January 16, 2011

Broken Promises and Eastern Promise: The Masters Final.

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 11:08 am

The description was slightly misleading

History will be made today as the first all Asian major tournament final is played out at Wembley between the third most recognised man in China Ding Junhui and Hong Kong’s Marco Fu.

I’ll get on to the preview in a moment and again, as it worked yesterday with a stream of winning bets I’ll not be recommending anything and I’ll just tell you what I’m backing. Maybe that’s the way forward.

Anyway, an update on my second day at Wembley and the reason I booked the place that I am staying in is because it promised ‘free WiFi access’, I mean why else would I choose it? The description could have been a bit more truthful and I’d have still booked it as I’m not looking for palatial surroundings, for instance in the interest of accuracy it might have read:

‘Backstreet pub with rooms on a suburban street with a bit of an edge after 10pm, lukewarm reception, full payment on arrival. Rooms equipped with non-functioning modem, not enough coffee, noisy fridge, television that makes a hissing noise and doesn’t have an outdoor aerial attached, bath that was built for a slender midget, two coathangers and (they must have done this especially for me) a calculator. Free WiFi throughout’

Those last three words would have got this bloggers custom anyway. But unfortunately, despite all the other promises in the description above being kept, sadly I was advised after I had paid that the WiFi ‘wasn’t working’. Marvellous.

Anyway, my point is that this was a blessing in a very good disguise, as because it wasn’t working I made a hasty dart over to the venue to ensure that yesterday morning’s piece went up in plenty of time and boy am I glad I did. I walked into the players/press area and there was Clive, reading a book. Nobody else in sight. This is my chance I thought to myself and I introduced myself to him. He smiled and gestured for me to sit down and got out his pen.

He asked me my name, what I did and when I told him he said ‘give me your number’, he then talked at length about anything and everything to very little prompting from me. It is fair to say that if I were to write a book one day entitled ‘my 100 best ever conversations’ this one would take some beating. Some of the topics he spoke of are not really ones I would put on here without his permission, but his thoughts on snooker in general, the past, the present and the future were fascinating. He also gave me his take on the BBC at which point I revealed that I was the person a few years ago behind this, for which he offered me hearty thanks. I was also quite flattered that he had heard ‘good things’ about the blog.

Sir Clive of Everton

Incidentally, it also turned out that the book he was reading was of course a snooker book and a review he will be doing for Snooker Scene, his magazine about which he obviously still has a great deal of enthusiasm and passion, he lives and breathes snooker, he really does. After our chat, Clive then left for his coffee and I went about my business with a new found confidence.

As I chose yesterday to wear the now legendary mustard jumper I did feel slightly more at risk of hospitalisation. Passing Stephen Hendry in the Players area for instance, who (I might have imagined it) did look me in the eye – though this may have been because he remembered me taking a frame off him when we were both juniors, I could see and almost smell the fear coming from him that I might be making a comeback.

But again I escaped unscathed and made my way to the arena, where I was greeted by one gentleman who asked me ‘are you snookerbacker?’. I owned up and it turned out he was an avid reader of the blog and was rather pleased to meet me. The world was a strange place for me yesterday.

After the afternoon’s epic match I made my way back to the press room for the players conferences. Because it finished so late in the afternoon the various hacks in there were, for once, sitting in deathly silence scrambling to meet newspaper deadlines. It made me feel very lucky to have the luxury of the blog, I have no deadlines, other than self-imposed ones to meet and this allowed me to take in what the players were saying, their body language and mannerisms and just tweet any interesting snippits as and when they happened. Allen looked both upset and furious, Marco looked like he hadn’t even been involved in a match, perfectly groomed, extremely eloquent and very polite. I even stayed in the background for his Chinese interview and could be seen nodding, pretending I understood every word he was saying.

After that was over I met up with a friend that was coming over for the final and managed to sort out some access for him for the evening. We sat exchanging bizarre ‘double or quits’ bets on each frame in the Ding v Cope match, yours truly predicting everything from a century from Cope, to more than 101 points being scored in a frame, to no fifty breaks and the like. It’s fair to say that had I been recommending bets I’d have recovered the weekly losses in the first mini-session, but alas, with an opening gambit of 50p, the winning pot never reached more than £12, which, in the spirit of the day, I wrote off.

Then finally, hot food, at this point I have to say Wembley isn’t the culinary capital of London. Fast-food dressed up as restaurant style with a sauce so hot that it took a layer off my lungs and then it was time for bed. As ever I couldn’t sleep and instead watched a DVD that a regular sent me over Christmas in the company of Hendry, the Nugget and Reardon (not my butler, the real one). Eventually, I called it a day.

So to today:

A final full of eastern promise?

The Final

Ding Junhui v Marco Fu

Head to Heads: 4-4. Last Meeting: Fu 5-1 Premier League (28/10/10)

Best Prices: Ding Junhui (4/9 general) Marco Fu (15/8 Totesport)

Fu has taken the last two encounters between the pair winning the PL match above just a week after winning the gold medal in the Asian Games with a 4-2 win over Ding there. Prior to that the wins go in pairs and anyone that follows patterns of results will be lumping on Ding today as he won the two previous meetings, Marco the two before that and Ding the previous two. In short, it’s Ding’s turn to win.

They are worthy finalists and are undoubtedly the best two players this week and I hope they serve up a great match as an end to what some have described as a rather disappointing tournament. The way the breaks have been flying in from the pair of them and the likelihood of it being a fairly close match makes the stand out bet for me the over 2 centuries which I will be backing at Evens with Blue Square.

For a potentially quicker fix, as I have said before Ding is a ferocious starter to a match. His odds of 10/11 to be in the lead after the first 8 frames over at Boylesports looks very tempting to me and I think I’ll be backing that too, in the hope that he doesn’t decide to have his little sleep before the evening session. I would rather back this than the very short odds on him to win.

As ever, the best of luck if you’re having a punt. 2pm start this afternoon so plenty of time for a spot of lunch.

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