Monday, 3 December 2012

The early contenders

Judd Trump and Mark Allen's shock double elimination from this year's UK Championship has begged the question of who is going to take this tournament by the horns.

We may have lost last year's two finalists at the first hurdle in York, but there are still plenty of contenders and more great battles en route to the trophy presentation on Sunday night, I'm sure.

Picture by Monique Limbos
I read a couple of comments after yesterday's two shocks questioning whether there was any point watching the remainder of this tournament with the absence of arguably the sport's two most exciting young players.

It's difficult to deny that the omission of Trump and Allen hasn't dented the tournament, but I've never been one for rating individual players as high as an entire tournament.

As long as good snooker is being played, I'm happy.

Neil Robertson, now favourite with the bookmakers, played plenty of that today as he steamrolled Tom Ford's hopes 6-1 with the assistance of four centuries.

Victory at the Barbican would mark a superb achievement for the flying Aussie. He has already won himself two of the three BBC titles, with just the UK Championship missing from the collection.

Lifting the trophy on Sunday night would complete a famous treble and he looks like he's in the zone to go all the way.

Robertson is one of the scariest snooker packages in the world right now. He's a demon long potter, a prolific break builder and master of controlling the tempo of a match to his liking.

Who else has impressed so far? Stephen Maguire won rave reviews for his 6-2 win against Fergal O'Brien. There aren't many greater sights in snooker than seeing the Scot bully his way round the baize. He has an authority and dominance about him when he's playing well..

His fellow countryman John Higgins was efficient, if not spectacular, in dispatching of Michael Holt 6-3. He has a habit of growing into tournaments and finding momentum towards the business end of big events. He's a competitive animal and still be widely tipped.

Mark Selby negotiated a tricky looking tie against Michael White on paper with a relatively controlled win.

Form man Stuart Bingham showed no signs of fatigue in beating dangerous Jack Lisowsi.

Matthew Stevens took advantage of Dominic Dale, who fears he is suffering from shingles, to score an easy 6-1 win.

Shaun Murphy's progress could be interesting to watch. He's been edging back towards what I'd call tournament-winning snooker for a while now and looks mentally relaxed to have a real crack.

What about Marco Fu? He played some super snooker to knock out Allen. He's a fine talent with an unwavering temperament. He reached the final here back in 2008 and has beaten almost all of the world's best players at some point.

Who do you think will grasp the nettle this week?

Full last 16 draw:

Mark Joyce v Ali Carter
Stuart Bingham v Stephen Maguire
Mark King v Luca Brecel
Graeme Dott v Shaun Murphy
John Higgins v Mark Davis
Matthew Stevens v Marco Fu
Neil Robertson v Barry Hawkins
Ryan Day v Mark Selby

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