Monday, 28 February 2011

Spaghetti baize dividends

Mark King hit three centuries in as many frames today - and then revealed his secret weapon was spaghetti on toast.

The world number 17 suffered a baptism of fire on his return to the qualifiers yesterday, losing out to world number 91 Kurt Maflin 5-1 in the China Open qualifiers.

The last thing he probably wanted today was to play more snooker. But he kicked off his Championship League Group 5 campaign with an imperious whitewash over Ryan Day.

Back at the qualifiers in Sheffield, he suffered a rude awakening to just how difficult it's going to be to win back his status in the sport. But he dusted himself, cooked up some tinned spaghetti on toast, and showed what he's made of.

King has got a reputation for being a real grafter. He wins a lot of frames when the balls go scrappy. But today, he wasn't in any mood to compromise, showing he can break-build alongside the best of them.

The biggest positive though is that a hat-trick of tons proves he's got the bouncebackability he'll need to regain his spot among the game's elite.

King is at a real crossroad of his career right about now. Many players have been unable to recover from elimination from the top 16 rankings. It's a hard old game out there on the qualifying circuit. You need fight to overcome it. That's something the Romford man has in abundance, but today he proved he's got a bit of swagger about him too.

Well played Mark! It's the start of a very tough road back.

Kurt leads the Beijing bound 16

The China Open qualifiers came to an action-packed conclusion yesterday, as 16 players made it through the gruelling cubicle stages to Beijing.

First through and one of the most comprehensive winners of the day was Norway's Kurt Maflin, who ended his dream week with a 5-1 demolition of former top 16 man Mark King.

A couple of days ago on this blog, I asked how the Romford potter would adapt to life back in the qualifiers.

After an impressive break of 134 in the opening frame, it seemed as if he'd make the transition with ease. But then the world number 91 Norwegian Kurt came storming back to give a timely reminder of just how tough it is to claw your way back into the elite.

Four straight wins see Maflin on a flight to Beijing, but shockingly after all this hard work, his place in the first round of the tournament is still not guaranteed.

He'll have to overcome one of the wildcard players before earning his tie with Ding Junhui.

Twitter has been rife with yet another 'great wildcard debate' over this issue. Many people think it's harsh for the lowest qualifiers to come all this way and still not guarantee their place at the main stages of the event. I have to agree, it's tough on them. But by the same token, I think it's great for talented homegrown players to get the chance to play in front of their home crowd when the biggest tournaments come to town. This won't be the last we hear of the dispute, and I do think some form of revision is required..

Whatever your opinion, you can't deny Kurt his glory. He'll have a few drinks to toast this success.

Here's a run-down of the rest of the qualifiers who can get busy booking their flights to Asia...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Maflin and Kachaiwong looking to shine

Norway's Kurt Maflin and Thailand's Issara Kachaiwong may be two of the sport's lower ranked tour players, but they've not gone unnoticed so far at this week's China Open qualifiers.

They've both been in impressive form to win three matches, and are now both just one step away from an unlikely trip to the main venue.

I say unlikely, not because they don't have the talent to beat players among the top 64 rankings, but because life on the qualifying scene is just so brutal. The demand to roll up and win four straight matches all against others good players, is no easy feat.

Although this week they've produced some of their best play as professionals, we've seen both these boys can play a bit before now.

Maflin famously knocked in the first maximum break of this season's new PTC series. At the PTC1 last summer, he scored a 147, building on his reputation as an able break-builder.
In his good run this week, he's shown the kind of form that established him a a promising juniors, knocking in breaks at will to move past Simon Bedford, Jack Lisowski and Dave Harold.

Tomorrow he takes on Mark King, who has got used to life away from the qualifiers for quite a while now. He'll be hoping his experience in the cubicles can count, to book a tie with Ding Junhui at the main event.

Kachaiwong is certainly no mug either. Back in 2006, he made it through to the venue for the Grand Prix. That great run saw him win four out of five matches in Aberdeen in the group stages, and he only just missed out on progression to the knockout phase because of frame difference against John Higgins and Alan McManus.

One of a few Thai players on the circuit this season, Kachaiwong has always been a confidence player, and he seems to have found a spring in his step again. This week he's beaten Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon, Andy Hicks and Tony Drago. Just Ken Doherty now stands between him and a tie with 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in China.

It's always refreshing to see new faces competing at the latter end of the qualifiers, so I'll be cheering them on when they break off tomorrow.

Good luck lads!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

60 seconds with... Andrew Pagett

It's been a little while since I brought you all a quickfire interview, but it's certainly not dead.

OnCue caught up with world number 76 Welshman Andrew Pagett, to find out more about him.

How do you assess your season so far?

I'm very happy with my season so far. After winning back my place on tour for this season, my aim was to stay as a professional and I have already achieved that.

What are your aims for the rest of the season?

To climb up the rankings. As simple as that.

When did you start playing snooker and how?

I started playing at the age of 14. My father was playing pool for Wales so that’s where I think I got the talent from.

What's your proudest snooker moment and why?

Finishing Welsh ranked number one and Welsh amateur champion  in the 2009/10 season.

What's your lowest moment and why?

Dropping off the main tour at the end of the 2008/09 season.

Where do you see yourself in five year's time?

Hopefully in the top 16 in the world and competing with the best players.

What professional snooker player do you most admire and why?

I admire my practice partner and best friend Mark J Williams because of his achievements in snooker and having to put up with me for all these years!

What's your greatest snooker memory and why?

Watching Mark Williams beat Steven Hendry in the Masters 10-9 on a re-spot black.

If you weren't a snooker player, what would you be?

I would probably be into another sport like golf or cricket because I was very good at those from a young age.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Paul Collier EXCLUSIVE column: Welsh Open wins back its wow factor

World Snooker referee Paul Collier is back with his first column of 2011.

Fresh from taking charge of seven matches in Newport, the Welshman bring his views exclusively to OnCue.

He talks about the success of last week's Welsh Open, the run of three home players and the brilliance of champion John Higgins...

Crucible draw announced

The top 16 players learned their fate at this year's World Championships today.

Following revisions to the world rankings after the conclusion of the Welsh Open yesterday, the top players were placed in the draw sheet.

I've never been one to dwell too much on the prospect of half empty draws.

The qualifiers are yet to be confirmed and form of players can soon come or go, but here are a few of my initial reactions to the draw you can view through this link,,13165~159001,00.pdf

Barry hits the jackpot

I don't normally stray away from snooker on this blog.

But I think I can make an exception to pay congratulations to snooker supremo Barry Hearn and his heroic Leyton Orient Football Club.

On Sunday, they held Premier League big boys Arsenal to a 1-1 draw at Brisbane Road, to prove the magic of the FA Cup is still very much alive.

It's always great in any sport to see the underdog enjoy success, but it seems like anything Hearn touches at the moment turns to gold.

The transformation he's made to snooker over the past nine months or so has been nothing short of phenomenal. The game is now a shadow of what is was just last season.

Leyton Orient can probably say the same about their football club too now.

A replay at Arsenal's 60,000 Emirates stadium will bag Orient a whopping £1 million. That money will help the club build a squad capable of winning promotion out of League One, and even taking West Ham United to the courts for the Olympic Stadium they should have won hands down in my opinion.

Well done Barry!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Higgins lands Welsh title

John Higgins. Your father would be proud.

It's only been just over a fortnight since John Higgins' father passed away. He was playing in the German Masters at the time.

Not surprisingly, he pulled out of that tournament.

And with the Welsh Open coming straight after, many people questioned whether Higgins would be able to produce with his loss still so fresh.

Tonight he answered that question with a resounding yes, as he beat his Scottish colleague Stephen Maguire 9-6 to lift the Welsh Open trophy for a second year running.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Maguire sets up all-Scottish final

Luck favours the brave, they say.

That was certainly the case tonight as Stephen Maguire emerged a slender 6-5 winner in his thrilling Welsh Open semi-final against Mark Selby.

From the moment the first cue ball was hit, this match was a severe clash of styles. Selby was intent on making it a safety battle, while Maguire was keen to press on and attack his way to the finish line.

In the end, both players got what they wanted. The match was a great blend between attack and defence, which probably explains why it finished so closely.

Maguire made two centuries on the night and pulled off plenty of impressive pots. Selby turned plenty down but asked Maguire some big questions. There were spells when this game got boggy. But instead of caving in, Maguire stuck by his natural instincts and potted his way to the final.

His victory doesn't mean Selby's way is the the wrong way, far from it. But as a neutral, it's nice from time to time to see attacking bravery rewarded.

Maguire's reward is a place in his first ever Welsh Open final, and against his fellow countryman John Higgins.

This is the first all-Scottish ranking event final since the Malta Cup way back in 2005. This wasn't on the cards a few days back, in a tournament where the home hopes dominated the early rounds.

Stephen and John are great friends. It will be a good final, but after this gruelling affair, it'll be interesting to see just how much this marathon match has taken out of Maguire.

Higgins on course to retain Welsh crown

Defending Welsh Open champion John Higgins booked his place in this year's final with a classy performance today against Ali Carter.

The Scot won the match 6-2 producing his best snooker so far this week, as he looks to be coming perfectly to the boil in time to lift the trophy.

Carter made a perfect start with a break of 118, but after that, Higgins won six of the next seven frames to blow his opponent away.

This was Higgins matchplay at its very best. His safety was spot on, and when when chances became few and far between for Carter, he started to force the issue. That was when Higgins swooped in to take charge of the match.

This win marks Higgins' tenth consecutive ranking match win. He looks totally unbeatable. Even playing just after his father passed away, it only looks like it's made him stronger. He's resolute and looking every inch the world's number one player.

Higgins is still playing a little short of his best, but such are his matchplay attributes, he continues to get the job done. Today he stepped it up a gear, and you just know he'll do the same again tomorrow.

With his place in the final booked nice early, he can sit back, relax and watch Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby battle it out late into the night for the right to face him tomorrow.

A good day's work for Higgins and a strong favourite for the title now.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Captain fantastic contines Newport love affair

Newport-wizard sustained his terrific record at the Welsh Open tonight with an impressive 5-2 win over Ding Junhui seeing him into the semi-final.

The Essex man is now just one win away from his third Welsh final on trot.

He famously won the trophy  2009 against Joe Swail, but could only muster the runners-up medal last year at the expense of John Higgins.

I didn't count his chance of making a third straight final too highly before this tournament. He's not been playing his best snooker since losing in the first round of the UK Championship against Mark Joyce.

But back at the business end of a ranking event, he looks like he's back in the groove.

Wins against Barry Hawkins and Peter Ebdon seem to have restored his confidence as he showed both sides of his game in this win against Ding.

It took a little while for this match to get going. Carter scrapped his way into a 2-0, but as the game became more fluid Ding pulled back level. This didn't deter Carter. After the interval, he was just too good. He took his chances in among the balls to score heavily and see out the match.

The difference here was focus. Carter was dead set on the job in hand while Ding at one point seemed more interested in watching Stevens against Higgins across the partition. Even if you can't blame him, it's no surprise he sunk to defeat in this match, losing concentration when his own match hit crunch time.

Maguire on fire to stun Williams

Stephen Maguire has a habit of going under the radar.

Bot today he made everyone stand up and take notice as he put pay to Welsh Open favourite Mark Williams' hopes of winning the event.

The Scot chalked up a 5-3 win and landed a place in the semi-final at the expense of the world number two.

Maguire hadn't faced any major tests so far in Newport until day, but he didn't suffer from rust.

His chances of winning the match were as good as written off  with Williams in such fine form, and that may just have helped him.

But he didn't do it the easy way. He had to recover from 3-2 down to win the match.

He'll face Mark Selby in the last four.

The Jester has come in for a lot of criticism this wek but that won't bother him as he booked his place with a 5-3 win over Graeme Dott.

Selby has never been the most attacking player but for some reason, his style of play has come under sharp scrutiny over the past few days.

The Leicester man has never been one to struggle in adversity though. He could well have the last laugh and win the Welsh Open now.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Welsh wagon rolls on

Another day in Newport and yet more domination from the Welsh lads.

Stephen Hendry may be the man hitting all the newspapers in the morning for his 10th career 147, but make no bones about it, today belonged to Welsh snooker.

Sensational Mark Williams was on top of his game again as he registered his second 4-0 win in succession. This time it was poor Jamie Cope on the end of this battering.

Williams is playing so well he doesn't even look like losing a frame, let alone a match.

Hendry hits 147

Stephen Hendry is the greatest snooker player of all time. Fact!

He may not be the deadly force he once was, but boy he's still got it.

After vast domination of the sport throughout the 1990s, he's seen the game evolve and new players steel his crown. But not being the arrogant type, it's never crushed his desire to compete.

He's sunk so far away from the dizzy heights he once enjoyed that he was even on the brink of falling out of the top 16 earlier this season. Rather than go through the motions and let it happen, he pulled his socks up and produced crucial wins to retain his place in the elite.

So he's shown that even all these years later that he's still got the stomach for a fight.

But tonight he proved he's still got the class. Despite going on to lose his all-Scottish second round match 4-2 against Stephen Maguire, he hit a terrific maximum to steal the headlines.

Break building has always been Hendry's strongest asset. It's something you never lose. It was great to see the seven-time world champion enjoying another day in the sun, especially at a time when he's beginning to get a few critics.

Tonight though he issued a timely reminder of what a snooker legend he really is.

What will be even sweeter for the Scot is that this also brings him level with Ronnie O'Sullivan's record of ten professional maximums.

Well played Stephen!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Welsh Dragons march on

Matthew Stevens and Ryan Day followed in the footsteps of fellow countryman Mark Williams to make it three Welshmen into the last 16 in Newport.

Welsh players have often struggled to live up to expectations on their own turf.

But they're not suffering from confidence so far in this tournament.

Williams set the bar yesterday with a fantastic display to advance past Marco Fu. The crowd had more high hopes today. Stevens and Day didn't disappoint.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Wonderful Williams whitewashes Fu

Mark Williams has been touted as the fans' favourite to lift this year's Welsh Open.

Fresh off the back of his triumph at the German Masters just a little over a week ago, and playing the kind of snooker which saw him at the top of the game a decade ago, he's in red-hot form.

He proved that beyond any doubt today as he smashed past Marco Fu with ease 4-0, to steal all the headlines on day two in Newport, to the delight of the home crowd.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Brave Lisowski loses on TV debut

In my tournament preview yesterday, I said we needed something special on the baize to save a competition where crowds were expected to be low.

As predicted, not many made the trip to Newport.

But that didn't make it any less entertaining for all the fans who opted to watch the action from their television sets.

The snooker, thankfully, was still of the highest order.

In fact, a new star of the game was born.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Welsh Open: Tournament preview

The Welsh Open has long been the poorest relation in the set of snooker's ranking events.

This year was shaping up as being different with rankings ahead of this year's World Championship at stake, but with the event in desperate need of winning back some respect, it couldn't come at a worse time.

Just a week after the German Masters, where European fans flooded through the doors and players contested in front of largely capacity crowds, attendances at Newport are likely to be low.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Whitewash is the way to Wales

Fourteen qualifiers secured their place at this year's Welsh Open today.

They say the qualifying circuit is as tough as it's ever been, but judging by six players booking their slot with 4-0 wins, that was dispelled a myth, as Sheffield became domination station.

And to boot, only one match went the full distance.

Marcus Campbell, Stuart Bingham, Gerard Greene, Dave Harold, Jamie Burnett and Barry Hawkins all swanned through without losing a frame...

Lisowski leads the way to Newport

Jack Lisowski is fast becoming the man no-one wants to play in qualifying.

The 19-year-old potter continued his terrific debut season on tour by pipping Martin Gould to the Welsh Open.

Lisowski snatched a 4-3 win, albeit with the help of a fluke in the final frame, to book his opening round match with world number one John Higgins.

He said: "It will be a great chance to learn, and that's my attitude in all of these matches, they are all about learning how to improve my game. I've definitely exceeded my expectations this season, although I felt that I could win a lot of matches.

"I had a bit of luck against Martin today because I fluked a red early in the deciding frame. But overall this week I've played really well."

On this run, Lisowski also whitewashed Fergal O'Brien and beat Liam Highfield 4-1. Even inside his first season as a pro, Lisowski is quickly maturing and showing just what a force he can become in the game.

Well played Jack!

Check back later for the full round-up of who's making the trip to Newport.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Added spice at this year's Welsh

You've got to love the new snooker calendar.

Barely has the German Masters finished, and now the players are being plunged into the Welsh Open.

Tomorrow sees the start fo the qualifiers for Newport, but unlike previous years where this has often been the poor man's ranking event, there's added significance.

With a ranking cut-off point due for after the event, every player will be scrapping for their seeding ahead of this year's World Championship.

This should give the event that little bit of extra spice it's sometimes missing. Amd with the qualifiers being played over seven frames and without an interval, it promises to be fast and furious.

Qualifiers, start your engines...

Martin Gould - EXCLUSIVE interview

Here at OnCue, I like to give you more than just reaction to the great game of snooker.
Getting player interviews can be a tough task at the best of times. But on top of a full-time job, it makes it even more challenging.

Nonetheless, I'm as committed as ever to bring my readers only the best.

To kick off 2011, I spoke to one of the sport's most improved players.

Martin Gould has been one individual to really profit from Barry Hearn's PTC series. So much so, he's now on the cusp of a place in the world's top 16.

Find out more about Gouldy here... 

Williams bounces to Berlin win

Mark Williams is back - and so is snooker.

The Welshman ended a terrific week of action on the continent by winning the German Masters final 9-7 against Mark Selby.

Back in buisness, it marks his first major ranking event title since he was crowned world champion in 2003.

It's been a long road back for Williams after he famously slipped so low down the rankings. In truth, he's been back to something near his top form before this tournament, but getting back on the honours board will be the icing on the cake.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Swail surges on as Murphy bites the dust

Joe Swail advanced to a rare quarter-final berth this afternoon as he downed world number five Shaun Murphy 5-2 in Berlin.

The Belfast man played out of his skin to beat fellow countryman Mark Allen in the first round, but he was at it again as he put pay to Murphy's title charge.

After losing the first frame, Swail strung together a run of four straight frames to take complete control of the match. A break of 52 in the sixth looked like he'd blown the Magician to pieces, but after a brief revival, he eventually wrapped up the famous win in frame seven.

This victory is Swail's sixth in this year's German Masters after coming through a gruelling qualifying schedule, but he couldn't be any happier with his return to form.

He said: "I'm over the moon with that, it was another tough match but I didn't want today to be an anti-climax after the Mark Allen victory yesterday.

"I've played six games to reach the quarter-finals and I was just chatting to Mark Selby who is at the same stage playing just twice! But it's perhaps a blessing in disguise as I feel I gain momentum as tournaments progress and I'm feeling very comfortable in my game with no fear as to who I could face next."

Even though Swail hasn't enjoyed much success for a little while, it again shows how dangerous some of the game's lower ranked players can still be. Into the quarter-finals and with no John Higgins, Ronnie O'Sullivan, Neil Robertson or Murphy, the competition remains wide open.

Also through to the last eight are Mark Selby, Graeme Dott, Marco Fu Ding Junhui, who will now all have their eyes on the prize.

Selby put an end to Stephen Hendry's run with a 5-3 win, while in-form Ding dismissed Peter Ebdon 5-2, finishing off the match with back-to-back tons.

Dott knocked out Hamilton 5-2 while the withdrawal of Higgins saw Fu bounce through.

My condolences go out to John, and all his family after their loss.

Robertson ends nightmare day with Berlin exit

World champion Neil Robertson was dumped out of the German Masters last night - and he'll wish he never even made the trip.

At one point, his participation in the event was in doubt as he lost his passport before jetting off.

Luckily for him though, he found his documents. But that wasn't the end of his misery, as he was beaten 5-4 by a confident Anthony Hamilton.

It's difficult to say for certain that the Aussie's passport fiasco had an effect on the outcome of this match, but you suspect the world number two didn't go into this match as focused as he may normally have been.

It's one of those days he'll just have to resign as a bad day at the office. I recommend he doesn't lose too much sleep over the matter though.

These kind of errors can happen to the best of us, and Robertson is definitely one of the best of us in snooker terms.

I've heard some people criticising him for his lack of professionalism, and bemoaning why these kinds of incidents regularly seem to happen in the Robertson camp.

He may be a world champion, but people forget he's still only a young lad, and a great player at that. Get off his back!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Ding and Selby on song - but Allen crashes out

It's funny how quickly things can change in snooker.

At the Masters just a month ago, Marl Allen advanced to the semi-finals, while Mark Selby was dumped out in the first round by Mark King.

But the roles were reversed today in Berlin.

Selby looked in fine nick as he cruised past Shoot-Out champion Nigel Bond 5-1.

While Bond's bubble has burst, it's great to see the Jester back winning games. He's had a bad start to 2011, but will be looking to make his mark now.

On the other hand, Allen, a player who has been in superb form for a while now, lost out in the first round to fellow Northern Irelander Joe Swail 5-3.

He also suffered and early Shoot-Out exit. It looks to me as if the hangover of his Masters semi-final collapse against Marco Fu, may be lingering.

Ding is carrying on his fine form that saw him lift the Masters trophy though. A 5-1 winner against Matthew Stevens, he seems on a mission to win trophies since the turn of the year.

Hendry rises to the big occassion

Stephen Hendry is acclaimed by many as the greatest player the sport has ever produced.

With a record seven world titles to his name, he's never been shy of the big occasion. It's just that these days, those big occasions tend to be in the early rounds of competitions, instead of the finals.

Today, the Scot faced arguably the biggest match of his season so far.

And in true Hendry fashion, he came out of it a 5-2 winner against one of snooker's young guns, 21-year-old Judd Trump.

Hendry is not the player he used to be by any stretch of the imagination. Down to number 14 in the world rankings, his slide has been alarming.

And with a large clutch of players sitting only a few ranking points outside of the elite, pressure for places is more intense than ever.

It's not long now until the Welsh Open, which happens to be the ranking cut-off point ahead of the World Championships.

Because of this, Hendry is fighting for his life, with a Crucible place at stake. Facing Trump today, one of the many player's bidding to break into the top 16, a win was imperative for Hendry. By his own admission, he needs to start winning matches, and that's exactly what he did, and well, in Berlin.

A lot of snooker fans will have smiles on their faces today as one of the game's legends advanced to the second round.

While this victory certainly doesn't assure him of a place at the Crucible, it shows he at least has the bottle for the fight.

Well played Stephen!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

No wildcard wonders as seeds progress on opening night

The real business starts in Berlin tomorrow, but tonight there was the small matter of the wildcard round.

I think it's a great idea to invest in young homegrown talent in snooker. The wildcard round in tournaments certainly ticks that box, but by the same token I always feel as if the qualifying seeds have been robbed if they get beaten.

Tonight though, there were no shocks.

All the seeded qualifiers advanced to the last 32, and it feels only right that they've got the place they earned in qualifying.

Joe Swail was the most comprehensive winner of the night, as he steamrolled past Belgium's Hans Blanckaert. The Northern Ireland man played well throughout and came close to a maximum, only to miss the final red on 112.

Nigel Bond didn't seem to be suffering from any kind of Shoot-Out hangover. He beat Germany's Stefan Kasper 5-2 after falling 1-0 behind.

Anthony Hamilton faced the daunting prospect of having to overcome 13-year-old Pawel Leyk, but he did so 5-1. Jack Lisowski dismissed well-known Belgian prodigy Luca Brecel 5-2 on debut, and Thailand's Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon also won on his maiden major ranking event outing, defeating Poland's Tomasz Skalski 5-3.

It's great for snooker to be back in Berlin, and although news of Ronnie O'Sullivan's withdrawl has left many fans disappointed, the atmosphere was still great on night one of the competition.

With five tables playing at once without partitions, it will be as bit of a test for the bigger players, although a similar set-up at this season's EPTC means they're slightly more accustomed to the layout.

Roll on day two!

Ronnie pulls out of German Masters

Ronnie O'Sullivan has withdrawn from the German Masters.

This will come as little surprise to most, after he pulled out of the Shanghai Masters earlier this season and only competed in three of the new PTC events.

Although he has stated medical reasons, this is a the latest in a long line of suggestions that he's lost motivation for the game.

Even though he did play in the UK Championship and the Masters, he was clearly lacking focus, and this announcement is just a further endorsement of how difficult Ronnie is finding it to engage with tournament snooker right now.

Down to ninth in the world rankings, this is yet another tournament he will fail to score in. Although based on his current state of mind and attitude towards ranking events, I don't think it will bother him much.

The real losers in all of this are the German fans.

Like the spectators in China, they adore Ronnie, and now they won't get the chance to see him play. A tournament without O'Sullivan always loses a little bit of edge, but the show must and will go on.

Dominic Dale will enjoy a bye to the last 16.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The German Masters: Tournament preview

The idea of Barry Hearn taking snooker global excites me.

A massive stride towards that aim will be taken tomorrow when the German Masters returns.

It' the first time a major ranking event has been hosted in Germany since 1997, and will be only the fourth time ever. In my opinion, it's a breath of fresh air for the game, as another country regains its affiliation with the the great game of snooker.

Just like China, I can see the German fans embracing the game we've loved in the UK for many years.