It's that time of the season again when I pick the brains of another snooker enthusiast.
Monique Limbos is next up in the hotseat for my Talking Snooker
feature, sharing her pearls of baize wisdom with readers.
got three tournaments to go until the big one at the Crucible. This
time out, Monique and I talk through the battle for the world number one
spot, who will be in the shake-up for the title and whether Ronnie will
make a dramatic return to defend....
begin by talking about the most recent event winner; Stephen Maguire.
It's been a long time since he won his last major ranking event. He
wasn't pleased that the media kept mentioning it, but it was too obvious
to ignore. It's never nice to watch a player with so much class
struggle to win titles. A lot of people have said he is an
under-achiever, so this was a timely win and potentially the kick-start
Monique: None of the top players can ignore it, even when the press doesn't mention it, because to be the best you need to be very competitive. They all care about winning events.
When the curtain comes down on every player's career all that really
matters is what you have won. Maguire has now got five titles but his
celebration in this one proved how much it meant to him. The wait for a
trophy must have been on his mind because he looked so relieved.
It was very obvious that it meant a lot. It was a very emotional
reaction. He said afterwards in the interview that he couldn't put his
finger on why he has not been winning for four or five years. He has
maintained his ranking in the top eight by continuing to make the latter
stages of lots of events but hasn't been able to convert those in to
wins. My personal opinion is that sometimes he can't keep his emotions
in check during matches. He is an emotional player and he doesn't think
clearly when he gets too emotional. This could be a factor.
Whenever I've spoke to him he always come across as a softly spoken,
quiet and approachable guy. On the table, he is far more ferocious and
Monique: He is a very good, strong
and dominating player. He's absolutely awesome when he's on form. That's
why his wait for a title has been so surprising.
OnCue: There are so many top players now that it's difficult to win events regularly but this could be the boost Maguire needs.
Monique: I think it will help him but the final few months of the season will be important. Maybe this win will unlock him but he should win another one soon to get the confidence to match his game.
I still have some reservations over whether he can become a world
champion. He has all the raw attributes but I question whether he can
keep everything together over the course of an the entire tournament,
especially during the four-session matches. I think temperament is the
only attribute that lets him down.
Monqiue: It's hard to tell. He got to the semi-finals in 2012. That's not bad. Maybe he's not too far away.
He's very difficult to stop when he's playing well but I wonder if he
is as good as other contenders at finding a way to win when he's not
playing at his best. I think there are players ahead of him in those
situations. Time will tell I guess. It was a great Welsh Open final
though, and Stuart Bingham more than played his part.
Monique: I think it was the best match of the tournament.
It's always good when that's the case because it means the event has
really boiled up to the big match. Sometimes finals can be nervy
contests. This could be one of the matches of the season for me. There
are lots of great new tournaments, but I worry that the Welsh Open
sometimes gets forgotten about. This match was a great reward for the
Welsh crowd and helps to put the tournament back to the top of people's
Monique: No-one wants to see an anti-climax. It's always disappointing when the final ends this way.
It was such a tight match. It could easily have been Stuart lifting the
title. He was predictably very gracious in defeat but this shouldn't
take anything away from his performances this season. He's enjoying the
glory years of his career and has a lot to smile about.
His Australian Open win seems to be the making of him. Also, he has mentioned
himself that he is a lot happier in his private life. He has his first
son and has a partner who he will soon be marrying. Stuart has always
enjoyed his snooker but he seems to be enjoying it even more now that he's privately happy.
He's been playing well for a long time now. It's not just a run of
form. He has developed big match mentality. He looks like he belongs
with the top players. He looks confident and is able to consistently
Monique: He's proved he can do it now.
He has won a ranking event, he has won two APTCs, he has won the Premier
League. He knows he can do it. He has found the self-belief he was
OnCue: I dare say this golden
spell is even sweeter for him because he had so many years fighting
lower down the rankings. It must feel like all the hard work has paid
off. From one Essex lad to another. Ali Carter celebrated his German
Masters win not too long ago. He's having a bit of a break at the
moment, but you can't help but feel pleased for him. We were next to
each other when he broke down in tears in the press conference after
losing to Shaun Murphy in the UK Championship semi-finals. I was
genuinely pleased to see him win a title after the battle he has to do
Monique: I think Ali is one of the most
under-rated players on the tour. He has his health problems and they
clearly have an impact on his moods. It's very difficult to be positive
if you are suffering. But you only have to look at his run to the World
Championship last year to see how he is coping. He was top class. He
played hard match snooker. I think he will be one of the main contenders
again in Sheffield this year. It's hard to predict when he will be
physically well though and it must be frustrating for him because he knows he
is so capable.
OnCue: I've always been surprised
at how difficult success has been to come by for Carter. When I watched
him breaking through to the top, I thought he would go on to win more
than he has. His technique is almost flawless.
When you feel unwell it is very hard to have the willpower and physical
strength to carry on. I'm not sure how big a part that has played. But
you are right, he is a fantastic player.
Time now to move on to the battle for the world number one spot. It's a
three-man tussle at the moment between Judd Trump, Mark Selby and Neil
Robertson. It looks like it's wide open until the end of the season.
Selby has had the most success recently winning the UK Championship and
the Masters plus a PTC. He's been dislodged by Trump, but is he the man
Monique: I'm a little bit in two minds
about Selby to be honest. He's won big tournaments recently but he got
thrashed in the German Masters and looks very tired. I don't think he
played well to win the UK Championship either. He found a way to win.
Isn't that just as impressive? He's an excellent match player. He has
won tournaments without being in top form all of the time.
When you play the way he does play, it's extremely intense. It
requires a lot mentally and emotionally. In my opinion Selby is on the
verge of burning out, if he hasn't already. I am a photographer. I spend
all my time looking at the players. He looked exhausted in Germany. I'm
not saying that he won't do well but I think we need to keep an eye on
him. I'm not sure he will have the stamina to go the distance.
I've always been a bit of a sceptic to talk of burnout. You can be
tired at the end of a tournament but I I don't think it takes too long
to be refreshed. The players can afford to go light on their practice
regimes these days because they are playing in so many tournaments. I
think a week of rest can make all the difference.
A week isn't a long time. Selby admitted after the UK he was tired but looked strong in the PTC and the
Masters after the Christmas break but after that he struggled again. I'm just a bit
worried about what can happen for him if he chooses to play in every
tournament. I think it would be sensible for him to skip a tournament
and give himself some proper rest.
main focus now has to be winning the World Championship, no matter what
he achieves in the other events. He has the chance to win all three BBC
events in one season. That would be very special.
The World Championship is a marathon tournament. He must give himself a
good rest before then if he is serious about becoming world champion. I
don't think it's in his nature to do that though. But that would be the
OnCue: In terms of his actual
game and taking the issue of burnout away. I think he's got absolutely
everything. He's produced wins in the biggest tournaments. He looks so
determined to win on the BBC.
Monique: Of course
he has. He is mature. He can play attacking snooker and also battle,
hang around and do everything. But his style of play demands a lot.
Fighting for snookers at the end of so many frames can take a lot out of
you. Right now, I'm not sure he can go the distance in the current
physical state he is in.
OnCue: What about Judd?
He's been in the opposite form. While Selby has been enjoying great
form, he's struggled a little. He's played poor at times, but is now
showing signs of playing himself back in.
He is only 23-years-old. There is no reason to talk about decline. No
player can play well all the time. He is in a bit of a slump right now. I
don't think he should worry about it long-term. Whatever he says
though, I think he is anxious about it. I can tell this by his body
language. He keeps saying that all he needs is a bit of luck. That
sounds like denial, or refusal to acknowledge it publicly because he is
worried it will give his opponents an edge.
Sustaining form is difficult. Since his big breakthrough at the China
Open in 2011, this feels like his poorest run of form. This is a test he
must overcome if he is to be at the top of the game for a long time to
come. He seems to be saying he will use his qualities in attack to break
himself out of his poor patch. I think he possesses so much ability
that he will turn things around soon.
Judd has got a very good manager. Django Fung will look after him and
know what to do with him. His form will come back. It is only a matter
OnCue: Judd clearly enjoys the
attacking side of the game more than anything else. That's as good a
reason as any for him to turn to this. If he can start enjoying it
again, I'm sure he will start winning again. He's showed signs in
Newport, so I think he will switch soon.
Monique: Judd has had the taste of the real highs. He won't be enjoying his poor form but he is still on a learning curve and coping with the poor patches is part of the learning process.
What about off the table? He has plenty of critics. People criticise
the way he lives and the things he says. Do you think he has been
Monique: Judd should live the
way he wants. A lot of criticism stems from envy. He is a young lad. He
has got sports cars. He can come across as a bit of a fashion victim,
but so what? He has earned his money and it is his own business.
There's no point putting the hard work in to win tournaments if you
can't enjoy the success in the aftermath.We should mention Robertson as
well. He's third in the rankings at the moment but has a chance to close
the gap with fewer points coming off at the next revision. He's always a
threat. He could easily end up picking their pockets for the world
number one spot.
Monique: The only thing
Robertson is maybe not getting 100 per cent lacking is how he is approaching games. He has the complete game but tends to get very defensive at times. He's not creating enough of his own opportunities. He is just waiting
for his opponent to make mistakes and hand them to him. He should take the
initiative more and go for his shots.
It's about his decision-making. He's got the long game to do it but he
needs to get the right balance and deploy his attacking and defensive
games at the right times.
Monique: He retreats quite quickly. That is the only problem he has in my opinion. It is hard to pick who will be world number one.
Everyone seems to be talking about Ronnie again. He will make his decision on whether he'll defend his world title on Tuesday. What do you think
he will do?
Monique: I don't think he will
defend the title. He has said in his TV documentary and to the press in
Poland that this is the end of his season, and maybe his career. He has
repeated this in Belgium. There have been reports in the newspapers that
he may still come back to compete at the Crucible but Ronnie hasn't
said a word. So, I don't think anything has changed and I don't think
he's changed his mind.
would love him to play. He's a massive draw for the game still. He's the
best to watch. The World Championship would miss him, as it would any
defending champion, but I have a sinking feeling we are at the end. He
owes the sport nothing though. He should do what is right for him.
has problems away from the table. He should put himself first. He was
under enormous stress last year. He doesn't want to have to go through
it all again. He would have to play the Crucible under great pressure
and with so much expectation. I might be wrong. You never know with
Ronnie because when he's well and motivated, he is up for the challenge
OnCue: We will have to wait and see. But thank you for joining me and sharing your views. It's always a pleasure.