Thursday, 22 September 2011

Talking Snooker... with Maximum Snooker

Welcome to the second in my series of Talking Snooker features.

Created to get snooker's wide community of tweeters and bloggers working together, this article is all about sharing views about life on the baize.

Last time out, Roland from SnookerIsland helped me the raise the curtain on the new season. This time, Steve from Maximum Snooker takes to the hotseat to discuss what's happened so far in the summer months of the campaign.

Here's what we had to say...

OnCue: Thanks for joining me. The season has flown by so far. We're four PTCs down and we've also had two other major ranking events in Shanghai ands Australia, two invitational events and the return of the World Cup. Where to start? Well, with revisions due to the ranking system in a couple of weeks, why not begin with Mark Selby who has already guaranteed himself the official world number one spot. He's had a storming start to the season with three titles already to his name this. He's won the Wuxi Classic, Paul Hunter Classic and Shanghai Masters. What a performance...

Maximum Snooker: Yeah it's been an excellent start to the season for Selby. What most surprised me about him becoming world number one is that he's the only player to have done it without winning the World Championship. Usually players making it to top spot are assisted by the 10,000 earned from becoming world champion. Selby only made it to the quarter-final at the Crucible in April but is the only player to have won two ranking events already this season.

OnCue: Selby's path to the top ranking is definitely a reward for his consistency instead of a real purple patch. It just shows you what can be achieved if you embrace the greater amount of events under Barry Hearn. Selby has played in pretty much every tournament going and that's why he's sitting pretty at the top. You get out what you put in. It's kept him extremely sharp.

Maximum Snooker: He made two finals and another three semi-finals last season but probably won't remember it as one of his best because he didn't win one of the majors. He's put that right with his win in Shanghai and it's a great achievement for him, his family and all the snooker fans in his area. He deserves it.

OnCue: I think it was important for him psychologically to land a big title. He was getting a little bit of stick for that and probably deserved a trophy for his form. On the topic of his rise to number one, I remember reading one of his blogs at the start of last season actually. He said in that his target was to reach world number one. I never disbelieved he could make it but I remember thinking it was the kind of target he maybe thought he had to make rather than something I necessarily believed he was going to go out and achieve. I said earlier its testament to his consistency, and that cannot be underestimated. I think many people will agree we go in to most tournaments with at least ten players in our minds as capable of lifting the trophy. To therefore be so consistent in that kind of competitive environment is no mean feat.

Maximum Snooker: He's done very well but the flip side of the argument is that he may not be there if John Higgins wasn't been banned for tournaments at the start of last season. You could also say that had he not been banned he may not have been as determined to win the World and UK Championships last season as well, so it does swing both ways. Just a point.

OnCue: It may have been different, but we'll never know. The greatest thing about Selby's rise in my opinion is that it seems to have dispelled this myth that he's a negative player. That's such an inaccurate assessment of his game. Anyone who has seen him play in the PTCs will know how attacking he can be. He's won plenty of matches in that format with great ease, and has the ability to reel off frames within one visit. To that end, it angers me when people criticise him.

Maximum Snooker: I do think Selby in the past has had a tendency to play a more negative game in the bigger events. He always seems more eager to play safety in the televised tournaments, and I don't know why. It's bizarre.

OnCue: When it means more, Selby does change his style. I'm not denying that. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see him play his instinctive game more regularly but at least his contrasting styles show what a complete player he is. He can score, he can grind and he can fight back. Once again in Shanghai, he proved how good he is coming from behind to beat Mark Williams after being 9-7 down. It was trademark Selby. Many of his greatest wins have come from losing positions down the years. That's won him a lot of fans.

Maxiumum Snooker: His comeback in Shanghai was excellent I think the way he dealt with the red/pink debate to beat Williams was great. I think if it hadn't happened, Williams would have got the frame he needed to win. His whole attitude seemed to switch. It was a turning point but full credit to Selby for taking advantage. 

OnCue: Perhaps, but there's definitely a problem to address for Williams. What do you make of his capitulation? It's happened a few times to him now.

Maximum Snooker: I still think Williams has got a great temperament. In both the Australian Open and the Shanghai Masters, he's been unbeatable at the start of the tournaments but struggled when the finals have gone close. His habit of losing from a winning position all started after his defeat to Higgins at the last UK Championship. I wonder if it plays on his mind now. He does look like he clams up at the end of the big matches now.

OnCue: I'm with you. He's on a bad run of fortune but I'm not doubting his temperament. He's a great champion just in a bad run of finals. At least he's getting to the finals. He'll turn it around, for sure. It's important we get it into perspective. There are other players with far greater issues. But while we're on the big finals, let's talk about the Australian Open. Massive win for Stuart Bingham. His first ranking title, of course.

Maximum Snooker: I always try to stay neutral but I'm a big fan of Stuart Bingham. He's been fighting through the qualifiers for many years now but he seems to have cascaded on since making the quarter-finals of the UK Championship last season. I interviewed him not too long ago for Snookered magazine and it crosses me that he's just content with life at the minute now he's got his fiancee and a new born baby. I think that's probably bringing the best out of his game. It's all clicking on the table for him.

OnCue: Yeah I've met Stu a couple of times now and it's reward for a long career of hard work. It's a victory for a nice guy of the game too. Everyone who I know that's met Stuart likes him and his commitment to the sport has been immense down the years. He traipses round to pro-am tournaments and puts so much in. It was great to see his dedication paid off with a ranking win. I love seeing new winners at the big events anyway. I wasn't alone in celebrating his victory.

Maximum Snooker: The tournament seemed to have the feel that someone other than the usual suspects was going to win it. I was half expecting Dominic Dale to go all the way after he beat Neil Robertson, like he did in Shanghai in 2006. Instead it was Bingham.

OnCue: We've been spoiled with a few new tournaments this season. There's been the Australian Open of course, the Brazilian Masters and a return of the World Cup. Which one did you enjoy the most?

Maximum Snooker: I thought the Australian Open was perfect. Everything from the MCs interviews to the look and feel of the venue impressed me. They put so much effort into the tournament and it paid off. Even though it was so far away, my interest for it was huge.

OnCue: I agree. It felt like a regular event on the circuit from ball one. The standard of matches helped and I can't wait to watch it again next season. The Aussie's embraced it as well, which gave it a massive boost.

Maximum Snooker: There was a decent crowd turnout, which contributed. It was so well supported. Bingham got as many cheers when he won it as Robertson did and they were great towards Dominic Dale even though he knocked out their home favourite. I loved everything about it.

OnCue: I wanted to mention the World Cup because even though it was a bit rough around the edges, I think it's such an important event for the sport. The variety of having a team event, in my opinion, is essential. To see China win it was great for the game too but just to have a World Cup back was a step in the right direction. I can't emphasise how much greater presence it could give snooker moving forward.

Maximum Snooker: Some of the early matches were a bit too scrappy for my liking but it got better as the standard increased later in the tournament. It will be back in another two years and hopefully it will move to different countries. I think next time the venue needs to be fuller. There were too many empty seats.

OnCue: In the last edition of Talking Snooker, I talked about the players to watch in the season. Now we've sat back and watched, who have you been impressed with lower down the rankings?

Maximum Snooker: I really like the look of the Thai boy, Passakorn Suwannawat. He's had a good few runs, most notably to the final qualifying round of the Shanghai Masters. He doesn't ever look afraid of his opponents. He just gets on with it. I fancy him to have a decent stay on tour.

OnCue: He's been impressive but I've also liked the look of China's Li Yan and Yu Delu for similar reasons. I think they'll both end the season inside the top 64. They're not far away provisionally now actually. I think they're both provisionally ranked within the 70s and continually improving. They're strong in every area and have great shot selection. They look well equipped to climb the rankings.

Maximum Snooker: A little bit higher up the rankings but Stephen Lee has been playing well and could win a PTC, easily.

OnCue: Yeah he's looking good for a top 16 spot too. That will mean he's back at the Masters and won't have to qualify for the UK Championship. He's been playing very, very well. He's a classy player who probably feels he belongs in the top 16. Who else do you fancy to win a PTC?

Maximum Snooker: Martin Gould. I think he'll soon do a Stuart Bingham and go all the way in a tournament .He was in the PTC Grand Finals last season and looks a top player.

OnCue: Funnily enough I've recently backed him to win this weekend's PTC5. I don't think he's been playing as well as he was last season. That might be because his opponents have figured how to contain him but he definitely hasn't had the same impact as last year. I think at the start of the season he had a projected seeding easily within the top 16 but now he's still got a bit of work to do to confirm it. He'll be disappointed with that but I think because he's such a confident guy, I think he'll get the job finished. Everyone loves watching him. On form, he's a right handful. A proper player.

Maximum Snooker: Mark Davis is another player desperately close to the top 16. He's been quietly going about his business but is right in contention. He's from the same neck of the woods as me, so I've been to see him at O'Sullivan's club in Bexhill-on-Sea where him and Jimmy Robertson both play. He's a good guy. I'm pleased for him.

OnCue: Like Bingham, he's been a professional for many years now. It's good to see that kind of player achieve after years slogging it out in the qualifiers. I interviewed him for the blog just before the Crucible qualifiers. He hinted to me that he was a tad disappointed with what he's achieved in the game. For that reason, I'll be particularly pleased if he breaks the 16. I made a cheeky prediction on Facebook that he'd do it, so I'll be a little big smug if he makes it. He's probably at the stage of his career where he feels more relaxed and the pressure is off. That must be helping him. 

There's some other players I don't want to forget. Ben Woollaston has had a great spell including his first title and moving into the top 64. He looks a bit tougher this season than in years gone by. Then there's Ronnie O'Sullivan. I know he doesn't really enjoy playing in the PTCs but his effort and focus in those has been commendable. He needed to pick up points in those because he was slipping down the rankings. Fair play to him for rolling his sleeves up and getting the points on the board. Anyway, they're two players who have caight my eye. What about the flip side. Who did you expect more from?

Maximum Snooker: Matthew Stevens and Mark Allen. Stevens was predicted to achieve big things this season but I don't think he's quite lived up to that billing yet. He's done enough but not blown us away.  Maybe his best is still to come
I know Allen isn't everyone's cup of tea at the moment but he's a player who I think should be winning titles. I thought he might do that in the early part of this this season, but he hasn't quite yet.

OnCue: Personally, I've been disappointed with Peter Ebdon. Maybe his run to the semi-final of the Brazilian Masters will help him kick on, but he has the look of a player who hasn't been practising much. That's a real shame. I still think he still has plenty to offer but maybe isn't feeling as connected with the game as he was when I spoke to him in the build-up to the World Championship. He seemed on track to fight for his top 16 place but hasn't actually delivered. He should take a leaf out of Mark King's for showing he's got a sting in his tail.
Well, we could talk all night but I guess that's a wrap. Thanks Steve.

Maximum Snooker: Cheers, nice chatting.

1 comment:

  1. Maximum Snooker: He's done very well but the flip side of the argument is that he may not be there if John Higgins wasn't been banned for tournaments at the start of last season. You could also say that had he not been banned he may not have been as determined to win the World and UK Championships last season as well, so it does swing both ways. Just a point.

    that is a very good point infact you cant say had john not been banned Mark wouldnt be no 1.... john might have nothing to prove and therefore not achieved as well as he did.