Friday, 30 July 2010

Shot of the week

Welcome to the first of my Friday ritual: shot of the week.

To lighten the mood at the end of the week, I'll bring you some of the most memorable shots in snooker history.

It's only right this week that we feature the great Alex Higgins.

Technically this clip is two shots, but in typical Hurricane feature, he alwasy gave us that little bit extra.

Sit back and enjoy these fine exhibition shots. Pure class.

Sir, I salute you!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Ebdon: I'll probably lose

In one of the most bizarre statements I have ever read, Peter Ebdon has been quoted on the world snooker website saying he expects not to win at the Shanghai Qualifiers that begin on Monday.

Due to a lack of practice time, The Force believes victory is unlikely.

It seems a strange admission as the world number 18 only has to win one match to qualify for the tournament.

He could face any of Dominic Dale, Michael Judge, Michael White or Liu Chuang.

If Ebdon does surprise himself and qualify, he'll face Neil Robertson in the first round.

Here's what he said in full...

"I would like to make it known that I consider that I will not be in a position to play to the best of my ability in my Roewe Shanghai Masters qualifying match in Sheffield next week.

"This is down to personal circumstances, including the fact that I am getting re-married in Hungary this weekend. Since playing in a recent tournament in Thailand I have not been able to practise, and by the time the qualifiers come around I will not have played for ten days or more.

"I know just how bad I can be when I don't feel properly prepared as I am the type of player who needs to practise hard in order to play to a reasonable standard.

"As always, I will be doing my utmost to win what is a very important match for me but in truth, my levels of expectation will not be very high."

World champ is back on the baize

After a slight lull in action this week, Monday will be see the players back on the baize, for us all to enjoy.

From Monday to Thursday next week, the Shanghai Masters qualifiers are running.

80 players will be whittled down to the 16, who will face the seeded top 16 when the tournament begins on 6 September.

It doesn't stop there either.

The PTC 3 kicks off next Friday, and Crucible winner Neil Robertson is back in action having returned to the UK. He faces Allan Taylor in his first round match.

PTC 2 winner Mark Selby is up against Noppon Saengkham, while PTC1 champion Mark Williams plays Ian Glover.

Elsewhere in the last 128, Jamie Cope takes on Ken Doherty,. Joe Swail is against Stuart Pettman, Dave Harold plays Reanne Evans, Martin Gould faces Michael Judge and Michael Holt will play Judd Trump.

The final will be played on Sunday night. Check out On Cue on Monday morning for a round-up of all the action.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Warm words spoke of Hurricane

I've spent most of my day scouring through the media reading the countless obituraies in memory of the great Alex Higgins.

Even now, I'm not tired of learning more about what this great man gave our sport.

I just wish I could be a little bit older to have fully appreciated his vast talents.

While warm words have been shared about the two-time world champion, OnCue bring you some of the very best...

"In his prime, he could play brilliantly in an imitable way even, at times, well enough to give himself the illusion of the omnipotence he craved to keep at bay the vulnerability he feared."

Clive Everton, The Observer

"The ride may be over, but the memories will live forever."

Frank Brownlow, Belfast Telegraph

"But in an era when all the top players were household names, Alex Higgins was the most vibrant star of them all. He was, in the words of his rival Steve Davis, 'the one true genius that snooker has produced' - a man who could perform shots that other mortals would find impossible."

Leo Mckinstry, Daily Mail

"He did not get along with everyone in the snooker world, far from it. No one, though, could deny the immense contribution he made to its popularisation and all, in the immediate aftermath of his passing, wanted to dwell on his best side."

Clive Everton, The Guardian

"There were to be many more emotional moments in a life lived without compromise. Higgins could have accumulated more silverware than he did were it not for his volcanic temperament but his capacity to find trouble ensured he retained a huge fascination and, therefore, a sizeable following."

David Hendon, Independent

"Because there is no question without the Hurricane snooker would never have become what it did. He transformed the game. It wasn't just the way he played it – the speed, the grace, the athleticism – it was the box office pull of his character."

Jim White, Telegraph

"Sold-out halls from Wythenshawe to Oldham were packed to the rafters with fans eager to get a glimpse of the then-dour sport’s new sensation – the so-called ‘Hurricane’ who fizzed around the baize making impossible pots look easy."

Mike Keegan, Manchester Evening Post

Day chokes in BTV Cup final

It depends on whether Ryan Day is a glass half full or a glass half empty man, when it comes to judging his performance at the BTV Cup in China.

The world number 12 was resoundly betan 9-3 in the final against home hope Tian Pengfei.

After being knocked out of both PTC tournaments in the first round so far this season, the Welshman will be pleased to have finally got some wins under his belt.

But to lose yet another final, against a player who's not even on tour, will ultimately feel like a failure.

One positive he can take is that Pengfei, although lowly ranked, beat the talented Liang Wenbo eralier in the competition, and also enjoyed victories against Mark Davis and Ronnie O'Sullivan in the recent China Cup.

Day will be looking to build on making the last two here in the upcoming PTC3 competition.

Victory in Vienna for resurgent Lee

Stephen Lee fired out a warning to the snooker world that he's on his way back up the rankings.

He beat Belgium's Bjorn Haneveer 5-4 in the final of the Vienna Open on Sunday.

The tournament, which was also competed in by pros Dominic Dale, Robert Milkins, Andy Hicks, Tom Ford, Matthew Selt, Liam Highfield and 15-year-old sensation Luca Brecel, could prove a massive milestone in the return to form of the world number 23.

The Wiltshire potter has not recovered since dropping out of the top 16 at the end of 2007/8, but his legion of followers have always kept faith with him.

Renowned for his silky smooth cue action and supreme cue balling timing, Lee is still a firm fans favourite on the circuit, but has struggled to deliver and even threatened to quit the game following his exit from the 2008 world championships.

His victory over Mark Allen at last year's UK Championship suggested he was on his way back.

But he didn't build on that result and lost in humiliating fashion to Stephen Maguire in the first round at the Crucible later in the season.

I've seen enough to suggest that Lee still has a game good enough to compete. All that stands in his way is his motivation to practice, and determination to hang in there when he falls behind in matches.

Since Barry Hearn took over the sport and gave the players more tournaments, Lee seems to be one person who has grasped the chance to play more regularly. He's been entering the PTC events, performing pretty well and looks like he's rekindled his love for the game.

With the new rolling ranking system in place, this means players like Lee, can quite quickly push up the pecking order.

Many more performances like this, albeit against lesser opposition, and we should see Lee back up where his natural ability says he belongs.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

RIP Alex, you legend!

Where were you on the night Alex Higgins died?

The answer to this question is one all snooker fans will remember forever.

Ironically, I was in my local snooker club when the news broke. I was trotting round the table to check a red potted past the black, when someone on a computer at the other side of the bar shouted the news.

At first I nearly choked, then I took a huge gulp in sadness. What had just been said, hit me for six.

I'm only 23-years-old, and not really old enough to remember him playing at the top of his game forst hand, but I'm clued up enough to know that he's an absolute hero.

I can only report on heresay but no player has since or ever before him interacted with a crowd like he did. It is because of him the public still follow the game today.

He's a player who is most snookers fans' hero. He was renowned for his entertaining style of play.

He was twice snooker champion of the world. Arguable, he should have won more, but his contribution was more than silverware.

The legendary Steve Davis once said he was scared of playing him, such was his aura around the table.

So today, snooker has lost a legend, one of its biggest players of all time, in fact. This is a dark day for the game. There will not be many sadder days in the sport than this.

Aged 61, the Hurricane was found dead in his flat in Belfast, after years of fighting against throat cancer.

It really is no age at all. But rather than dwell on the demise of this hero, I think it's more fitting to celebrate the wonderful contribution he made to our sport.

Sit back, enjoy, and hold backs the tears if you can.

How does Power Snooker work?

I was going to pen the rules and use this afternoon to explain how Power Snooker works.

But Ronnie has done it for me.

Here you go:

Stuning Selby seals more silverware

Not since the days of Stephen Hendry have we seen true domination in a snooker season.

But as Mark Selby picked up his second pot of the season in Thailand yesterday, the man from Leicester looks like he's really got the bit between the teeth to sweep the board this year.

He beat Ricky Walden 8-6 in the six-reds final after knocking out Barry Hawkins, Joe Perry, Jamie Jones and Stuart Pettman earlier in the knock-out phases.

He's playing with the kind of confidence that should place him among the favourites for the top prizes later in the season.

Maybe my claims are a little premature but it's been quite some time since I've seen a player hit top form at such a consistent level so early in the season, like Selby has.

No player has dominated a season for so long, namely because it's so difficult with the quality and depth of the circuit we're belssed with right now.

But for a long time we've seen Selby produce the form you'd expect from a real big-match player without doing it all the time

So far this season, he's shown he can deliver away from the biggest stage too.

If we're to see a season dominated by anyone, Selby would be my number one contender. He's such a confidence player and as hungry as ever.

But it is worth noting he'll come up against sterner tests than Walden this year, no offence.

He did beat Jamie Cope, Michael Holt, James Wattana and Darren Morgan on route ot the showpiece though. But you'd not expect him to be threatening at the latter stages of the main ranking events when it matters

Elsewhere, reigning champion Jimmy White fell at the last 16 hurdle to Alfie Burden, and Stuart Bingham, who impressed in the group stages, was stunned by Passakom Suwannawat in the last 32.

The biggest other shocks included Peter Ebdon being beaten by Noppon Saengkham and Mark Williams losing to Burden as well.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Power play tournament announced

I picked up the morning newspapers with snooker splashed across the sports pages.

It's great to see the game hitting the headlines for the right reasons, and it's exciting to see that snooker may just be capturing the imagination of a wider scope of sports fans.

I must admit I was a little bit dubious about this new format of the game, when I first heard about it through the grapevine some months ago.

But I'm also a realist who knows the game was in need of a shake-up and a younger breed of fan. We can thank Barry Hearn, as it looks as if we're finally going in the right direction.

By the look of it, this new power play snooker could be the tonic.

The power play event - to be help at the Indigo02 on 30 October - looks exciting and like a great day out for snooker fans and maybe even some new faces. I've already booked my tickets, more out of intrigue than anything.

It's going to be an opportunity to assess the game first hand and sample a kind of snooker atmosphere that just isn't there at the moment. It'll be interesting to see how successful it is, if at all.

But my general opinion is that, any tweaks to the game that can stoke up more interest, is worth a try.

I think the 30-minute matches with 20-second shot limits and power play spells will be a fantastic way of seeing the players' raw talent on show.

It will keep us on the egde of our seats and allow the matches to rattle off.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is promoting the event and I'm not surprised to hear it's right up his street.

He's even gone to the extent of saying the worlds cahmpionships are boring. While his comments may have ruffled the feathers of many of ths sport's purists, I've learned over the years to take what Ronnie say with a pinch of salt.

He's the kind of character who is always looking for a new challenge. And in many ways, this event is made for him, but you'd be stupid to take his comments at face value.

The man has won three world titles, and depite what he says, he's very proud of his Crucible haul. If anyhting, he just wishes he had more.

But while he hasn't put his name on a ranking title trophy for nearly a year, Power Play is the perfect way for him to show he's still the most gifted player on the circuit. Because there's no doubt he still is.

Only a mug would bet against him winning this.

I'm hearing a lot about Power Play being the future of snooker. Before we all get carried away, I'm going to the burst the bubble and tell you its not.

It should be a wonderful event. It will transform the event for one weekend a year. It might even bring new fans to the game.

But the future of the sport is still as the past has been.

The world championships will still be the most prestigious event on the calendar. There's a tension in hard match play that can never be taken away from the game.

I;m all for changes, but I'm not going along with this view that the sport is entering a new era. It's just another tournament, and no matter how successful it is, it'll never be top of every player's dream list.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Bouyant Bingham breezes into six-reds last 32

The grouop stages of the six-reds competiion being held in Thailand drew to a close yesterday.

As 48 became 32, Stuart Bingham qualified to the knockout stages in the most style.

He won all five of his group matches, and dropped just nine frames to pip Mark Selby to top spot in Group C.

Surprise package Scott Mackenzie won group B with four wins out five including a 5-3 victory over Mark Williams.

The 29-year-old Scot has never been higher than 60th in the world rankings but made light work of the group.

But Ken Doherty couldn't even make it into the top four qualifying spots in the same group. He lost three of his five matches and saw Thailand's Issara Kachaiwong progress instead.

Jimmy White continued his love affair with the competition, winning Group A.

The reigning champion beat Dave Harold to top spot on frame difference, despite losing 5-4 to him when they met.

If you thought an unknown player called Ratchapol Pu-Ob-Orm won group D, you were wrong. It's just James Wattana. He showed impressive form to finish ahead of Nigel Bond, Andrew Pagett and Gerrard Greene.

Welshman Jamie Jones finished ahead of Judd Trump, Jamie Cope and Noppadon Noppachorn in Group E after a 100 per cent group record.

The 22-year-old is beginning to show real promise now after turning pro in 2006.

Peter Ebdon was in no mood for making friends. He topped Group F with five wins in five to qualify alongside Mark Davis, Joe Swail and the United Arab Emirate's Mohammed Mustafa Shehab.

Elsewhere, Michael Holt won group G above Joe Perry and Barry Hawkins topped Group H with Ricky Walden just behind.

Now into the last 32 knockout stages, OnCue will return as the action unfolds.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Davis quotes leave me low

I've taken a little while this time to react to snooker making the national headlines.

On Sunday, legend Steve Davis was in the Star exclusively revealing how it's not uncommon for players to bet against themselves with the bookmakers.

Why? Because it gives them consolation funds if they're beaten.

While the sympathetic pundit may claim the players are giving no other choice with such a sparse calendar for the pros to make money on, I still think it's utterly wrong.

Sure, I'm not naive enough to think it has never happened in the game's history.

I respect that it's far less of a sin than actual match fixing.

But Davis' claims, that betting on yourself losing is common in snooker, came to me as a surprise.

Maybe this is just my youth intervening and stopping me judging players with such a cynical eye, but if so many are doing it, surely this suggests many players don't think they're doing anything wrong. This worries me.

People will argue that the players still want to win matches, because the money they can win through this is still far greater.

But my question arises when a player trails a match. At what point do they start accepting their consolation winning gambling slip over using all their might to turn the match around.

And, where does it stop?

Is it acceptable for players to earn 10 per cent of what they would for winning. Or 20, 30, 40, 50 per cent?

I just don't know. I believe it's just the slippery slope towards making money off getting beat.

In my eyes, however you look at it, behaviour like this is still meddling with the outcome of a game.

In sport, there should be no consolation for defeat. It should mean so much to win, that losing is unbearable. There's never a crumb of comfort for me when my Sunday morning football team gets beaten.

If I was a professional snooker player, there would be no cushion for getting knocked out at the Crucible. None at all.

That's what I think, for what it's worth.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Mark Selby EXCLUSIVE interview

Fresh from his victory at the PTC2, Mark Selby took time out of his busy schedule to chat with OnCue.

Here's what the Jester from Leicester had to say for himself...

The snooker calendar is a lot busier this year. How do you feel about this and what are your personal aims for the season?

I think it's fantastic! Last year I played in 7 events! This year 20+ and the promise of more. I'm excited by this season's calendar and now feel like I have a full-time job!! :-) My personal aim is to continue winning events and break back into the top 4 rankings.

You've been nicknamed the Jester from Leicester. How do you feel about this and does it reflect the real Mark Selby?

Yes it does, I'm pretty relaxed off the table and try to enjoy my career and life.

Whenever I've seen you at tournaments or playing matches, you've always got a lot of friends supporting you. Is this something that helps you?

Yes it's great when we have local tournaments when it is possible for my friends and family to come and support me. It's always encouraging

However, you also have to get used to it when there's nobody there if we're playing abroad. Luckily I seem to have quite a lot of 'neutral' support which I'm really grateful for.

Your comeback in Masters final was sensational. Is this the best you've ever played? If not, when was?

I would say I played better to win the 2008 final against Stephen Lee.

You made it to the last four at the Crucible this year. After beating Ronnie, did it feel like an opportunity missed? And how far do you think you are away from a world title?

Every year is an opportunity for me to become world champion. Last year I lost to John Higgins 13-12 in a great match and this year I lost to an inspired Graham Dott who played fantastic.

I can only keeping working hard and I'm confident I will pick up the title one year!

Let's talk about Ronnie. You've got the beating of him at the moment. What's it like to play O'Sullivan?

It's always great to play Ronnie, you're gauranteed a full house! He's one of snooker's greats and it's always challenging to play him.

Who's the toughest player to play against on the circuit and why?

Probably Ronnie, because he is unpredictable and if he clicks then you struggle to keep up with him, he can reel off frames in minutes!!

Who's they nicest player on the circuit and why?

I'm fortunate that I have good relationships with all the players on the circuit, so it's impossible to single out a particular player.

Who was your favourite player as a kid?

Jimmy White

Who's the greatest player ever to pick up a cue and why?

Stephan Hendry. His titles and records speak for themselves!

What's the proudest moment of your career so far and why?

Winning both Masters titles. It's the most prestigious event with only snooker's elite players invited and to be on the roll of honour is a privilage and honour.

What's the funniest thing that's happened in your professional career?

In Beijing for the China Open when I was 18, my next match was at 14:00 the next day. I woke up got showered andd changed into my snooker attire and went to the hotel reception to wait for a courtesy car to take me to the venue for my match.

Standing in a deserted reception area and after looking outside, I realised that it was actually 01:00am in the morning. Duh!!! I hurriedly sneaked back up to my room before anyone saw me.

Tell us something about Mark Selby we may not already know?

I enjoy singing and I'm a regular karaoke addict, you can't get the microphone off me.

Hearn hints at snooker World Cup

We always knew Barry Hearn's hopes for snooker were big - but quite how big, always remained to be seen.

Today in an interview published on the official world snooker website, the game's supremo spoke about his visions of one day introducing a Snooker World Cup.

I've already heard people dismissing the talk, and labelling it as rubbish.

But my opinions couldn't be further from these.

I'd love to see the sport go global, and this is another way of realising this ambition.

It could be exactly the trick to break up the current British dominance within the game.

While the top snooker rankings are currently made up of predominantly British players, I don't think players from other parts of the global are any less talented.

Sure, there are more Brits.

But players like Neil Robertson, Liang Wenbo, Marco Fu and Ding Junhui are just as gifted as any players in the game today.

A World Cup event where small teams from every nation compete aginst each other, could help to prove this and stoke up more enthusiasm for the sport elsewhere in the world.

I'm realistic in thinking that events like these are never going to be like they are in football or rugby where they're the ultimate prize.

For one, there would be no way of fairly distributing ranking points for performance.

And secondly, snooker isn't a team sport.

But I do believe that in Hearn's conquest to make the game more entertaining, this would be a giant step.

It would give players even more televised table time to look forward to and bring an extra element of fun into the game for fans.

I remember in 2000 watching the Nations Cup as Stephen Lee, Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Parrott and Jimmy White proudly wore their white waist coats to beat the Welsh team made up of Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Dominic Dale and Darren Morgan, 6-4 in the final.

A year later in the last event of this kind, Scotland's John Higgins, Alan McManus and Stephen beat a Republic of Ireland team made up of Ken Doherty, Fergal O'Brien and Michael Judge.

It was great watching so many of the top players united as one.

And today, with the sport slowly growing across the world, there would be the prospect of even more teams competing, and the event acting as a catalyst for more young hopefuls to pick up a cue...

So go on Barry, make it happen!

Bring back the glory days...

Here's John Higgins making a 147 for Scotland against Dennis Taylor representing Northern Ireland.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Seniors tickets booked

I ordered my tickets for the World Seniors Championship today, and I'm already excited - even though it's another four months away.

The event - held in Bradford - will see eight legends of the game battle it out to be crowned the best of the best.

Steve Davis, Nigel Bond, Peter Ebdon, Dennis Taylor, John Parrott, Cliff Thorburn, Joe Johnson and Ken Doherty are all locking horns to win the hearts of the adoring public for one last time.

The straight knockout tournament promises non-stop laughs, and I'm sure the quality won't be too bad either.

While the term 'legend' is a tad over-used in the current age, these boys really do deserve their glorious tag.

Between these eight players, they've won 12 world titles. And they've been at the centre of some of the sport's greatest moments.

Here's some clips to enjoy...

Monday, 12 July 2010

Selby sails to PTC2 win

Mark Selby won the season's second Player Tour Championship on Sunday.

The world number nine stormed back from 3-1 down in the final against Barry Pinches to claim the trophy.

But after some fine snooker throughout the competition, he'll go into the rest of the season full of zest.

On route to this triumph, he passed some stern tests including matches with Shaun Murphy, Marco Fu and Jimmy Robertson.

Selby now joins Mark Williams as a PTC winner and a player with building expectation of a successful year on the circuit.

We'll soon find out whether victories here translate into good form at the bigger events.

But for now, I've decided to take these events with a pinch of salt.

While I'm sure it's nice for the players to get their hands on some silverware early doors, ranking points aside, the events are in place merely as warm-up tools.

It's great for the sports' supporters and an added extra for the players' wallets. So, I'll embrace them nonetheless. But I'm sure the players are with me when I say they're a nice bonus, but just a rehearsal to more important challenges that await down the line.

The results were coming in thick and fast over the weekend.

It's taken me some time to digest them all myself. And in case you missed anything, here's the stand out stories from the eyes of OnCue...

For many, inclduing myself, Pinches was a surprise finalist.

But he defeated Stuart Bingham, Gerrard Greene and Alfie Burden to more than earn his place.

Elsewhere, only last week I was talking about Liam Highfield when asked who the game's brightest future stars are.

He proved his pedigree again here with some impressive results on route to the last 16.

The 19-year-old swept aside Judd Trump, Tom Ford, Joe Jogia and Adam Wicheard before falling foul to Jimmy Robertson.

Another man who would have been happy with his trip to the last 16 is Stephen Craigie.

The 20-year-old Geordie, who only turned pro in 2008, took the prized scalp of Jimmy White this weekend, which should rank up alongside many of his achievements in the game so far.

But he lost out to an impressive Stuart Bingham who would have been pleased to make it as far as the last eight.

The world number 29 was eventually knocked out by Pinches but most notably overcame Jamie Cope and Joe Swail on a tricky path.

Gerrard Greene wasn't taking any prisoners as he steamed into the semi-final.

Wins versus Ricky Walden, Mark King and Matthew Stevens shows he's a player worth considering for a rise up the rankings this term.

Aside from the weekend's star performers, fans were treated to the usual amount of shocks too.

PTC1 winner Williams struggled to replicate his fine form of a fortnight ago.
Mark Davis dumped him out at the last 64 hurdle.

Joe Perry didn't make it past this round either, losing 4-1 to Trump. And Ali Carter was another who fell here to an improving Peter Lines.

That wasn't the end of the early casualties though with Peter Ebdon going down to Shaun Murphy in a tasty early tie.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

PTC2 round-up coming soon

I'm sure you've all had your eyes glued to the PTC2 scoresheet this weekend.

There's been shock results, virtuoso performances and some up and coming names making good headway in the competition, for us all to enjoy.

OnCue will be bringing you the most extensive post-tournament analysis tomorrow night... so be sure to check back.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Mark Selby interview coming soon...

OnCue is gearing up for its first EXCLUSIVE interview.

The world number seven and current Masters champion Mark Selby will be answering all my questions here including his secrets to beating Ronnie O'Sullivan, his thoughts ahead of the new season and aspirations to become world champion.

To prepare, here's two moments of magic from the 'Jester from Leicester'.

Girl power graces world tour

I'd like to be one of the first snooker blogs to congratulate Reanne Evans on her success of earning a wildcard place on the men's professional tour.

I think it's great for her and fantastic for the sport.

Without doubt, there'll be a crop of fans from the older generation who may slam any decision that allows females to compete in professional male sport.

And in some sports I can understand these protestations.

There was talk about the Williams' sisters trying their hand against the men in Tennis. For a game which is so heavily reliant on power, I can't see how this could work.

But in snooker - a game of vast skill- I believe gender is irrelevant.

Reanne has gone an incredible 61 matches without defeat, and scooped an impressive six world titles, and still only 24-years-old.

She's obviously superior for that level, so it's great she gets an opportunity to see how good she really is against the world's best. It's a test she'll relish and a fascinating one for the fans to watch.

It may be that she fails to compete. But until she tries, she'll never know.

And this 'experiment' in my eyes is a good way of seeing how the women's and men's games really compare.

On becoming the first female to compete on professional tour since Allison Fisher 15 years ago, she told the BBC: "It's the biggest challenge of my career.

"The standard will be really high. I'm going to try my best and just enjoy it - whatever happens it will be a steep learning curve for me.

"It's so hard to stay on the tour, but that's what I'm hoping for. I'm practising with a few different pro players to get as ready as I can.

"Being on the tour has given me the incentive to push myself as hard as I can."

OnCue looks forward to seeing how she gets on, and wishes her all the best.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

My season, my new starters...

I was reading an interesting post on Pro Snooker Blog earlier this morning, called 'new season, new start?'

The article itself links back to quotes posted on TSF about Matthew Stevens, as a player who could potentially reignite his past form competing in the more packed 2010/11 schedule.

The Pro Snooker Blog claimed Jamie Cope, Ryan Day and Joe Perry could be three more to prosper from the new-look calendar.

They're all fair shouts, with great arguments, but being 'Mr Competitive', I thought I'd add my thoughts into the mix as well.

So, here are four players I'm backing to make progress in the coming season as a result of the changes being made within snooker:

1. Stephen Maguire

When the Scot claimed his first two ranking titles in 2004, at the UK Championships and the European Open, I'd have backed him to have more than doubled his tally six years down the line.

But today, Maguire boosts if not a fair then perhaps under-achieving four ranking titles.

He's always been a player I've admired for his tremendous break building skills, but for some reason he hasn't gone on to deliver the vast ranking titles I and many others (probably including himself) may have predicted.

Don't get me wrong, he's not a bad player. Far fromit. He's been playing well enough. Over the past two years he's been ranked second.

As we all know though, rankings are one thing and silverware is another. I'm sure he'll want to push on to win trophies as that'll be how he's ultimately judged when he puts his cue away. The new schedule could help him do that.

While in the past he may have laboured to reach his top, top form on the biggest stges, this year he can use more freqeunt matches as a tool to grow over the course of the season.

This could be the key to seeing Maguire become a winner again, rather than just bidding for the top prizes.

2. Stephen Lee

We all remember the Stephen Lee of old.

Always in the top 16, sometimes even further on. Now, he's a shadow of his former self. The player Dennis Taylor claimed had the best cue action in the sport, is no more.

That kind of ability doesn't just disappear though. Something changed within him.

I was in his press conference after he was knocked out of the 2008 world championships.

There, I was seeing a player threatening to quit the game, a player so fed up of the sport, he wanted to walk away.

Then, more snooker was probably the last thing he wanted. But I've got a gut feeling it could work to his advantage as he bids to recapture his best form.

We all know he's not a bad player. With snooker coming thick and fast, I think he'll get back to where he belongs in the coming season.

3. Liang Wenbo

If I was ever asked to name the current top 8 eight players in the world in terms of talent, this boy would be among them.

The rankings may tell you differently but whenever I've seen him play, he's been a joy to watch.

He has a great all round game with the ability to match the best on his day.

Maybe, it's a little case of the fear factor stopping him matching the big guns when it really matters.

The new format will see him face the big names more regularly, and in time I think this will help him develop, and beat the better players more often.

He's got it in his locker. Has Hearn given him the right key to let it flourish?

4. Peter Ebdon

Ebdon is one of the most fierce competitors in the game.

He's the type of player who never knows when he's beaten. He'll take each event as seriosuly as the next, and he's never defeated without a fight.

While I'd question his ability to win a big prize prize again, the influx of more competitions should allow Ebdon to pick up enough ranking points to forge his way back into the elite top 16.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Champ is back down under

Neil Roberston becoming the first Australian world champion already seems like a distant memory.

After all, his triumph against Graeme Dott was more than two months ago.

While many of you may have expected the 'Thunder from Down Under' to have been home safe and sound long ago to enjoy his success, the world number two only touched down in Sydney today.

His arrival back on Aussie soil may be overdue, but he has plenty to be proud of after a very satisfying season that has seen him as the arguably the most consistent performer on the circuit, win his first world title and achieve his highest ever world ranking.

That would be enough for most - but there's something a bit special about Robertson. And there has to be, for him to have enjoyed so much success, so far from home.

The ambitious talent may have only just closed the lid on his last season, but he's already planning for his next.

And his number one goal in the 2010/11 season is to conquer the 'Crucible Curse'.

He said: "No world champion has ever defended it after winning it for the first time," he said.

"I've got a lot of hard work in front of me to try and break that curse. I've won the world title now and I know what it's all about, and it would be great to do it next year."

You just know this kind of statement from Robbo isn't a throw away comment. He is full-blooded, and means it.

But, words will only get you so far. All of the games greats have failed at this feat for a reason.

It may be called a 'curse'. But failure to achieve this doesn't come down to any mythical spell.

Simply, it hasn't been achieved because it's so difficult.

Unlike most other achievemnts within the game, you can't practice this one. You can't learn from your mistakes. You can't try, and try again. You get one chance only.

Sure, going into the challenge, you can take the confidence of having won the title just 12 months before. But fresh from your success in the previous year, other players want to beat you more.

Defeating the 'Crucible Curse' requires you to replicate your top form on the biggest stage but under much more pressure, with every player that stands in your way, desperate to take the scalp of you as reigning champion.

Not only are there players desperate to make their mark on the championship, but can you imagine O'Sullivan, Hendry, Higgins, Williams & co wanting you to acheive soemthing in the game, they haven't?

In fact, being world champion, adds pressure to more than just your return to Sheffield.

As world champion, you're there as the marker, there to beaten in every single match you play. You're the one player everyone wants to beat.

So, while Robertson should enjoy his success now he's finally home, sterner tests lie ahead next year for the Aussie.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Ask Gary...

In a bid for you to find out a little bit more about the editor of OnCue, I asked my friends to put some snooker questions forward for me to answer...

Who is your favourite player and why?

I've always been a massive fan of Ronnie O'Sullivan. One of my first big memories of the game was watching him smash a 147 past Mick Price in a record 5 minutes 20 seconds in 1997. This was the first World Championship I watched fully, when I was aged just nine. So ever since then, I've loved watching him. He plays the game in the most entertaining way and is one of the sport's biggest characters. He's a hero of mine and watching him live beat Stephen Hendry 17-4 in the 2004 semi-final, was really special.

What other players do you like?

There's very few players I dislike in the game. In fact, every player I've ever met has been great. They're always happy to sign autographs, have photographs taken, and stop for a chat. This is something I like about the game, because you just can't get this kind of rapport with the players in any other games, like football for example. I've had a number of chats with Steve Davis at the bar in the Novotel hotel in Sheffield. He's such a gent, and has a trophy cabinet to match, so I always like to see him roll back the years.

Then, there's Stephen Lee. I've always been really impressed with this guy's terrific cue action. He's a shadow of the player he was in the early 00's but I always look out for his results.

What do you make of the allegations against John Higgins?

I'll reserve my judgements until the full investigation has taken place, but it doesn't look good. Deep, deep down I hope it's not true. It would be a hammer blow for the sport as he's our current world number one. I would never have thought it of him but if he is found guilty, I hope the book is thrown at Higgins. We need to send out a warning to all players that will deter them ever taking a bung. Unfortunately, the nature of the game makes it easy for match fixing to take place. But in order to maintain the integrity of the game, the deterrent must be the potential punishment, so this must be severe.

What do you think of Barry Hearn taking over the game?

I'm delighted. He's worked wonders for darts and anyone that is committed to get the players involved in more competitions, gets my backing. I think he'll take the game to a new level with the shoot-out style matches to come and take it global, which can only be good for the players and fans alike.

Who is the greatest player ever to pick up a cue?

My heart says Ronnie. While he has the natural ability, until he delivers seven world titles, I don't think you can look past Stephen Hendry. People may say he played in a 'weaker era' of the game. But try telling Jimmy White that. I think it's rubbish. He won what he has because of shear grit and determination. The number of maximum breaks he's hit, speak for themselves too.

Who will win the next world title?

It's quite early to make that kind of prediction. Last year, I had my money on Ding Junhui and I'll back him again. I think it'd be great for the game to see the title taken to Asia, and he certainly has the quality. We've seen that first hand at the UK Championship. I think it's only a matter of time until he replicates this in Sheffield. He was unlucky to lose to Shaun Murphy last year but maybe next time.

Who's the next big talent?

Tough, tough question. People have been talking about Judd Trump for a number of years, and I've heard a lot of people now doubting whether he'll make it to the big time. I watched him lose his first round match to Peter Ebdon at the UK Championships last year, and in that game he showed glimpses of real quality. He was unlucky to lose, but if he can turn that fortune around and make it past the first hurdle at one of the big calendar dates this season, I think we'll see the best of him. So, I'm sticking by Judd to be a world champion within the next decade. I also like the look of Liam Highfield too. I've heard a lot of good about him.

What do you think about Barry Hearn's proposals to bring in one-frame matches?

Fantastic. Just look at Twenty20 in cricket. People who were never interested in the sport now go to watch live. It could happen in snooker too. Anything that could attract younger fans, has to be worth a try.

Welcome to the OnCue blog

Hi All.

Welcome to my blog. If you're a snooker fan, in search of more reaction and analysis of the game, then you're in the right place.

My aim with this blog page is bring you my own views and reaction to the biggest happenings in the sport, build-up to major events on the snooker calendar, plus the occassional interview and column from people in the know.

Feel free to get involved by commenting on articles, telling your friends or giving me the heads-up on what you'd like to see more of.