Saturday, 14 July 2012

Mind the gap

The Australian Open. No surprises here.

With seven of the top 16 players in the world refusing to enter, we all said this was one of the most open ranking events in years, and so it has been proved.

Here we are at the semi-finals stages of the Bendigo event and none of the world's elite are here to contest it.

A trip Down Under was always a chance for one of the sport's lesser stars to grab the headlines.

For an outsider looking in, this is just another excuse for a poor ranking tournament away from the UK  shores but in reality this is just more evidence of the chasing pack tightening the gap towards the top players, as an increase of events continues to pay dividends.

The modern game of snooker is all about matchplay. Time on the practice table is proving insignificant as those willing to travel reap the rewards.

We're down to the last four in Australia but still the plot is as thick as ever.

Mark Davis waited 21 years of his professional career to reach a ranking event semi-final; now he's made it to two.

Following his excellent run at the Wuxi Classic, he's down to the last four again and playing as freely as ever.

He faces Barry Hawkins. He's a player who now boasts participation in five semi-finals but is yet to make a final. The former world number 12 clearly has plenty of potential but needs to couple his heavy scoring with better nous in bigger matches.

Marco Fu is still among the contenders. He is one of the grossly inconsistent players on the tour but continues to be capable of mastery. On his day, Fu is up there with the very best but too often he is poor. His form fluctuates to such extremes that makes him impossible to read.

Making a ranking final would be a minor miracle when you consider his record over the past year, and Peter Ebdon stands in his way.

The 2002 world champion has been the talk of the town this week, even if for the wrong reasons. It's easy to criticise Ebdon's slow play, but we should remember that even three months ago it helped him to a title.

He is getting results and deserves credit for his graft.

Picking a winner from here is almost impossible. The tournament is wide open and it's time for one of the pretenders to claim the throne.

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