Wednesday, 4 May 2011

World Championship 2011: My considered verdict

It's been two days since the conclusion of this year's World Championship and I'm sticking by my guns - this was the best tournament in many years.

It had it all.

A great final, a few deciders, centuries galore and a fair share of shocks.

The most notable was seeing qualifier Judd Trump make the journey all the way to the final. If he'd won the tournament, he would have been the first qualifer to do that since Shaun Murphy lifted the title in 2005, and it's justified to now call him the new superstar of snooker.

He has won the support of a nation and has the snooker world frothing at the mouth. On route to a classic final with John Higgins, he blew away two world champions and played the kind of attacking snooker that is normally reserved for exhibitions.

His cue power is immense, and despite not eventually lifting the world trophy, he's still my man of the tournament. He was a breath of fresh air to the competition as he challenged snooker's top order, almost to the extent of gazumping them all.

Only Higgins in the end could stop him, although in my opinion, Trump was probably the best player over the four sessions.

A mix of big match experience plus a little bit of run of the balls, meant the Scot triumphed. But the beauty of the entire situation is that it doesn't make a blind bit of difference. Of course, Judd would have loved to become the second youngest ever world champion. But it's so obvious he'll eventually be crowned king of the Crucible, that making the final almost feels good enough this time round.

Sure, pressure will mount when he plays now, but I genuinely believe he will scare the world's top players. No-one will want to draw him. That could be particularly crucial, as nothing scares him.

Everyone is talking about Trump, but he's not the only reason why this tournament was such a cracker.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is another. There have been times when I feared we'd never see the Rocket play focused snooker again. Despite not reaching the heady heights of performance that have seen him become a three-time world champion, he looked willing to fight again.

This means he has a realistic chance of winning titles again. This can only be good news for the game.

He's such a popular figure on the circuit, and so good when he's on form, that I question why anyone wouldn't be pleased with this?

Who else made the Crucible extra special this year?

Ding Junhui. In my opinion, he is one of the most talented cueists the game has ever seen. He has the ability to go on to win world titles. But until this year, he hadn't trespassed to the quarter-finals of this event.

This year though, he looked totally at home, progressing to the last four. Unlucky for him that he met Trump. But his run means there will no longer be a cloud cast over his Crucible credentials.

I'd like also to mention our new world number one Mark Williams. He hasn't made it to the one-table stage in Sheffield since he last lifted the trophy back in 2003. In doing that this year, he secured his place at the head of the rankings and capped off a season where he's made it to the business end of most ranking events.

He'd like to have gone all way this year, but his performance at least suggests he's got a couple more challenges left in him yet.

Then there's Mark Selby. We may not have been given a record number of centuries at a World Championship, but the Jester mustered a new record of six tons in a single Crucible match, as he powered past Stephen Hendry in the second round.

I also mentioned shocks earlier in the blog.

I was glad to see Barry Hawkins register his first ever Sheffield win, on the sixth attempt. He battled past seed Stephen Maguire, and showed why he's regarded as such a danger in the qualifying scene. Then there's a special mention for Rory McLeod.

Parts of the media have opted to slate him for his slow style of play, but instead, I think he deserves praise. Beating Ricky Walden means he won his first TV match and made it to the last 16 of a ranker for the first time. It proved Walden's threats of a long stay in the top 16 were not carried through, but Rory went on to give Higgins a fair fight in round two.

Stuart Bingham and Martin Gould's first round victories against Peter Ebdon and Marco Fu respectively can hardly be classed as shocks considering how close they both now sit to the top 16, but again, they were two of the most enjoyable players to watch at a venue.

But perhaps the player I'm most pleased for is Mark Allen. Suffering from depression, he overcame his demons to reach the quarter-finals for the second season in succession.

In one of the most emotional moments of the competition, his daughter was watching his final session against Matthew Stevens from the front row. This helped him rouse back from 9-6 down to win a decider, before he went to the crowd for a kiss and a cuddle with his loved one after his great comeback.

It really was a picture.

1 comment:

  1. Dott reached the final last year as a qualifier.