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Monday, 23 September 2013

Shanghai Masters and Other News.

A week that saw snooker hit the headlines for stories we'd all rather not see,managed to finish on a real high yesterday in Shanghai as Ding Junhui came out on top of an all Chinese final,beating Xaio Guodong 10-6 to claim the 2013 Shanghai Masters title.

This was a long overdue success on home soil for Ding,who first announced himself on the world stage,when at the tender age of 17 he beat Stephen Hendry to win the 2005 China Open title.Thiat victory sparked a huge surge in interest in the sport in China and propelled Ding to national hero status.

If anyone had predicted then that it would take over 8 years for Ding to again claim another ranking title in his homeland they would have been laughed at,but the added pressure of an expectant nation seemed to wear heavily on his shoulders and since then,with very few exceptions,he has generally struggled when in front of his home crowd.

That was until this week where he played the best snooker of anyone in the tournament to lift the thoroughly deserved title.Maybe now with that monkey now removed from his back he can start producing the kind of snooker on a consistent at home that we are used to seeing over here.

Of course the other thing that victory in 2005 did was lead to wild predictions of a Chinese lead domination of the game taking place in the coming seasons.This we know as of yet has failed to materialize,despite a number of pretenders to Dings crown of Chinese no.1 emerging only to subsequently fall by the wayside.I do however feel that in Xiao Guodong we have someone who,if not a challenger for Dings no.1 spot,is certainly capable of  becoming the undisputed Chinese no.2.

Xiao showed great temperament here all week and didn't seem at all phased by playing in his first ranking final yesterday.Hopefully the experience he earned this week will serve him well over the rest of the season and he can become the player he undoubtedly has the ability to become

Away from the action on the table last week however one story dominated.

This sadly was the news that Stephen Lee had been found guilty on seven counts of match fixing and can expect a hefty penalty when his punishment is handed down on the 24th September.

I'm sure most of you by now will have read the findings so I'm not going to rehash them here except to say that with the evidence as it is presented,it is hard to see how any other conclusion could have been reached.It is here where the WPBSA must be commended.Over the past year the board have come in for plenty of criticism for the length of time the investigation was taking,but I have always firmly believed that time should never be a factor if something is been done properly. That certainly seems to be the case here.They must also be praised for the immediate release of the full findings to the public.This is the sort of transparency we've see all to little of in the past.

Of course,as is often the case in this modern social media world the story quickly moved on when Ronnie tweeted what amounted to nothing more then idle speculation about other unnamed players who may have been involved in match fixing at some stage or other. These vague utterances of nothingness were picked up immediately by media outlets and suddenly snooker it seemed had an epidemic of match crooked players.

Ronnie did retract his statement the next day,which is fair enough but by now he should realise that such is his stature in the game that if he says anything it will be jumped on and treated as gospel by a media desperate for any slice of scandal.That said if he does genuinely have any evidence of match fixing he should inform the authorities.

Speaking for myself I wouldn't suggest for one minute that the above case is the only time match fixing has occurred in the sport in recent times,but on the reverse side of that I don't believe,like that guy in the bookies who believes every race is fixed,that its as widespread as some believe. I expect the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Onwards we go then and with the long bright evenings of summer now a fading memory the snooker season really can get going. I can't wait.