Sunday, 26 June 2011

Talking Snooker... with SnookerIsland

Welcome to the first of a new series of articles I'll be running on the blog, called Talking Snooker.

With snooker's online community continuing to grow, namely on Twitter, this feature will bring the sport's many bloggers together to do what we do best.

First up, Roland from SnookerIsland joined me for a chat. With the first PTC of the new season done and dusted, we spoke about what the new campaign holds, and more importantly, some of the players to look out for.

Here's what we had to say... 

OnCue: We didn't get much of a summer break this year. There wasn't much breathing space for us bloggers, but I love it. Doesn't feel too long ago since I was watching the world final, and here we are with the first trophy of the season already dished out. Great isn't it?

SnookerIsland: Yeah it's pretty full on these days. Especially with the Q School this summer, there's not been much of a break but the PTCs are great at keeping the players sharp. They've settled down now, and they're going to be even better this season.

OnCue: It's like anything new. There's always that period waiting to get it right. I think it's going to be pretty much bang on this season, and the standard should be excellent once the players get going. I can't see see the players wanting to miss out out on playing in many of them either. They know they have to be there to maintain their ranking now.

SnookerIsland: They are important but I think we'll still see the players picking and choosing which events they play in to be honest. With so many matches now, they've got to be wary of burnout and pick the right times to have a break from it.

OnCue: Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby did, in my opinion, look a bit burnt out at the World Championship. And it's at the Crucible where they'd want to be playing their best snooker ideally, so there should be some caution. I think those lads played in pretty much everything going last season including the Premier League and PTCs. Maybe that was too much.

SnookerIsland: I'm not sure as much with Murphy. He won the PTC Grand Finals final just before the Crucible but other than that he had a bit of a patchy season in general, I think. I don't think his form was there going into the tournament. I think burn out was definitely the case with Selby though. He even said that himself, so he'll need to be sensible this season.

OnCue: I think it was John Parrott who said on BBC that players should maybe be allowed to take a number of their best scores from the PTCs. That's probably fair but I can't see it happening. There has to be reward for the players willing to play in them all.

Snookerisland: That would create a nightmare because we wouldn't have access to rolling rankings. The rankings are complicated enough without more confusion. It would leave players in the unknown as well. At least at the moment, they can judge when is best for them to take a break from a PTC if they're comfortably in a ranking bracket and unlikely to push into the next one.

OnCue: It will be interesting to see how the players approach the PTCs this season, especially players like Stephen Hendry who nearly lost his top 16 status because he didn't get on board. The same could be said about Ronnie but he put his marker out with victory in the first one. He played marvelously well by all accounts. I'm pleased for him but I think a lot of the players probably went in to the tournament without much practice, and we all know Ronnie's natural ability, which may have given him an edge. There were a lot of shocks, and early exits for some big names too but I'm not sure how much we can read in to it for the whole season.

SnookerIsland: It never surprises me when Ronnie wins a tournament. He can win everything. All we can really read into it is that a lot of the players were quite rusty. Trump lost his first match and was on a plane to Magaluf the next day, so you have to question how bothered he really was with it. John Higgins lost early on, and he looked almost unbeatable a few months before. It's great for the players who did well but not the end of the world for those who didn't. It's still early days.

OnCue: Very early, but a great chance for the players outside the top 16 to get some early ranking points on the board. In particular, Joe Perry, who made the final.

SnookerIsland: I read your interview with Perry actually and he sounds like he's going to come back to his best. He should be a top 16 if he gets back to that level. I'd say that's his natural place when he's on form.

OnCue: What was most interesting about that interview, although I'm not too sure how strongly it came across in the write-up, is how affected he seemed to be by the comments in the press about him. He admitted he's pretty sensitive and responds well too praise but the negative coverage gets him down too.

SnookerIsland: He never struck me as the kind of person to worry about what he reads. I asked him if he considered going on Twitter, but at the time, he'd never heard of it.

OnCue: Likewise, you did an interview with Graeme Dott

SnookerIsland: It was quite powerful in his book when he said he'd be worrying what Willie Thorne was saying when he was down on a shot. It must be difficult fighting that. Players are different and I remember Neil Robertson commenting about how he was affected by reading stuff about himself on a forum. But it's obvious. When there's a fan base, people will talk about you. It's one of the challenges of being a professional sportsman.

OnCue: True. People handle it differently.

SnookerIsland: I'm a big fan of Dott. He's dealt with it all of his career. I think he'll have a good season. I was surprised he didn't give Trump a better match at the World Championship. We spoke about Judd at our interview. He said he hadn't seen the China Open final, but I warned him how well he was playing.

OnCue: I was at that match at the Crucible and he just gave him too many easy openings. That's very unlike Dott. He wasn't at his best but I still fancy him this season like you. What about Joe Jogia? He made the semi-finals of the first PTC as well. No doubt he can play. He had a couple of good runs at the PTCs last season, but I'm not sure he'll make massive waves.

SnookerIsland: He's been around a long time. He gave Ronnie a game. I met him at the Crucible actually when I was having a few beers with a couple of members from the website. I won't say too much, but what a character! I wish him all the best.

OnCue: Outside of the latest PTC, I'm going to have my eyes on Jack Lisowski this season. He had a great maiden season but there's a lot of expectation on him now. I think he's good enough, and when that's the case, the rest tends to fall in to place. I think he'll do well again, it's just a matter of how well.

SnookerIsland: I was saying to Matt from ProSnookerBlog, he could have a go at the top 16. I think he's that good. He's so composed. It's a big ask to break the top 16 this season from his current 50th place ranking, but in two years' time, he'll be right about up there, in my opinion. I went to the world qualifiers, and was very impressed with Liu Chuang too even though he lost to Ryan Day. He was 17-year-old when got to the Crucible. Only Ronnie, Stephen Hendry and Trump have done that. He's not gone on since then but I reckon he could really breakthrough this season.

OnCue: Day is another one. He's a great break builder and showed glimpses of the top 16 player he used to be at the latter stage of last season. He's always been one of my favourites to watch. He's very commanding. He can win frames very quickly when he's playing well.

SnookerIsland: He's a lot like Stephen Maguire. He bullies the balls and takes real control of the table. He can be a bit shaky at times though. You thought a couple of years ago he may have pushed on but hasn't. He's a name the top 16 players will want to avoid in the first round of tournaments though. Xiao Guodong needs watching as well. He scores so quickly. The live scoring system never stops ticking when he's in.

OnCue: A lot of people have been talking about him on Twitter. He has a good safety game too. The whole package. Ebdon raved about him to me when I interviewed him.  He's very much like Ding. Has a calmness around the table. I think we'll see Martin Gould break the top 16, for sure. He's been so consistent for a while now and has a good projected ranking.

SnookerIsland: Gould is definitely a top player. His style of game is great to watch. Selby says he sometimes he plays not to lose and needs to play to win more. He should just watch Martin. His comeback against Marco Fu at the Crucible was amazing. He goes for everything. I think he'll win a PTC event this season, but I wouldn't like to say which one.

OnCue: The fans love that kind of approach. He's fearless.

SnookerIsland: It doesn't always come off. He's very much like Trump for that. Talking of Trump, him and Ding are the real dangermen for me this season. Their match at the Crucible was one of the best I've ever seen. There was one bad session but otherwise, it was ridiculously good. For a while people said there wasn't the young talent coming through. I think this was just because O'Sullivan and Higgins are so good, and the younger players weren't quite at that level yet. We're seeing how good they are now.

OnCue: I'd be happy to put money on Ding and Trump both winning titles this season. They can both go on to become two of the best we've ever seen. I read on the web Mark Williams said those two plus Selby and Murphy will be the future top four in the world.

SnookerIsland: I'd agree with that but I'd have Robertson in there instead of Murphy. I still have my doubts about Murphy. He looks great when he plays well but in the 2009 world final, I knew he'd be outclassed against Higgins before they even struck a ball. At least in 2007 Selby gave Higgins a scare, a push. I don't want this to sound like a pop at Murphy but I think Robertson is better.

OnCue: Surely, that's a wrap. Nice chatting. Happy tweeting and blogging.

SnookerIsland: You too. Cheers!

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