So as Mark Williams puts some clothes back on & the dust settles on another world championship, what exactly did we learn over the last two 17 days?
The Class of '92
In the piece I wrote in the wake of last years final ,I suggested that after seeing the way that Higgins faded on the final day against Selby,we were perhaps now at the stage where the games biggest prize might just be beyond these three great champions. Well how wrong was I, as Higgins & Williams once again proved the old adage of form been temporary ,but class been permanent.The way this year went whose to say this wont be be witnessing something similar next year?
The main surprise ,after the sensational season he's had, was just how limply Ronnie, exited the tournament in round two.It is ever more likely that his final defeat in 2014 to Selby will be the closest he gets to a sixth world crown. However seeing his two oldest rivals contest the final may just give him the push he needs to really make one more concerted effort to get back to the Crucible summit & it will be interesting to see if his playing schedule next season is built around peaking in late April.
Its been a strange season for Selby,who on the face of it had a decent campaign by picking up the International Championship & China Open titles, but elsewhere largely having a miserable time of it. In one prediction I did get right,I said in my preview that if he were to be vulnerable it would be in the early rounds and so it proved as Joe Perry dumped him out on the opening day.
It would be foolish to suggest that this heralds the end of Selby as a major force in the game, but you just wonder if we have been spoilt by the standard that O'Sullivan, Higgins & Williams have maintained into their 40's. This has not been the norm and at 35 Selby is older than Davis or Hendry were ,when their game went into terminal decline.Of course the game is different now,with more tournaments putting less emphasise on long periods of heavy practice & not really the talent coming behind that they were faced with, but I'm just saying, though I do see plenty more titles in Selbys future, it would be dangerous to just presume his best form will automatically return.I think this is even more so the case with 36 yr old Neil Robertson.
Beaten semi finalists Wilson & Hawkins
Its a rare thing to have two cracking semi finals at the Crucible ,but that's what we got here as Wilson & Hawkins pushed their opponents all the way.
It has been a difficult season for Hawkins off the table, but he showed his liking for the Crucible to again make a bold bid for the title. The fact he just came up short again in the semi final will be gut wrenching for him & you just wonder how many more times he can go to the well here and recover from the disappointment.
Wilson on the other hand gave the impression here that he will be contesting at the business end of this championship for many years to come.A great break builder, he is calm under pressure and has a self belief that he will win that never comes across as cocky.He will have learnt a lot from his first experience of the single table set up here and I would be shocked if he's not a major contender in all the big events next season as well as back at the Crucible.
Ding & Trump
Another year, another chance slips by for the two most talented players currently at the top of the game yet to claim the world crown.After two great runs at the title in the last two years,it seemed Ding had laid his Crucible ghosts to rest, but they came back to haunt him in abundance here as he bowed out tamely to Hawkins in the quarter finals. The most disappointing thing about him here was to see just haw little fight there was in him when Hawkins started to pull away.He would do well to spend his summer studying how John Higgins handles adversity as with his current attitude it would be hard to see him ever lifting the trophy here.
Judd Trump is another a the stage in his career where the world title, that at one stage seemed his destiny, is something that will forever allude him.Here again this year he was very lucky to escape from the first round against debutant Chris Wakelin ,before finally bowing out to John Higgins in a decider in the last 8.This on the face of it, was a good performance, but it was his comments, once again, about his opponents "luck" that struck me. This seems to be a trend with Trump in recent times after defeat, he blames everything bar his own shortcomings for his defeat. If this sort if attitude continues to go unchecked he will continue to be the sports top nearly man.One "Triple Crown" title is a poor return on his talent. It may be up to someone in his circle to start pointing out some uncomfortable home truths to him.
So thats it then, as a season dominated by the over 40's ends with Mark J Williams deservedly getting his name on the sports most famous trophy for a third time, we are as always left with a mountain of questions as to what the new season will bring.Lets hope whatever happens it will prove as enjoyable as the one just past.Enjoy your summer.