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Friday, 22 June 2012

Preview of new season.

Well here we are.It doesn't seem that long since we said goodbye to last season and we are already looking down the barrel of the seasons first full ranking event.The Wuxi Classic in China starting on Monday. In many ways the snooker never stopped.In the7 weeks since Ronnie lifted the world title on May 7th we have had Q School, two rounds of qualifiers and this week the first if the Asian PTC events.It is next week however that many feel we have the real start of the 2012/13 season and what a season it promises to be.

So what can we expect?Here are my thoughts on where some of our sports finest find themselves as the new season begins.

Ronnie O Sullivan.I suppose where else could I start but with the man who finished last season on such a high.In the Crucible Ronnie again proved beyond doubt that when on top form he still is capable playing the game to a level above anything we have seen before or possibly will again,He then promptly announced he was taking a break from the game for six months and a couple of weeks ago after the news had broken that he hadn't signed the players contract he released a rather cryptic message through his management company that has had a few questioning whether he will ever return.I think he probably will return in time for the UK Championship if not before and who is to say that wont go on then and sweep all before him. I personally hope he does because although I know the sport will continue without him but it's a hell of a lot more exciting with him.

Mark Williams Williams had seemed at the end of the 2010/11 season to be getting back to his best and started last season with a bang reaching finals in Australia and China.He was to lose both finals from commanding positions though and the manner in which he lost in China to Selby seemed to really effect him and he faded as the season progressed.He could really do with a good run in an early season tournament to get that bit of confidence back.

John Higgins.What a difference 12 months makes. This time last year Higgins seemed to have the snooker world at his feet.In the 6 months following his return from suspension he had played like a man possessed in adding another UK and World title to his he rode the emotional rollercoaster of trying to make up for lost time as well as cope with the death of his father..It was perhaps not surprising then that following the break he struggled to get going early last season afetr all no man could keep that intensity going.The surprising thing however was though that he just never got going at all.The second session against Hendry at the Crucible was perhaps the worst session of snooker we have ever seen him play.He talked afterwards of having built a new snooker room at his house so he could practice at will be interesting to see if this does the trick because although he has not entered the first two ranking events of the season at 37 you could still not count him out if his form returned.

Stephen Maguire.Maguire has always struck me as someone with a love/hate relationship with the game but following a few barren years last season he finally began to reproduce the form that at one stage had many in the game tipping him for greatness.Ultimately he failed to produce his best in the World semi's with Carter but showed enough to suggest he might again be a serious challenger for honours again.

Stephen Lee,Lee's resurgence last season was nothing short of amazing..A couple of years ago his career seemed to be in freefall.He had dropped out of the top 16 and was struggling to find motivation to practice for 6 tournaments a year.This all changed when the Hearn revolution took hold and he found himself playing in tournaments every other week.Suddenly the man with the golden cue action found form and after a string of good showings he managed to win the PTC Grand Final. Now back in the top 8 in the rankings it will be fascinating to see if he can keep his form going into the new season.

Mark Selby.The current world No.1 will be among those feeling the pressure to perform this season after his form fell off worryingly as last season progressed.He had stared the year well with a couple of early season wins in China but whether it was fact that he struggled under the mantle of his no.1 ranking or he just lost form he never really managed to get going in the second half of the season.He will feel he still has a lot to prove this season despite his ranking or maybe even because if it.

Judd Trump.Trump is another player who had a season of two halfs last year.Riding on the crest of wave from his heroics in last years worlds which saw him follow up his maiden ranking win in China with a fine run to the final he entered last season with a massive level of expectancy on his shoulders.He seemed to be relishing his role as the games new entertainer and a few classy victories over Ronnie seemed to be signalling at the time a sort of torch passing.In the UK Championship in December he looked to be confirming this with a high class victory over Mark Allen to capture the games second biggest prize.It was at the Masters though where things started to go wrong.In the semi he came up against Neil Robertson and it is widely accepted the Aussie did a number on him.It would appear that Trumps confidence took a bit of a knocking there and in the remaining tournaments last season he would go on to lose from a commanding position on more then one occasion,Not least his worlds match with Ali Carter.He has also in my opinion been unfairly labeled by some as someone who gets more then his fair share of luck.He will want this season to show he has the bottle to compete and see out matches and I would be amazed if he is not holding up more trophies before long.

Neil Robertson The Aussie last season seemed to refocus on his game after what he admitted himself had been a poor level of preparation during his year as World Champion the season previous.He lifted the Masters title in January and although he finally lost a tv final to Lee In the PTC Grand finals, he played very well in the World Championships where he was probably the second best player after O Sullivan.He has also added a steel to his game and appears to have overtaken Higgins as the games best modern day "grinder".He will surely be adding to his growing list of titles this year.

Stuart Bingham .After many years of toiling away Bingham finally got his hands on a ranking title when he lifted the Australian Open last season.On his day Bingham has always been capable of matching anyone but until then had seemed to lack the consistency ,He has already started this season winning the Pro/am Pink Ribbon tournament and on Friday winning the first of the Asian PTCs..He will be hoping this is a omen for things to come,

Mark Allen..Last year was the ultimate mixed bag for the Ulsterman.On the table he played suberbly in reaching the UK final and won his first ranking event when he demolished Stephen Lee to win the World Open in China.Unfortunately for him these are not the things he will be remembered for as time and again he managed to talk himself into more and more trouble.I'm not going to list them all here again but Allen comes into this season on his final chance as suspension hangs over his head if he steps out of line.Lets hope away fron the heat of the battle the close season has seen him recognise the error of his ways and this season he lets his snooker do the talking.

Ding Junhui .Last year was another frustrating year for the Chinese number 1.he once again failed to lift one of the growing number of tournaments in his homeland but did capture the Welsh Open title..In the Worlds he let a big lead slip against Ryan Day and you have to wonder if he will ever lift that title he seemed a certainty to win when he burst on the scene at 17. The one thing that could help him though is the large number of Chinese now on the circuit.It may help him feel he is not carrying the entire nations hopes on his own and free him up to play his natural game. There are still few in the game with  his  cueball control and  break building ability .

Well there we go The fact I have gone through these many potential tournament winners this year without mentioning the like of Shaun Murphy,Matthew Stevens,Ricky Walden or Ali Carter says it all about where we are in the game at the moment.Lets hope the 2012/13 season lives up to its potential to be the most exciting season we have ever had.

Feel free to add any further thoughts you may have.

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