6-3

Former UK champion Shaun Murphy showed flashes of what he is capable of with  a 6-3 win over an unwell Robert  Milkins and will face Graeme Dott  who beat Martin Gould 6-5.

In the bottom half of the draw John Higgins progressed with a 6-3 win over Michael Holt. With Trump now gone many will be looking at Higgins as favourite to win this title.He will have to play a lot better then he did in this one if he is to do that but we all know he is capable of doing that.The fact is if John Higgins is in a tournament he capable of winning it.His next opponent will be Mark Davis who continued his fine form of late with a 6-2 win over Cao Yupeng.

Marco Fu has always been one of the those player who has struggled for consistency but on his day is capable of playing the game to the highest standard and beating anyone. Sunday was one of his going days and he produced an outstanding display to beat last year finalist Mark Allen 6-3.This on seedings goes down as a shock but if Fu was to have a run here it would surprise no one.He will play Matthew Stevens in the next round who of course is another man who hasn't won the titles his talent deserved albeit he won this title in 2003 ,He reached the next round with a comfortable 6-1 over an visibly under the weather Dominic Dale.

Undoubtedly the performance of the tournament so far was that of Neil Robertson who knocked in four centuries in a 6-1 thrashing of Tom Ford. Robertson controlled the match from start to finish in form reminiscent of what he produced in the Crucible last year where he was only stopped by Ronnie playing at his peak.He was installed as favourite for the title after this result and few could argue on this evidence.Standing in his way in the next round will be Barry Hawkins who beat Liang Wenbo 6-4.

Rounding off the draw is Mark Selby who will be eyeing a potential return to the top of the rankings if he reaches the final here.He produced a solid display in beating Michael White 6-3 and will play Ryan Day who repeated his World Championship victory over two time UK champ Ding Junhui thus time coming through 6-4

So on the evidence of round 1 what can we say for the resat of the tournament? Well Neil Robertson is a worthy favourite on form but many others that are left you feel have only been feeling around the edges yet and there is plenty of snooker to be played yet.The next two days of Last 16 action should make the picture a little clearer.

Friday, 30 November 2012

UK Championship preview

Tomorrow see's the start of the seasons first traditional major when the UK Championship begins in the Barbican Centre in York.So what can we expect.?

The man of the season so far is no doubt Judd Trump.Last month he lifted the inaugural International Championship in China and with it claimed the world no.1 ranking.He comes here in great form and will no doubt be fully confident he can defend the title he claimed here last year in that memorable final with Mark Allen.On paper at least he seems to be in the slightly easier half of the draw if there is such a thing and I would be surprised if he isn't right there in the mix at the business end next weekend.

Perhaps the other story of the season to date has been the resurgence of John Higgins.After last years struggles there were those who were willing to write off the Scot but by now we should know better then that,He beat Trump in Shanghai in one of the best finals we have seen in many years and those two have swapped victories in two PTC events since. Whoever beats Higgins this week will know they have been in a match and he will fancy his chances of adding to his career haul of three UK titles.

It may be strange for Mark Selby to be coming into a major tournament without the World no.1 ranking but following his neck injury and loss of form this is where he finds himself.I actually think this may help him as I feel it may have been a mantle he struggled under.Now seemingly injury free hopefully he can return to the level of play that saw him reach the number 1 spot in the first place.If he does he will a match for anyone.He will however have to hit the ground running here as his potential second round opponent is two time UK champion Ding Junhui.

If anyone needed proof what winning a tournament can do for a player all they need do is look at Stuart Bingham.18 month's ago he had carved out a moderately successful professional career without ever really threatening to lift a title but that changed when he produced a stunning comeback to beat Mark Williams and claim the Australian Open title.That victory earned him a place in this years Premier League where against some of the biggest names he produced some super snooker to eventually lift the title beating Trump 7-2 in the final.This win together with the two Asian PTC wins he has already secured this season will have him fearing noone this week.

Last years runner up Mark Allen will be another man fancying his chances this week and he definatly seems to be a player who really relishes the longer framed matches. He was arguably the second best player in the International Open where he once again found Judd Trump too good in their quarter final encounter going down in a decider.He will no doubt feel he should have more titles to his name for the talent he possesses and there would be no better time to start then this week 

Other established names in the mix this week will be Stephen Maguire,Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy all of which could make an impact this if accompanied by a strong tail wind.

We also have a few young guns making their first appearance at the final stages of this tournament.We have Cao Yupeng and Luca Brecel following up their qualification for the Crucible last year by making their debuts here as well as Jack Lisowski .all of whom will gain from the experience regardless of how they do.

It would also wrong for me to preview this event without mentioning Steve Davis who came through two rounds of qualifying to reach the final stages at the age of 55 and 32 years after he lifted the first of his six UK titles.Long may The Nugget continue his love of the battle.

So there we have it.A fascinating we have in store and no doubt there will be plenty of thrills and spills along the way.Who will win?I don't know but I have a feeling the theme of the season may well be continued with another Trump v Higgins final.What a way that would be to see out 2012.




Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Judd Trump in Focus

When 23 year old Judd Trump became the worlds no.1 ranked snooker player by lifting the International Championship last month he was completing a rise to the top that many presumed had been written in the stars since he was cleaning up in the junior ranks over a decade ago.The only surprise for some was that it had seemed to take so long.

The first time I heard of Judd was when at the age of just 13 he defeated Mike Hallett to lift the Pontins Open.For this if memory serves he earned a picture on the front cover of Snooker Scene magazine accompanied by an article outlining his remarkable achievements at junior level which included a national under 15 title when he was aged just 10.

What followed of course were the inevitable comparisons with that other child genius Ronnie O Sullivan,These were only further enhanced when Judd took the record previously held by Ronnie's by becoming the youngest player to complete a 147 in competition at the age of 14.It seemed only a matter of time before like "The Rocket" he would be tearing up the pro tour.

So what happened?Well at the start not a lot.Judd struggled to repeat the dominant performances he had produced at junior level and for the first few years he didn't really make much of an impact at the business end of tournaments at all.There were of course exceptions that pointed to his talent.He made made his Crucible debut aged 17 and won the Championship league in 2008 but with so few tournaments at the time hejust wasn't getting the experience that comes with playing regularly .The talent was still there he just needed to find the best way to harness it.

His breakthrough would come in the 2011China Open when as a qualifier he his first ranking title defeating former world champions Shaun Murphy and Peter Ebdon on the way to beating Mark Selby 10-8 in a memorable final."My career starts now" he would say in the poat match interview and how right he was.The following week he would defeat defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round in the Crucible and for the next 17 days light up the World Championships with some spectacular shot making only eventually going down to John Higgins in the final.The touchpaper had been lit.

He would start the next season with a new found confidence to compete at the very top that would have only  be enhanced further with a superb 4-3 victory over Ronnie at a PTC final in Antwerp.From there he went to York and duly won the games second biggest prize the UK Championship in another classic final with Mark Allen.By now he was riding the crest of a wave and went to The Masters as one of the favourites.but this time it was Robertson turn for revenge.

I think it is widely accepted and I have often written about it before that Neil Robertson did a number on Judd in that semi final.After this match a number of strange things happened. Firstly it seemed to affect Judd more then it perhaps should have as he would go on to lose a number of matches from commanding positions before the season was over. Secondly we seemed to be getting a Trump backlash from some in the game.complaining about what they perceived to be an above average run of the ball and a arrogance among him and his supporters.For me both these accusations seemed to have little basis in fact and maybe spoke of a little jealousy for the attention he was getting.Whatever the reasons though it seemed Judd once again came into this season with questions to answer.

This he has done not only winning the International Championship but also capturing the EPTC in Bulgaria as well as finishing runner up to the resurgent John Higgins in the Shanghai Masters and a PTC in Gloucester.Next week he will be the favourite to retain his UK Championship title in York.

So what does the future hold for the young man from Bristol? It is a widely held view that we will never see the days of one player dominating the game the way Davis and Hendry did especially with there been so many events nowadays but the question is what is domination in the modern games? As far as I would be concerned modern dominance would consist of winning  the majors The World Championship, The Uk The Master's and the new International Championship and competing well in a few of the other ranking events.Who can say that by next May we wont be talking about Judd in those terms. The other point is if Judd can reach the consistent level of those greats of the last 25 yrs (Davis Hendry,Higgins,O Sullivan and Williams) I really don't see where his competition is going to come from.He seems to have found a way to mix his natural attacking instincts with a solid safety game  and this makes his very hard to stop.We really could be entering another golden era.

This will no doubt be a topic for discussion among all snooker fans as time goes by but for now lets be happy we have someone like Judd Trump  in the game.Long may he continue to entertain us with his remarkable skills on the green baize.
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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Victoria Bulgarian Open PTC

Judd Trump tonight removed the monkey that was John Higgins from his back to finally beat the Scot in a final and claim the inaugural Victoria Bulgarian Open title with a clinical 4-0 win.

This was the third time these two men have met in a final in a matter of a few weeks with Higgins triumphing on both previous occasions,firstly last month in Shanghai and most recently last Wednesday night in Gloucester.That had lead some to suggest he just had the measure of his young opponent when it came to the crunch but tonight proved that to be a flawed theory.

The one thing you need in these short sharp best of seven matches is a good start and that is what Trump got winning the opening frame without Higgins scoring a point.Tump was in first again in the second but broke down.Higgins briefly threatened a fightback but this was halted when he wobbled a red along the cushion  leaving the frame there for the taking and with it his last real chance to make an impact in the match.

Trump was now in full flight and seemed set fair for a maximum attempt in the next only to miss the 12th red with the break on 88.Regardless though this was enough to make it 3-0 and he comfortably won the next to seal his 4-0 win.

This will no doubt have been a very satisfying win  for Judd in light of those recent defeats and showed us all once again that he is a worthy World no.1.He is playing the game at the moment with a air of superiority which should in no way be confused with arrogance but instead shows a young man brimming with confidence.It was also nice to see he how relaxed and comfortable he has become with the post match interviews,another thing that comes with experience.

A great weekend all round then with the enthusiastic and appreciative crowds treated to some top class snooker, the highlight of which for many no doubt will have been Tom Fords 147 break on Friday night.I think its safe to say professional snooker will be returning to Bulgaria again.

For now though we move on and next weekend see's Higgins and Trump involved in the Premier League play offs where they could yet again meet in the final though Messrs Bingham and Robertson will have something to say about that..


Thursday, 15 November 2012

Kay Suzanne Memorial PTC4

"He's beginning to annoy me" were the famous words uttered by Jimmy White following his heartbreaking 18-17 defeat to Stephen Hendry in the 1994 World final but they could also perhaps now be applied to Judd Trump as he  for the second time in a month and the third time in total came out on the losing side of a final tussle with John Higgins at the Kay Suzanne Memorial PTC last night.This time by a scoreline of 4-2.

As has proven to be the case in these cut throat best of seven PTC events both players had survived some close shaves on their way to the final but in doing so showed why they are both such forces in the game at present.

Higgins started his day with a tight 4-3 win over Steve Davis before holding his nerve in the semi final as Anthony Hamilton fought back from 3-0 down to again force a decider.Trump on the other hand had found himself 3-0 to Thanawat Tirapongpalboon in his last 16 match but showed all his fighting qualities to come through.Then looking every inch the World no.1 he is Trump produced some fabulous snooker to see off Mark Joyce and then Ding Junhui in the semi final.

On to the final then we went with the memory of their classic encounter in Shanghai last month still fresh in our minds and it looked like once again we were set for fireworks when Trump started with a classy 102.This was amazingly Trumps tenth century in the two days of action.

Higgins though hasn't won as many titles as he has by rolling over in the face of adversity and hit back with a superb 97 to level at 1 all.That became 2-2 when they shared the next two and Higgins won a scrappy fifth to take the lead at 3-2 and sealed the win with a 62 break in the next.

So what did we learn here.With regards Higgins you could say not a lot. He once again proved he has that special quality that all great champions have.The ability to find that bit extra when the finish line is in sight and in doing so he sent out a warning to those who were writing him off that if is at the business end of a tournament he is there to win it.

Trump on the other hand even in defeat showed over the course of the tournament that he is continuing to grow as a player. With the added confidence that comes with been World no.1 he showed a growing maturity mixing the spectacular shot making we expect with some solid safety play when the occasion called for it.If he keeps this up his stay at the top of the rankings could be a long one.

Finally a word on the venue.I was not fortunate enough to attend a tournament at the SWSA but going on what I've read from others who were there it was a lovely venue and it seems to be the hope of most that professional snooker returns there in the future.

For now the action switches to Sofia for EPTC5 this weekend followed by a couple of weeks of qualifiers before we return to York where Trump will be hoping to defend his UK Championship title.What price another Trump v Higgins final?



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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Ronnie.

The snooker world was rocked yesterday afternoon when World Snooker announced that World Champion Ronnie O Sullivan will not be competing in any tournament for the rest of this season due to personal issues.This followed on from his late withdrawal from last weeks International Championship and raises the very real possibility that we may have seen the last of Ronnie on the professional circuit.

Talk of retirement has been a constant theme throughout his career. I think he first talked about it following his first UK Championship win in 1993 but when he suggested in May following his World Final victory that he intended to take a six month break from the sport this seems to be a far more considered announcement.

The stated reason of "personal Issues" will of course have people speculating as to whats the issues are.Ronnie's battle with depression have been well documented over the years as well as his custody difficulties over his children and his recent battle with glandular fever.but the truth of the matter is it really isn't any of our business.If Ronnie feels what is happening in his personal life at present means he can't currently pursue his professional career in the foreseeable future then we must take him at his word.He certainly doesn't owe any of us any further explanation but is was hardly a coincidence that the documentary he filmed a few months ago aired last night.

Watching it we got an insight into the man behind the public image.In it a seemingly relaxed Ronnie spoke candidly about his life both, the highs and lows.The most interesting aspect of it  perhaps though were his thoughts on his recent World Championship triumph.He spoke of his determination to prove all those who had been writing him off wrong and prove he is the best in the world.He then added tellingly that he considered it chapter over and job done.

So what if this is the end? If it is Ronnie will certainly be almost unique among sport stars in so far as he will have gone out at the top but it goes without saying that all who enjoy seeing our sport played with such ease will greatly miss him.All we can hope is he finds the peace and happiness in his life that he deserves.If he decides for that to happen he must leave snooker behind then so be it.,but if a few month's down the line he has reached the place he wants to be and decides to return to the snooker citcuit both the sport and the fans will welcome him back with open arms.



Sunday, 4 November 2012

International Championship Final

Judd Trump today topped off the week where he became the official world no.1  by claiming the inaugural International Championship as well as the top prize of £125,000 defeating Neil Robertson 10-8 in a thrilling final..

As seems to be becoming the norm for tournaments staged in China the packed house in Chengdu were treated to a final full of drama as the pendulum  swung both ways throughout the day.

The scene for what was to come was set in the opening session as Trump took the opening two frames only for Robertson to reel off the next four in a row to take a 4-2 lead.Trump leveled at 4-4 but Robertson took the last of the session to lead 5-4 going into the evening.

Robertson would say afterward he felt he should have lead 6-3  going into the second session and perhaps that was on his mind as Trump again won the opening two frames to take the lead again at 6-5.The next produced what seemed at the time to be a pivotal moment as Trump took on a needlessly difficult red right handed and missed allowing Robertson the chance to regain a foothold in the match which he duly took full advantage of the scores now level again at 6-6.The next again looked to be going Trumps way but an unfortunate miscue when among the balls left the door open for Robertson who again showed his class by clearing to take the frame and retake the lead at 7-6 going into the mid session interval.

Things now seemed to be well and truly going the way of the Australian who has a remarkable record in tv finals.He won the next to go 8-6 and now seemed in total control.Trump though as I've said already this week became world no.1 and the one thing all men who have held that position have in common is an ability to produce their best when their back are to the wall.That would again prove to be the case here

The turning point came in a scrappy 15th frame where helped by a fluke Trump won to close within one at 8-7.This seemed to switch the momentum again in his favour and he produced his best snooker of the match to level at 8-8 with a break of 96.Trump was well and truly motoring now and moved within one of victory with a stylish 119,The first century of the final at the perfect time.

The question now was could Robertson again reply but sadly for him he could not as Trump did enough to seal the win and lift the third full ranking title of his career.10-8.This was the perfect end to a perfect week for Judd and I think few would argue that he was a deserving winner based on his form throughout the tournament.The tournament itself has also been a great success with the longer framed matches a welcome feature.You have to feel this event will only grow in stature in coming years and rightfully take its place along side \the UK,The Masters and the Worlds as the sports Majors.

It is of course following a few PTC events in the coming weeks that attention will again turn to York and the UK Championship where Judd will be defending champion.He will go there full of confidence but uneasy rests the head that wears the crown and he will have plenty of the sports big guns lining up to knock him off his perch.That is in the future though for now he can relax on the long flight home and look back on a job well done










Saturday, 3 November 2012

The final of the International Championship in Chengdu will see two of the games big guns slog it out as Judd Trump takes on Neil Robertson in search of the title and the top prize of £125.000.

Trump reached the final with a one sided 9-1 victory over Peter Ebdon.This had looked a potentially tricky match for Trump but Ebdon looked  strangely nervous early on and never got going.That said you still have to pot the balls and Trump did this with aplomb as he reeled off frame after frame to record an easy win.

 This match was also significant for the fact that in victory Judd officially became the new World no.1.When you consider only 18 months ago he had yet to win a ranking title it shows how quickly his star has grown and I will be writing about this in more detail in the coming week..

Judd would no doubt love to top off his week by claiming the trophy but Neil Robertson will have a thing or two to say about that.

Robertson reached the final with a 9-5 victory in a match that never lived up to its potential. It was Murphy who made the early running taking a 3-1 lead but producing the best snooker of the match Robertson took four in a row to lead 5-3 going into the second session.It might have been expected at that stage that both players would come out all guns blazing in the evening but it was not to be the case as both struggled to produce any degree of fluency in their play.As often seems to be the case when players are struggling the balls seemed determined to run as awkwardly as possible and frame after frame became a slog.To the credit of both men they each kept their discipline but it was Robertson who potted the balls when they were needed and it was he who was to be victorious.

On to the final we go then and it does promise to be an extremely interesting  and potentially explosive one. These men have had a few tight battles in the past like their semi final encounter in last season UK Championships where Judd won 9-7  but of course the one people will be remember most is their clash in the semi final of The Masters.This was memorable not only for the result (a 6-3 win for Robertson) but also for the comments afterwards which may provide a bit of needle in this one.

Whether or not that is the case the one thing I do believe is that Neil really did do a number on Judd that day and this had a bearing on Judd for the rest of the season.He would go on to lose a number of match's from seemingly winning positions.and It has only been in the last month that he has finally seemed to find his groove again.In Shanghai he lost nothing in defeat to Higgins in the final and this week has looked supreme among the balls,never more so then in his quarter final with Mark Allen.

Robertson on the other hand I'm sure would be the first to admit, has reached the final without playing at his best.,That in many ways though is the measure of the man who has become a match player in the Higgins mode in recent seasons.You practically have to scrape him off the table.That doggedness may will not be enough against Trump and Robertson will know he will have to be playing at his best to deny the World no.1 rounding off the week in style.

Personally I think Judd will have too much for Neil in this one and will crown a memorable week by lifting the trophy and claiming the inaugural International Championship.




Thursday, 1 November 2012

International Championship QF round up

Day 5 at the International Championship in Chengdu China and we now know the identity of the four player who will battle it over the next two days in the best of 17 frame semi finals,all in the hope of reaching Sundays final and claiming the £125,000 top prize.

The first semi final tomorrow throws together one of those fascinating clashes of style you only get in snooker when Judd Trump takes on Peter Ebdon.

Judd who will become the new World no.1 if he reaches the final here moved one step closer to that dream with a narrow 6-5 victory over Mark Allen.This was a match of the highest quality with two of the games most exciting players playing at their fluent best.The first four frames were shared to leave it 2-2 at the interval before a 107 helped Judd go 4-2 up.A 121 form Allen closed it 4-3 but when Trump then made it 5-3 it looked like it might be the decisive move.Allen to his credit though was not for giving up.Another century this time a 104 made it 5-4 and when Trump failed to make the most of his chance in the next Allen won it to force the decider.In the 10 months since The Masters in January Trump has found himself in this position on more then one occasion with a match seemingly in his grasp only to let it slip away but today he gave those who have questioned his temperament the perfect answer taking his chance to win 6-5.This really was a superb match and without doubt in these two we have a rivalry that will only grow in the years ahead.

On the other table we had a match that was the total opposite to this thrill a minute stuff but none the less produced an equally impressive winner as Peter Ebdon beat Ricky Walden 6-0.Walden may still have been feeling the effects of his marathon 321 minute match with Selby the night before but whatever the reason he couldn't get going against Ebdon who has now reached the semi final only dropping one frame along the way.

The second semi final will be a battle of two former World champions as Neil Robertson play Shaun Murphy.

Robertson never looked at his best but his experience showed as he beat the young Chinese star Lu Haotian 6-2.The crucial frames in this one came when Robertson already leading 3-2 took the next two on the black to go 5-2.He then made most of his chance in the next to seal the win.Robertson was full of praise for his young opponent in the post match press conference  and no doubt this teenager will be a featuring in the latter stages of tournaments again sooner rather then later.

Shaun Murphy booked his semi final place with a 6-4 win over Marco Fu.In this one Murphy despite winning the opening frame found himself trailing 3-1 at the interval before he visibly upped a gear to take four frames in a row and lead 5-3.Fu did manage to close the gap to 5-4 but Murphy was not to be denied and won the next to secure the win.

As someone who has always favoured the longer format match's I am really looking forward to the novelty of semi finals been played over two sessions.I know its probably to much to wish for that these might become the norm again but at the very least they provide a welcome break from the bitesize format of other tournaments.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

International Championship Last 16 round up and QF preview.

It may only have been the round of 16 but today saw another great day of action at the International Championship which included among its headlines,. mixed fortunes for the home players,a couple of former world champions showing good form,a few results that could have a major bearing on the world rankings and the continued rise of a young sensation.

Perhaps the story of the week so far has been the progress of 14 year old Lu Haotian who has once again shown what a raw talent he has. Today he once again came through  a final frame decider this time against the ultra experienced Dominic Dale and even at this early age has shown he has nerve to go with the ability.No doubt we will be talking about this kid for many years to come.He now faces his toughest battle to date in the quarter final where he meets Neil Robertson.Robertson has been quite impressive this week and booked his place with a 6-2 victory over Matthew Stevens.

It was of course as a 14 year old we first saw Ding Junhui when he played as a wildcard in the China Open many moons ago. He would go on to win that tournament a couple of years later but in the time since he has often struggled under the pressure of the expectant home crowds. Those fans were once again left disappointed today when he went down 6-4 to Shaun Murphy.This was a top quality game where the momentum swung both ways before Murphy showed his class winning the last two frames comfortably having earlier let a 4-1 lead slip.

Murphy will now play Marco Fu who came through following a long tense battle with Mark Davis 6-4,One has to feel sympathy for Davis who had he won would have secured a place in the top 16 for the first time in his career but now finds himself agonisingly in 17th place.

Elsewhere Mark Allen defeated Cao Yupeng in a rematch of their controversial Crucible encounter 6-2 to continue his recent run of good form and he will need to be at his best when he once again tackles Judd Trump in the next round.Trump had a straight forward victory 6-0 win over Aditya Mehta who failed to reproduce the form that saw him beat Suart Bingham yesterday.This promises to be a mouth watering clash between these two young guns and if it lives up to their clash in last years UK final the crowds in Chengdu are in for a treat.

An added incentive for Trump will be the knowledge that reaching the final this week will see him become the new World no.1.This is due to the fact that our current no.1 Mark Selby bowed out in a marathon match today with Ricky Walden going down 6-3.

Walden would want to recover quickly from that gruelling encounter as he is not likely to get any respite tomorrow when he face Peter Ebdon for a place in the semi's.Ebdon made short work today of Stephen Maguire recording a comprehensive 6-1 win..

We are really now at the push coming to shove stage of this tournament with every game from now on been played on a televised table .Each of the eight players who are left will feel they are well capable of lifting the trophy come Sunday but if I was to pressed to tip someone I would slightly favour Judd Trump.I feel the extra incentive of the no.1 spot been up for grabs will give him the drive he needs.I have of course often been wrong before!!


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

International Championship. The story so far

We may only be three days in but the inaugural staging of the International Championship has already provided plenty of thrills and spills as well as a few shocks.

Firstly lets get the old chestnut of the Wildcard round out of the way.Much has been written about this over the years and on the face of it it does seem grossly unfair that professionals having come through the qualifiers have to go play an extra match to get to tournament proper,but rightly or wrongly thats the way it is.As the old saying goes the man who pays the piper calls the tune and as long as those promoting these tournaments remain insistent on this it is the way things will stay.

As always these rounds do claim some main tour pro's and here was no exception.Ken Doherty fell 6-5 to Zhao Xintong, and Michael White went down by the same scoreline to the young sensation Lu Haotian who had the added bonus of going straight into the last 16 following Ronnie's withdrawl and will face Dominic Dale,Cao Yupeng, Aditya Mehta,Fergal O Brien and Jamie Burnett did manage to make it through some tricky ties to make last 32 but the shock results didn't end there.

The first upset in the last 32 was the exit of John Higgins who fell at the first hurdle as he attempted to make it back to back ranking victories follow his recent Shanghai Masters win.He started well in his match with Cao Yupeng but his form dipped completely after a game changing fourth frame and although he did rally late on he went down 6-3. Cao's reward is a Last 16 clash against the impressive Mark Allen who put his travel problems behind him to beat Robert Milkins 6-2.

Another man who experienced travel problems was Neil Robertson .but he produced a solid display against Ryan Day beating him 6-3.He will play Matthew Stevens next.

Ding Junhui has not always produced his best in his homeland but can be happy with his display in beating his fellow countryman Zhou Yuelong 6-1 to set up a clash with Shaun Murphy who also eased his way through with a 6-0 crushing of Andrew Higginson.

Judd Trump started his quest to go one better then his runners up spot in last months Shanghai Masters with a decent display that hinted at better to come in his 6-3 win over Fergal O'Brien and will face India's Aditya Mehta next.Mehta in what is surely his biggest victory yet beat the man in form Stuart Bingham 6-4.He had at one stage lead 4-0 and managed to hold his nerve to hold off  the Bingham comeback.He will no doubt be relishing the chance to play Trump tomorrow.

In other matches World No.1 Mark Selby negotiated a tricky last 32 encounter with Ali Carter to progress 6-3 and will play Ricky Walden who came through a long gruelling battle with Lu Ning 6-4.Stephen Maguire beat Jamie Burnett 6-3 to set up a rematch with his China Open conqueror Peter Ebdon and Marco Fu scraped through in a decider with Martin Gould.He will face Mark Davis who beat an obviously under the weather Mark Williams 6-4.

Tomorrow will see all eight last 16 matches taking place so by this time tomorrow we will know who the Quarter finalists will be.By then I may even get off the fence and try predict a winner!


Saturday, 27 October 2012

International Open preview

This Sunday will see what is no doubt the biggest tournament to take place outside the UK when the first staging of the International Open kicks off in Chengdu China.With a top prize of £125.000 it is not speaking out of turn to suggest that this tournament will if not rival the UK Championship in the years to come it will certainly sit along side it in terms of prestige.

The other element of this tournament which is to welcomed is the fact that the whole way through the matches will be over the slightly longer format with all matches to the semi best of 11 and the semi's best of 17 over two sessions.This is a format I have always liked as the difference between best of 9 and best of 11 is massive especially from a psychological .point of view to a player trailing 3-1 at the interval.In this era of everything been turned into bitesize it's nice to on occasion have a bit of slow burning drama.

Of course this tournament was to have seen the return to action in a full ranking event of our reigning World Champion Ronnie O Sullivan for the first time since that victory in the Crucible but he much to the disappointment of the organizers and fans withdrew at the last minute on medical advice.This came on the back of an article earlier in the week where he was quoted as regretting entering this run of tournaments and again talking about retirement.AS I have said in the past lets hope Ronnie does return to health soon and gets back to the level he displayed in lifting the World title as Ronnie in top form is still the most breathe taking sight we will ever see in snooker.

Of the player who have made it there will be plenty who feel they have a real chance of lifting the top prize. Among these will be John Higgins who play superbly in lifting the Shanghai Masters last month and indeed the man he beat in that final Judd Trump who di very little wrong.Another man in form is Mark Allen who showed his wellbeing in Antwerp with a fine display to win that EPTC event.

If we are talking about players in form you can't but mention Stuart Bingham who produced on of the evenings of his life on Thursday night when he withewashed both Mark Selby  and Neil Robertson 6-0 in the Premier League. If the saying is true that success breeds success then he surely must be on a high coming in here and will take someone playing well to beat him. 

You can't preview a tournament in China without mentioning Ding Junhui despite his poor record in his homeland but surely he will put this to right at some stage and there would never be a better week then this.

I could go through maybe another half dozen names and not mention the winner here but I'm not going to.Instead I will lokk forward to some early mornings this week and the excellent coverage on Eurosport of a tournament that could herald a major change in the way snooker is seen in Asia.Keep an eye out for my daily updates from Tuesday on.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Reardon at 80 and Paul Hunter remembered

For all the bad press that social networks get these days and perhaps rightly so at times their are instances where they prove their worth by allowing people the chance to mark certain events.That was the case this week as Snooker fans paid tribute to two men whose contribution to the game will never be forgotten,

The first of  these is Ray Reardon who on Monday celebrated his 80th birthday. I am of course too young to remember Ray in his prime so my memories are of him towards the end of his career but his record speaks for itself. You don't win six World Championships beating the players he did without been an excellent player  .

Like all great champions he knew how to win and didn't wilt when the pressure was on.He was the best player in the world and carried himself as such.He was also it seems not adverse to using a little bit of psychology.In Steve Davis's autobiography from 1981 he tells the story of a match he played against him as a teenager in a round robin pro/am.By the time these two had met Davis knew he only needed to win one frame of the four in the match to advance but having lost the first two Reardon had a heated argument with the ref about the position of the reds for the break off.This resulted in the balls been re racked a total of six times before Reardon eventually broke.By this stage the young Davis's concentration had completely gone and he exited the tournament losing the match 4-0.but with a valuable lesson learnt.

Of course Davis would go onto dominate the game in the 80's and I think perhaps unfairly the achievements of Reardon became quickly overlooked by the new generation of snooker fan much in the way Davis's achievements are by the current generation.

Regardless of this I think whenever snooker minds meet to discuss the games greatest players Ray Reardon deserves his place near the top on every list.

Unfortunately the other player remembered this week would not get the chance to fulfill his undoubted destiny in the game. I refer of course to Paul Hunter. Tuesday. marked the sixth anniversary of his passing and it is still a day no snooker fan will forget,

My first memory of seeing Paul play would have been an early round UK Championship against Hendry at the top of his game. I can't remember the year but I do remember Paul lead after the first session before Hendry asserted in the night session.The result didn't matter though,it was the style of this kid still in his teens that caught the eye.He seemed to have that rare ability to flow around the tables that only the very best possess.

He will rightly be remembered for his three final frame victories in the Masters where he first became the darling of the red tops with his infamous "Plan B" victory over Fergal O Brien as well as his three ranking event victories but the memory of him that will always stick with me came in the 2003 World Championship.In his semi final with Ken Doherty he lead 15-9 going into the last session but in one of the most extraordinary sessions ever seen at the Crucible  Doherty fought back to win 17-16.Anyone would have forgiven Paul for wanting the ground to open up and swallow him and probably inside he did as well but outwardly he gave Ken a smile and took the defeat with grace and dignity.

This told me all I needed to know about the character of the man.Of course its impossible to predict how his career would have panned out I find it hard to believe he wouldn't have at least challenged for the games top honours.

Lets take a moment this week to reflect on what these two great men have done for the sport we love.

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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Shanghai Masters Final.

"It was a game that had everything" may be one of sports most overused cliches but I honestly can't think of any other way to describe the action in todays Shanghai Masters Final.The record books will show that John Higgins beat Judd Trump 10-9 to win the title and in so doing clinch his 25th ranking event title.For once though that really only tells part of the story about a match that will have anyone lucky enough to have witnessed it talking for a long time.

This close tight match didn't look on the cards early on as Trump playing some beautifully flowing snooker raced into a 4-0 mid session interval lead and extended that to 5-0 in the next.Higgins though is never one panic and he got his first frame on the board in the next in the best possible way with a maximum 147 break which netted Higgins 12,000 and a box of six gold nuggets from the sponsors.The prize would not have been on his mind though as he lost the next to trail 6-1 and they shared the final two of the session to leave Trump within touching distance of the title leading 7-2.

However as we had seen many times over the years you simply can never write off John Higgins and he again showed us why he is the great champion he is by coming out in the second session with all guns blazing.Breaks of 89,74 and 76 saw him win the first four frames of the night to close within one at the mid session interval,the score now 7-6

He wasn't finished there however and won the next with a 71 and in an hard fought 15th frame Higgins doubled the final black to take the lead 8-7.Judd at this stage must have been in a daze wondering what was happening to him so it is to his credit as well as testament to his growing maturity that he constructed a fine 105 to again level at 8-8.

Both players were now showing fine touch albeit neither were experiencing the best run of the ball. Higgins was first in again in the next with 64 but Trump fought back and looked like he ma snatch it before undercutting the black trying to get back up for the yellow. Higgins took it to lead 9-8.Trump wasn't done for yet though and he won a tense 18th frame to force a decider.which was no more then he deserved

They say all you want in a deciding frame is to get a chance and that first chance fell to Trump but he could only manage 35 before running out of position..Higgins though came to the table and knocked in a superb red before running out the victor with a fine 61.

This win will be made all the sweeter for Higgins not only because of the great comeback to win it but also because it proves to everyone and possibly even himself that he has still got a lot more to offer in the game.I certainly don't think that any player will be relishing meeting him on the table for the rest of the season.

For Trump he will no doubt be very disappointed to have let a 7-2 lead slip away but when he looks back on the match out of the heat of the battle he can reflect positively on the fact that this was Higgins winning the match not him losing it.He can also look back on a week where he has impressed everyone with his all round play and maybe once and for all put to bed the "one trick pony " label he has been unfairly branded with by some.He can take great confidence going on from this for the rest of the season.

Finally I want to comment on the tournament as a whole. I think although this was actually the third ranking event of the season many will feel this is where the season finally caught fire.The crowds seemed good all week and the atmosphere for the final seemed to be electric.

We now have a few PTC  events before we return to China for the International Championship and the small matter of the return of our World Champion Ronnie O Sullivan.Get the fires lit and pull in the sofa we're going to have super winter!
@thegreenbaize



Saturday, 22 September 2012

Shanghai Masters Final preview

Judd Trump will face off against John Higgins in the final of The Shanghai Masters tomorrow following their semi final victories over Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy respectively.The match will be a repeat of the 2011 World Final where Higgins was to prove victorious in what at the time looked like becoming the sports next big rivalry.That is not however how the last 16 months were to pan out..

At the time he won that World title his third in five years and his 4th in total Higgins was playing snooker at a level above anyone else in the world.He had returned from his six month ban earlier that season like a man who felt he had everything to prove again and determined to make the most of his second chance,That coupled with what sadly proved to be his fathers losing battle with cancer seemingly gave him extra determination to make every match count.

It was I suppose in retrospect inevitable that on the back of such an emotional rollercoaster of a year that when it stopped he would struggle to get it going again.What did surprise us though was with each passing tournament he just couldn't get going.This culminated in a humiliating defeat to Hendry in the 2012 World championships in what was probably his poorest display ever in the Crucible and once again those who were only twelve months earlier predicting he would dominate the game were this time writing him off.

This however is something we should by now know you can never do with Higgins. He went away during the summer sitting out the opening two ranking events and slowly rebuilt his game.It has been very noticeable this week that with each passing match his game has got sharper and that coupled with his growing confidence will make him very hard to beat in the final.

That task will fall to Judd Trump who himself has had a very interesting last 16 months.When he played Higgins in that 2011 world final Trump was riding the crest of a wave having finally lived up to his early promise by winning the China Open and beating the defending champion Neil Robertson on his way to the final.,He may have lost that match but his attacking style had endeared him to pundits and public alike and comparisons with Alex,Jimmy and Ronnie were been trotted out at every opportunity.

As last season started his star continued to rise and a couple of early season victories over Ronnie seemed to be heralding a changing of the guard,By the time December came he was flying and in a top quality UK Championship final he beat Mark Allen to win his first "Major".

Roll on to January and the Masters.Trump looked destined to further enhance his reputation up until he play Robertson in the semi.I think it is widely accepted that Robertson did a number on him in that game and it seemed to affect him for the rest of the season. Ho would go on to lose a number of matches from seemingly commanding positions as his ability to get over the line started to be called into question.

These questions continued right to this week and it is to his great credit that he put them to bed when he withstood the late comeback from Dott who fought back to force a decider from 4-1 down and today agannst Williams when he closed to 5-4.

So what can we expect tomorrow from a final that has two men who will feel they have something to prove?I think we are in for a proper high class final that could go fight to the wire with I feel possibly a Higgins win but don't quote me on that!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Shanghai Masters Quarter Finals

8 became 4 today in the Shanghai Masters as John Higgins,Mark Williams,Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump all progressed through their quarter final matches to set up what promises to be a weekend of top quality snooker.

The story of the week so far has been the return to form of John Higgins.It is a measure of how much he has struggled in the last twelve months that his 5-3 victory over Carter today  meant he progressed to the semi final of an event for the first time since he lifted the World title in 2011.Though as I'm sure he would admit himself his game has not yet returned to the extraordinary level it reached in that season,but a John Higgins playing well and competing at the business end of tournaments can only be a positive for the sport.

His semi final opponent will be Shaun Murphy who in truth didn't have to get out of second gear to beat a badly out of sorts Stuart Bingham 5-1.For this reason its hard to evaluate Murphy on his performance today as he was never under any pressure to produce his best.This wont be the case in the semi and I have a feeling that the momentum may now be with Higgins who will be relishing the chance to get back into a ranking final again.

In the other half Mark Willaims reached the last four with a deciding frame victory over Joe Perry.In a match that struggled to get going till near the end Williams sealed victory in the last with a fine 79 break after Perry had forced the decider with a superb 131.

The final player through to the semis was Judd Trump who also won by the minimum margin holding off a spirited Graeme Dott fightback.Indeed for the first time this week it was Judd who made the good start and lead 4-1 before Dott through caution to the wind and leveled at 4-4.It has been a characteristic of Judd since probably his Masters defeat to Neil Robertson to struggle to apply the finishing touches to games so he will be delighted to have held his nerve the way he did in taking his chance in the decider.

This semi final will again be a tough one to call but my feeling is Williams will continue his remarkable record in these events and get the chance to avenge his Final frame defeat in last years final.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Shanghai Masters Last 16

Well if the story of the first few days of the Shanghai Masters was one of tense close ties with many going to the deciding frame today was to prove the total opposite of that with a series of one sided matches.In the first session alone the four losing players won a total of three frames between them.The evening matches were slightly more competitive but only even at that only one match reached it's eighth frame.

So what of the games themselves.

John Higgins again showed signs that his game is coming back with an impressive 5-0 win over Ryan Day. His opponent in the quarter finals will be Ali Carter who himself has also struggled to repeat the form that saw him reach the World Final at the Crucible in May but today easily swept aside Stephen Maguire again by a scoreline of 5-0.

Mark Williams who was runner up in controversial circumstances here last year continued his smooth progress through this years event with a 5-2 win over the The Wuxi Classic winner Ricky Walden..He'll face Joe Perry who inflicted a rare 5-0 whitewash on Neil Robertson.

The stand out tie of the round on paper was the clash between two of the games young guns Judd Trump and Mark Allen who have had a few interesting tussles over the last twelve months.It is perhaps wishful thinking to expect fireworks every time these two meet and today wasn't to be one of those days but in a fascinating match where he once again fell behind this time 2-0 Trump showed his fighting qualities to win five in a row and record a 5-2 victory.In the quarter final he will play Graeme Dott who beat Stephen Lee 5-1

Elsewhere Jamie Cope failed to build on his victory over the world no.1 Mark Selby going down 5-1 to Stuart Bingham who now faces Shaun Murphy who got by a battling Mark King 5-3

Tomorrow see's all four Quarter finals taking place and on current form a case can really be made for any of them to lift the title come Sunday.This should make for a very interesting few days of what has probably been the best tournament of the season so far.



Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Shanghai Masters The story so far

The Wildcard round has been the subject of much debate in the snooker community over the years but on occasion they can provide a real story and that was the case here when Lu Haotain fought back from 3-0 down to beat Marco Fu. Lu first came to our attention earlier this year when he became the youngest winner of the IBSF World Under 21 Championship and he showed remarkable composure for a boy who wont turn 15 until November in sealing victory here.The first round proper was to prove a step to far as he lost 5-2 to Mark Allen but he is definately one to keep an eye on.

Allens opponent in the last 16 will be Judd Trump who showed signs he is getting his game together again as he came back from 3-0 down to beat the Australian Open winner Barry Hawkins 5-3.This was perhaps the best Judd has played in a while so this rematch of last years UK Championship final has the potential to be a classic.

Another man struggling for form despite his victory in last months Paul Hunter Classic is our World No.1 Mark Selby. he looked badly out of sorts and went out tamely to Jamie Cope losing 5-1.His opponent in the next round will be Stuart Bingham who came through his match in a deciding frame beating Tom Ford 5-4.

There was again to be disappointment for Ding Junhui  and his legions of fans as he once again failed to sparkle in his homeland going down 5-4 to Mark King who will now play Shaun Murphy who also came through in a decider beating Dominic Dale 5-4

Elsewhere there is hardly anyone in the game with a better record in Asian tournaments and he once again showed his liking for this part of the world beating  Mark Davis 5-1 and he will now play Ricky Walden who managed to hold his nerve beating Steve Davis 5-4 having seen "the Nugget" fight back from 4-1 down.

John Higgins has had a 2012 to forget so far but showed signs of a return to form with a fine 5-2 win over Jamie Jones and now faces Ryan Day who beat the recent PTC winner martin Gould again by a margin of 5-4.

In the remaining last 16 games we have a rematch of last seasons World semi final with Stephen Maguire facing Ali Carter following there victorie over Peter Ebdon and Rob Milkins respectively ,Joe Perry against Neil Robertson and Stephen Lee taking on Graeme Dott.

Tight close games have been the order of the day so far this week and there is no reason to think that will change as we get towards the business end of things.A fascinating few days lie ahead

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Shanghai Masters

The snooker roadshow returns to China this week for the second of five ranking events this season when the players descend on Shanghai for this years Shanghai Masters.

In days gone by a tournament in the last week of September would be the event to launch a new snooker season following a long summer break but not anymore as we've already enjoyed a summer of snooker from PTC's to two ranking events The Australian Open and The Wuxi Classic.

Hard as it has been a supporter to get used to this change it has also proved difficult for some of the games stars who have struggled to hit top form yet this season. This could be a because they simply haven't practiced enough all summer,because with the season now been so long they are focusing on honing there games for "the Majors" as we see on golf or simply due to the fact that  with so much tournament play the lack of match sharpness is no longer an issue so the playing field is far more level.

This will create very interesting situations in the years to come as if it does become clear the players at the top of the rankings aren't preparing for the off peak tournaments as they might it opens up large earning potential for those just below the top ranks.

Back to this tournament though and all the above questions haven't made predicting tournament winners any easier so I'm going to chicken out and wait until the dust has settled later in week to make any.

The whole thing gets underway tomorrow with the dreaded wildcsrd round and we'll have extensive coverage on Eurosport in this part of the world and on liveworldsnooker.tv where available.


Monday, 10 September 2012

PTC 3 Weekend round up

There is an ad currently running on Comedy Central for Charlie Sheens new comedy show that features Charlie standing on a train track with a speeding train approaching,suddenly the train brakes,flips over and explodes.From the wreckage  Charlie emerges unharmed and walks the the camera declaring C'mon everybody deserves a 24th chance" .

This is a feeling that  Rod Lawler my well empathise with this morning as he reflects on his 4-2 victory over Marco Fu in last nights PTC3 final in Gloucester.As we all know Rod dropped off the tour at the end of last season after 21 years and it seem genuinely contemplated retirement before deciding to give it one more go and enter the Q School.He duly regained his tour card and the early signs this season were that he was determined to make the most of his second chance when he qualified for the Wuxi Classic.That said I dare say even in his wildest dreams he never believed he would have a weekend like this where he would beat players like Stuart Bingham and Stephen Lee in deciding frames before lifting his first professional title at the ripe old age of 41.

Perhaps its the fact we all love a good comeback story but I have rarely seen such an outpouring of joy across twitter and the internet last night following this win and it seems that Rod is a genuinely liked and likeable person.I like the quote from his father who shouted out "I've waited 30 years for this"

A word also for his final opponent Marco Fu.Fu has always been an infuriating player because on a going day he's a match for anyone but his career has been blighted by inconsistency.This however was a going weekend for him and although he ultimately fell at final hurdle he can only take great confidence  going forward this season after fine wins against Stephen Maguire,Mark Williams,Ricky Walden,Ali Carter and Shaun Murphy.

Elsewhere in the tournament we had the brief reappearance of Ronnie O Sullivan who came in Saturday afternoon ,went for everything and lost 4-3 against Simon Bedford.,we had Ken Doherty and Fergal O Brien also flying the flag for the over 40's with some good victories, also we had a number of the games so called top players continuing to struggle to find their form this season which may be a worry for some and a super venue that to the dismay of many will only be hosting one more PTC event.

Following one more night of Premier League snooker this Thursday we again turn our attention for the rest of september. to China for the Shanghai Masters and Asian PTC 2

I will preview these in due course but in finishing up I want to again mention Rod Lawler who showed this weekend what hard work and dedication can lead to and I suppose the moral of the story is it doesn't matter if its your 2nd or 24th chance.it what you do with it that counts.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

PTC3 Preview.

I'm not entirely sure of the reason,it could be the fact we had a summer with the European Championships and the marvelous London Olympics or the fact that following his few monthes in exile that we have Ronnie back or it may even be just that we are now in September and we are conditioned that with the evenings drawing our thoughts turn to all things snooker,but it really seems that despite having already had two full ranking events as well as a couple of PTC events there is an excitement about this weekend that hasn't existed so far this season.

And so it is the snooker professionals roll into South West Snooker Academy for unfortunately it seems the penultimate for PTC 3 this weekend.Suppose the logical place to start is with the man who will probably get all the headlines,our returning World Champion Ronnie O Sullivan.Following a summer saga of will he wont he Ronnie has eventually signed his contract and his participation can only be a positive for the event as everyone will be eager to see if he can hit the ground running and reproduce the form that saw him sweep to his fourth world title in May.This is not something that can be ruled out despite his lack of competitive action.

Ronnie of course is not the only star on show and many others may see this weekend as the perfect chance to hone their form with a busy period of tournaments coming over next couple of monthes.Another of the games greats who made a belated return to action was John Higgins,After never really getting going last season you get the feeling this year might be a make or break year for Higgins.It certainly would be great for the game if he could find his form from a couple of seasons ago.If he did there is little doubt he would lift a few titles this year

Current World no.1 Mark Selby will come into this weekend feeling a lot better about himself following his victory in The Paul Hunter and he seems to have put his injury and form problem behind him.We can expect another bold showing this weekend from Selby who seems to relish match snooker as much as anyone.

Perhaps the most consistent player of 2012 so far has been Stephen Maguire who already has a win in PTC1 and a runner up in PTC 2 to his name.One gets the feeling he may be slightly more in favour of these events then he used to be!

Of course I can't mention everyone but I'm sure we'll see players like Judd Trump,Neil Robertson,Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen who will all be looking to kick start their seasons here as well as the likes of Ricky Walden,Barry Hawkins and Martin Gould who have already been in winners circle and wanting to build on their success's.

This sets us up nicely for a weekend in front of the PC and a fascinating weekend of snooker.

@thegreenbaize

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Premier League preview.

Well as the dust settles on a fabulous two weeks of London 2012 the sporting calendar returns to normal this week, with the start of the new Premiership season only a few days away and the return of the Premier League this Thursday night.

Of course the big story coming into this years tournament is the absence of defending and current world champion Ronnie O Sullivan.Since the introduction of the shot clock Ronnie has made this tournament his own only failing to win it once when for some reason best known to himself he decided to run a half marathon on the morning of the final!.

This does leave the tournament with a "Hamlet without the Prince" feel to it but with such a strong line up consisting of all last seasons ranking event winners once it gets going I'm sure the audiences will still be treated to an exhibition of top quality snooker.

The other new element to this years tournament will be a return to an actual league format following last years frankly confusing mini tournament system This year the ten players will be split into two groups of five with Group A: containing Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Stuart Bingham and a 
Group B: of Judd Trump,Mark Allen,Stephen Lee, John Higgins and Peter Ebdon. eventually boiling down to a semi final and final play off between the top two in each.

Of course the secret to Ronnie's success in this tournament has been how little he had to adapt his game for the shot clock which again this year will be 25 seconds..Looking at this years line up you can't imagine Trump or Allen having a problem but it will be intriguing to see how Ebdon adapts.I personally think it could actually help him as it did Selby in his first year when he reached the final.

Who do I tip for glory?The obvious ones are the quick players like Trump and Allen but I have a sneaky feeling for Ding who in the past has shown flashes of brilliance in this tournament.

The action begins Thursday night on Sky Sports and starts off a run of weeks where we will be treated to professional snooker action via tv or internet which will take us all the way to December. The season has well and truly started!! 

Follow me on twitter @thegreenbaize  for constant snooker updates,

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ronnie signs contract.

Well after nearly four months of  will he/wont he drama Ronnie O Sullivan finally signed his World Snooker contract last night which make him eligible to return to competitive action and he will start his season in the International Championship in China which starts on October 28th.

It has been a tense couple of months with statement and counter statement coming from Ronnie's management company and World Snooker seemingly showing that each side were if anything getting more entrenched in their views.The one thing that was needed at that stage was for O Sullivan and Hearn to sit down together and trash things out. This is seemingly what happened on Monday and thankfully the issues were resolved.

Personally I am delighted by this news,Yes we can all rattle off the whole "snooker is bigger then one man argument" but the truth of the matter is for all the fine players we have there is noone currently in the game who can draw a crowd and inspire future snooker players like Ronnie.I described him on twitter as the "Bolt of the Baize" and he really has that rare quality that people so love in their sports people.,the ability to perform at the highest level when seemingly not trying at all.

A further point to make here is that although there can be little doubt that snooker will continue to grow in popularity in China and mainland Europe we have seen in recent years a serious decline in the amount snooker clubs in Britain and Ireland.This of coarse leads to a decline in numbers of young people playing the game and following the fabulous success of London 2012 we are in danger of losing a generation to other normally minority sports.If we are to have any chance at all of arresting the slide we need the likes of Ronnie playing at the top of his form.

Of course this is not guaranteed and it will be interesting to see if he can reproduce the form of the Crucible where he was perhaps the most focused he has ever been in his career. If he does he will be hard to beat in any tournament he plays in and maybe he will finally become the flag bearer that Barry Hearn so wanted him to be when he took over the sport three years ago.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Alex Higgins two years gone today.

Looking through twitter today I see a number of tributes to mark the second anniversary of the passing of  Alex Higgins.In those two years as in his lifetime plenty has been written and said about Alex the man and player,It seems no matter who you are if you had anything to do with the snooker you have a story about "The Huricance".I am no exception to this so here is mine.

It was the summer of 2005 and having just come under new management a snooker club in a neighbouring town to me announced they were celebrating this with an exhibition featuring Alex. Although I will admit to never having been his biggest fan in his heyday i couldn't miss an opportunity to see him in the flesh again.

When I arrived at the venue I couldn't help but notice the large range of ages of those in attendance.Sure there were people my age and older who came to see the man who lit up their tv screen in the 70's and 80's in the hope of seeing a glimpse these glory days but there were also a number of teenagers who would have been to young to have even witnessed his last great hurrah in the 1989 Irish Masters.These kids I concluded were there to see if this "Hurricane" was all they'd been told about.

The scheduled start time came and went as the crowd grew and eventually about half an hour late the owner announced "THE TWO TIME WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPION ALEX HURRICANE HIGGINS".The crowd clapped and cheered as Alex walked in sporting a rather stylish matching purple cravat and hat.combination.Yes he looked thin and it was obvious he had gone through the mill with his health but he was still fairly spritely and certainly looked better then he had in the recent pictures the tabloids had delighted in showing in the month's previous.

The format of the exhibition itself had Alex play a series of frames against local players and sports stars including Olympic gold medal winning boxer Michael Carruth.and turned into a snapshot of his whole career as at different stages he was funny.charming, angry,abusive,.insulting and brilliant on a table that really was awfully slow.

The evening finished with a raffle.which had  a top prize of a signed poster,signed t shirt a photograph with him and the opportunity to chat with him.When the ticket was pulled out the winner was me.I could hardly believe my luck as I shook hands with Alex and posed for the picture.We then started to chat and  maybe due to the fact the pressure to perform was now gone he seemed relaxed as we talked about everything from the state of the table(I had played a final on it the week previous and found the cloth like a carpet) to the state of the sport at the time,to the Irish Masters at Goffs and finally horse racing.I couldn't believe what was happening as all that was going through my head was for all the bad stories of this man I was going to have a positive.one to tell.

After about 15 minutes the owner anxious to wrap the evening up came over to us and we shook hands again and wished each other well.I turned away and started to chat with some of the kids who were waiting to hear what we had talked about.No sooner had I started to relay my story when I heard a noise behind me and turned around to see Alex grabbing to owner by the lapels and shoving him against the table in a row over the fee.I could hardly believe my eyes.

This was my one and only meeting with "The Hurricane" and like with everyone else who came into contact with him it was certainly memorable. The signed poster still has pride of place on my wall and I think tonight I'll pay tribute to the great man by putting on Youtube and watching again that miracle clearance against Jimmy in 1982 World Championships.Rest In Peace Hurricane.

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