Wednesday, 13 April 2005

World Snooker Championship preview

by Ted Hoffman

This weekend is the start of the top event in snooker, and there are some cracking ties to look forward to. O'Sullivan is boring me, no doubting his talent, but I'd be pleased to see him get a kicking off his first round opponent Steven Maguire. Maguire has been one of the few players recently who has really taken the game to O'Sullivan, and it is as hard a first round as possible given that technically Maguire is not a seeded top 16 player until next season.

A few years back I loved to see Ronnie win titles, back then he was a talented, but temperamental son of a bitch, who would often end up 2nd to a Hendry, Higgins or Williams. His improved match temperament has made him the man to beat for a couple of years now, but I don't quite buy into the often circulated idea that he is either the best player of all time, or considerably better than his peers. On the top of their game I don't think there is a lot to choose between Hendry, Williams, Higgins and O'Sullivan. The fawning over-the-top praise heaped on him by the commentators has become nauseating, if O'Sullivan has an edge it's that he can play brilliantly both quickly and ambidextrously, but that is neither here nor there in the scheme of things, I would take a Hendry circa 96 over today's O'Sullivan.

With China investing its considerable population advantage into creating a world beating snooker player, it's probably one of the last championships that won't have a 16 year old Beijingian mocking the supposed genius like skills of our top guys. I don't predict great things of any of the 4 non British Isles players, Aussie Neil Robertson would have been my tip, but his 1st round opponent is an in form Hendry, so maybe next year.

Only 5 of the opening rounds don't contain a player who has at least got to the finals before. Before hearing his recent bad news I would have given the best chance of being a new winner to Paul Hunter. He will be receiving cancer treatment during the tournament, even if armed with a copy of 'it's not about the bike' his form this season has been poor, so I think it's perhaps too much to hope for anything spectacular, though it would of course make a phenomenal story.

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