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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

World Championship 2015 - What did we learn?

Well thats all folks,a season that started way back in China last June  comes to an end with a memorable final last night in Sheffield and the crowning of a new world champion So as the dust settles on another Crucible marathon and Stuart Bingham rides off into the sunset with the sports most coveted title,just what have we learned over the last 17 days?

Well there is only one place to start and that is with our new champion.Stuart Bingham is hardly a new name to snooker fans,but I'm sure most people like myself only ever looked on him as being a solid pro,capable of producing the odd big result against one of the top players,but not someone who would ever win one of the "big Three". Boy did he prove us wrong here.Not only did he produce some superb snooker, to win this title,he managed to produce it when under the most severe of pressure.There is no greater measure of a true champion than that.

Staying with the final Shaun Murphy showed us again in defeat just what a gentleman he is and you got the feeling his words of praise were not just meaningless soundbites,but genuinely heartfelt.No doubt he will be devastated to lose the final,but he can look back on a championship where he produced perhaps his best snooker at the Crucible since he lifted the title in 2005 and following on from a great season,this leaves him well placed to challenge for the games big prizes again next season.

Judd Trump can also look back on a season where he started to get his career heading the right way again,but will no doubt feel he may have left this title behind him,such was his standard in the early rounds.I got the distinct impression,especially in the first session again Bingham in the semi finals,Judd was suffering a little from the "expecting to be playing Ronnies"and may have underestimated his opponent.(Something we were all guilty of with Bingham). Of course everyone expects that one day Trump will be a world champion and while I share that view,nothing is guaranteed.If he can build on his efforts this season though,it is more likely that day will come than not.

From talk of a potential future champion to some great champions of the past and perhaps the signs we are nearing the end for the "class of '92". It has seemed for a couple of seasons that the chances of John Higgins or Mark Williams adding to their world title tallies were slim,but  maybe now the that is  also the case for the most decorated of that trio,Ronnie O'Sullivan. Ronnie just didn't seem to ever settle into this tournament and  as he has been since the Welsh Open,he  was strangely irritable. In my preview blog for this tournament I said that I felt if Ronnie had claimed his sixth title last year against Selby,that I had no doubt he'd be winning a seventh here.The fact is he didn't and there is now a strong possibility that he may not have it to challenge for the title here again.

As they say time or tide though wait for no man and there will always be players coming along to take their place.The question is where are they?

We constantly hear of all these great young players coming through,but the evidence just isn't there to support it.Bingham at 38 winning his first world title is seven years older than Davis & Hendry were when they won their last and it comes on the back of a season where seven of the nine players who won ranking titles were 31 or older.People will point to the likes of Michael White,Luca Brecel & Anthony McGilll who shocked Selby here as well as others,but a time comes where potential must be translated into results. I do really feel though that if the right player were to come through now,there is an opening to dominate this game for a decade.

Finally to a topic that had Twitter up in arms,particularly from the one table set up on and that was the pockets which seemed at times bucketlike. Ok that is a slight exaggeration,but there is no doubt that compared to other years they were certainly a little more forgiving.Barry Hearn responded to complaints on Twitter by saying they were templated as usual,but there are ways around this such as undercutting that can make them marginally more accepting of the ball.At this level the slightest easing of the difficulty makes a massive difference,as we saw here with the century break record being smashed.

As a one off this wouldn't be something worth worrying about,but the fear would be that if it continued into other events,in the mistaken belief that all snooker fans want to see is wham bam one chance frames then it would awful for the game. After all for all the big breaks in the final the most compelling frame lasted 64 minutes.

So thats it then,I don't think when we look back on this fortnight we will remember it  as one of the great championship,but in Stuart Bingham we got a winner who show showed all the all the traits we like in our champions,skill, humility, determination & calm under pressure.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read this blog over the season and I hope it proved informative, I will be using the next couple of months to try and spruce things up a bit around here and I hope to come back with a bigger and brighter website for the new season.Till then,take care & enjoy your summer.

The Green Baize

Monday, 4 May 2015

The World Champion is Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham is the World Snooker champion,beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in a dramatic and memorable final at The Crucible Theatre.

Before this tournament started few would have considered Bingham a serious contender for the title here,but after a first round struggle against Robbie Williams,he blew former champion Graeme Dott away in the second round,before a superb victory over Ronnie in the quarter final,and a dramatic deciding frame win over Trump in the semi.

Even with these victories behind him he still started this final as the underdog against a Shaun Murphy who had been in splendid form,breezing through the top half of the draw,to reach his third world final.

Bingham was to prove once again though that writing him off is a dangerous pass time as he showed just what a competitor he has become to claim the sports most coveted prize.

Of the match itself,unlike the first two session yesterday it was Bingham who got off to the better start today,taking the first four frames to turn his 9-8 overnight deficit into a 12-9 lead and although Murphy managed to stop the rot a bit the next four were only shared to leave Stuart 14-11 ahead going into the final session.

Murphy would have been aware he needed a good start tonight and got it,taking the first of the night to close to 14-12 Bingham though reopened his three frame lead in the next to lead 15-12.

Bingham was now just three frames from the title and maybe those thoughts were starting to enter his head as he started to miss a few & Murphy,being the great player he is started to fight back,taking the two before the interval to close to 15-14 and then the next level it up at 15-15.

This had been a match of the highest quality,with most of the frames coming down to whoever got the first chance,but it was a good old fashioned long nervy 31st frame that perhaps decided the destination of the title.

After a long battle on the reds the pendulum seemed to have swung toward Murphy when Bingham potted a great long red only to see the white cannon off another red and go in off. Murphy now had a chance to clear to win,but he failed to get ideal position on the yellow and a safety battle ensued.The key moment here was to come when Bingham paid an excellent snooker on the yellow and from here really controlled the exchanges,eventually winning the 64 minute frame to lead again 16-15.

This was indeed to prove the pivotal moment as Bingham held himself together to win the two he needed to lift the title 18-15 and claim the £300,000 top prize

Murphy of course was every bit the gentleman we would expect in his hearty congratulations of Stuart and although he will be disappointed he didn't add a second world title ten years on from his first,he can look back on a tournament & indeed season where he established himself once again as one of the games real top players.Once he gets over this he can certainly look back on his performance with a lot of pride as well as look forward to next season where if he keeps this form up he will be a title contender wherever he plays.

But what of  our champion Stuart Bingham.As I said few would have ever seen him as a potential world title winner (& I include myself in that as readers of this blog will know,I tipped him for defeat in every round since the second) ,but what a way to prove your doubters wrong. There has been plenty of talk about the new calendar & burnout over the last twelve months,but maybe now that argument can stop,when a player playing his 120th match of the season goes on to lift the world crown.

In these last five seasons,Bingham has never complained about the schedule,but instead  adopted a "have cue will travel" attitude and has as such reaped the rewards,from his first ranking title in Australia,to his second in Shanghai,his numerous Asian tour successes as well as the Premier League and now this.

Some will no doubt question what it says about where our sport is at when a 38 year old with only two rankings titles in 20 years as a pro can win the world title,but they are questions for another day.Tonight lets just agree that it shows everyone in the game that if you put in the hard yards and never stop believing,then in the end you may just get the rewards you deserve.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

World Championship Final First Day

Half way through the 2015 final and which of these two will be holding aloft the famous trophy tomorrow night is still very much in the balance after a day which showed just why Shaun Murphy & Stuart Bingham have reached this stage.

Following two highly entertaining sessions its Murphy who holds the narrow advantage at 9-8,but he may feel slightly frustrated that its not more having twice threatened to pull away with this only for Bingham to find reserves of strength to fight back.

In his semi final match here Murphy also faced,in Hawkins,someone who had been involved in a late night decider and on that occasion he steamrollered him from the off. The same looked a possibility here as he stormed into a 3-0 lead.

Bingham though has not reached this stage without playing well and fought back to level the the match by the end of the session at 4-4.

Out tonight it was Bingham who got in first and looked to going ahead for the first time in the match only to break down on 57 and Murphy pounced with 74 to go 5-4.From here Murphy went into turbo drive taking the next three to lead 8-4 at the interval.

As so often in the past though the interval can change things and back came Bingham again to close within one at 8-7. Murphy had now gone from been in total control of things to not potting a ball for half an hour,but he put that to right in the next to go ahead by two again at 9-7.

Into the last of the night and although both players had chances it again to went to Bingham to leave things perfectly balanced going into tomorrow with Murphy leading 9-8.

Roll on tomorrow afternoon.

World Championship Final Preview

After 15 days of green baize drama,we are down to two men who are left with a chance to become the 2015 world champion as Shaun Murphy takes on Stuart Bingham for the title and the £300,000 top prize.

Murphy will no doubt start a warm favourite to collect a second world title ten years after his first and his short price is well justified based on the serene progress he has made through the tournament to this point.

As often stated before,a year ago Murphy was at a crossroads in his career seemingly unable to find a way to convert runs to quarters & semis into titles,but this season he has been a different animal.Back is that confident stomp around the table you get from Murphy when his confidence is high and that coupled with a beautifully natural cue action have made him one of the games toughest competitors again.

In this tournament he has been immaculate around the table and to reach a final here only conceding 25 frames along the way is remarkable.

As I've said above he will start a short favourite to win today,but he is not someone who will be weighed down by this expectation.

In many ways it is astounding that Murphy might win the title here without having had to face Selby,Robertson,Ronnie or Trump,but of course the reason he's avoided the latter two is his opponent here Stuart Bingham.

When Bingham beat Ronnie,a lot of people ,myself included,saw it as more of Ronnie not been really up for this rather than Bingham playing well but following his remarkable 17-16 victory over Trump last night that opinion has had to reviewed.

Bingham of course is well used to been underrated,capable of playing well and producing an odd surprise result,but not someone who'd ever challenge for the games real big prizes. 

Well that has all changed now,as not just his victory over Trump,but also the manner in which he stood up to the pressure in the final frame having seen his opponent level it at 16-16 form 16-14 with back to back centuries,have shown he has the stomach for the the fight.

So what of this match,well as we often see,even in these long matches,the first session is key.In three of his first four matches here Murphy has established a big lead early on and never looked back.If he can do that again here he may well be out of sight before Bingham knows whats happening.

Thats why I believe its vital for Bingham to put any tiredness he may feel to the back of his mind and get some frames on the board early.  From that position he could build on it tonight and give himself a fighting chance tomorrow.

Dangerous as it has proven to write off Bingham here this week though,I do feel Murphy will win this and possibly a tad comfortably,but hey as anyone who has been reading this blog throughout the championship will know.I've been wrong before!!

Friday, 1 May 2015

World Championship Summary of the Semi Finals so far

After two days of semi final action technically we still have four players in with a chance of making the final here,but in reality,its going to take something the like of which we've never seen before,if Shaun Murphy is to be denied the chance to claim a second world crown come Monday.

Murphy has quite simply been in superb form all tournament and unlike in previous years where he flattered to deceive early in tournaments only to fall away,here if anything, he seems to be only getting better as the matches go by.

After all that had happened the night before,the first session yesterday afternoon was always going to be difficult for Hawkins and he looked visibly tired as play commenced. Murphy on the other hand,looking resplendent  in his colourful trousers & waistcoat,was not in the humour to be letting him ease his way into the match,pouncing on every mistake to take an early 6-2 lead.

The hope this morning for Hawkins then was that,after a good nights sleep,he could work his way back into this one by winning the session.Those hopes were to disappear pretty quickly though,as Murphy produced yet another morning of flawless snooker to firstly take the opening four frames to extend his lead to 10-3 then, three of the next four to leave the possibility of finishing a session early very much on the cards at 13-3.

Into tonight then and Murphy took the opening frame to extend his lead to 14-3,but Hawkins,willed on by the Crucible crowd,finally got some form going to take four in a row & make it 14-7.He couldn't quite maintain it though as Murphy found his groove again with runs of 90 & 106.

He was now just one away from his spot in the final,but Hawkins to his great credit took the last of the night to force an afternoon session tomorrow.The score 16-8.

If that semi final is all over bar the shouting,that certainly could not be said of the other one with all very much still to play for tomorrow with Stuart Bingham leading Judd Trump.9-7.

Following Binghams surprise victory over Ronnie in the previous round Trump was installed as a warm favourite to claim the title here,but perhaps in yesterdays first session he too was adjusting to the fact he wasn't facing Ronnie as Bingham opened up a 5-3 lead.

Its a funny thing sometimes in these long matches that once a player gets a lead it can be difficult to get it back.So it proved today,although for most of the afternoon it was Trump working to keep it a two rather than threatening to close the gap As it were the eight frames were shared leaving us with a fascinating mornings snooker to look forward to tomorrow.