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Monday, 22 January 2018

The Masters -A few other talking points

As Mark Allen wakes up this morning as the sports latest Triple Crown winner and the dust settles on another great Masters tournament,here are a few other things that might be worth thinking about from the week.

1.The worrying form of Mark Selby.
When Selby won his third world title last May and more or less cemented his place at the top of the rankings for the foreseeable ,there was a clamour to get his face chiselled on our sports fictional Mt Rushmore alongside Davis,Hendry,O'Sullivan & Higgins, such talk has been proven to be a bit premature as,apart from his International Championship win,it has largely been a season to forget.A decision not to enter the NI Open to prepare for the UK Championship backfired when he exited in the second round, & another early bath here have left him with a little bit to prove in the coming months.That said he has done it before & I probably still see him as the most probable world champion again come this May.

2.Ding's slump continues.
Going back again to last years world championship and although Selby was the victor,there is a real argument so say that Ding was actually the best player in that tournament. A victory in the World Open in September seemed to be the perfect start to the season for him,but since then he has really struggled. Of course there is a genuine excuse,as he developed an eye infection,which was is obviously debilitating to a snooker player,but he just looked a bit resigned here last week.Hopefully this was not a sign of things to come & he can get his spark back,because in full flow there are few better players to watch building a break.

3.The class of '92 still a force in the game.
As we had already seen this season,with all three in the winner enclosure,Ronnie, Higgins & Williams are not quite done with the game yet and here again they proved that with, Williams beating Selby,Higgins reaching the semi final & Ronnie's demolition of Fu in the first round. We also saw in their defeats that they are all just reaching the poor performance from nowhere stage,but you would certainly be surprised if at least one of these three didn't lift another trophy before seasons end.

4.Trump still has a lot to learn
Back in 2011,when Trump reached the world final I will admit I was among those who thought we were witnessing the emergence of the games next dominant force.That seemed to be confirmed later that year when he lifted the UK title and into the 2012 Masters where he defeated Ronnie in the quarter finals,his star just seemed to be rising & rising.Then came the semi final against Robertson,where its widely accepted that the wily Aussie did a number on him & I think there we have the Trump career "butterfly moment"I fully believe had he won that title we would now be looking at a multiple Triple Crown instead of someone who has had a good career,but one that promised so much more.

There is of course still time for him to turn it around,but he will need to improve on the attitude he has shown in recent times.Far too often from him we have seen a glass chin when someone is coming back at him and the way he seems to have decided to combat this is by trying to force his way over the line, for a perfect example of this,look back at the red he took on when leading Wilson 5-2 on Saturday.For some time I've felt that Trump would benefit greatly from getting a few people in his corner who will tell him what he needs to hear rather than what he wants to hear.Listening to his rather petulant display in his post match press conference has only further convinced me that that is the case.

5 Where are the great young talents?
One of the reasons I saw Trump as the next dominant force was the apparent lack of top talent coming behind him and  the fact that in 2018,Wilson became the first Triple Crown finalist born in the 90's,rather proves that point. Hendry made a comment last week that he can't see where the next multiple Major/20 time ranking winner is coming from and its hard not to see his point. On evidence to date it seems inevitable that we will be looking to China to produce that next champion. I think we are now heading for a period of transition in the sport in the coming years as the greats we are used to slowly drop away with as yet no obvious replacements coming through.

6."Buckets"
Finally once again we return to the table condition at a major tournament.In recent years,I think particularly in the big BBC events we have seen pockets that were certainly on the generous side.Its even got to the stage where the commentators aren't even bothering to trot out the old "much tighter than club pockets"defence.To my mind this seemed to all start around the time that our bookmaker sponsors started putting up charity money for century breaks to be broken.That may be a coincidence,and I genuinely hope this is a table fitting problem & not a policy decision taken in the mistaken belief that all snooker fans want to see are big breaks flying in.It must be said after all the talk early week here,the changing of the cushions seemed to alleviate the issue somewhat.

So anyway these are just my few thoughts on the last week.Feel free to comment or add some of your own to these.From here for the pros,its onto the China open qualifiers,which have taken on added significance with yesterdays prize money announcement,

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