December 28, 2011

The Month Ahead: January

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:31 pm

The Main Event

Welcome back everyone. It’s been as long a break as I can remember ever having from the blog this past week but I’m back now to look forward to another month on the baize in January.

For me personally, January is the worst month of the year by a metric mile. The three worst things that have ever happened to me have all occurred during this month, so I tend to be a little less cheerful than I usually am at this time of year, both because I remember all the events vividly and because I’m always worried in case the fourth of life’s turds is waiting just around the corner.

But at least there is some snooker to keep me occupied and the first event of the new calendar year is the conclusion of PTC12 from Munich in Germany. They played down to the last 16 of this in Sheffield just before Christmas and the likes of Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire, Martin Gould, Mark Allen and Ricky Walden are names that will be appearing from the 6th to the 8th. The main focus will be on Walden, who needs to win the event to overtake Ronnie O’Sullivan in the rankings and bump the Rocket out of the top 16. It’s a big ask for Ricky but he’s in good form and has won one of these already so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he can do it. The draw for the last 16 can be found here and Apollobet have prices on all the matches and the outrights here.

The day after the PTC final qualifying event sees a return to the oversized leather armchairs of Crondon Park in Essex as the Championship League gets underway for another season. The first group features Ali Carter, Matthew Stevens, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Andrew Higginson and Dark Mavis who play the usual format of trying to finish in the top 4 and not finish 6th or 7th and then battle it out in a knockout contest at the end. It has a strange charm all of it’s own has Crondon Park snooker and increasingly has the feel of a pair of comfy slippers as the dark nights and awful weather begin to take their toll. There are of course some major stakes being played for with players racking up the cash with every frame they win and a lucrative spot in the Premier League awaits the lucky winner, you can view all the dates and fixtures here.

While the last day of Group One of the Championship League is being played out there are qualifiers for the Hainan World Open being played in Sheffield. The event itself will be held in Hainan, China at the end of February and beginning of March.

This then brings us to the main event of the month as the Masters gets underway on the 15th from it’s new home in Alexandra Palace in London, or Ally Pally as it is better known. You can find all you need to know about the event here.

It is sure to get off to a bang of course as the holder Ding Junhui has been drawn to play Ronnie first up in a game that is already sold out. An added bonus for BBC viewers is that apparently Willie Thorne isn’t commentating on this one and Stephen Hendry will be taking to the mike a bit more. If that news doesn’t cheer you up then nothing will. It should be a cracking event and hopefully won’t be as disastrous from a betting perspective as it proved to be last year.

Just a quick note that on the 17th the blog will also be celebrating its second birthday, is it just me or does it seem longer than that since it started?

Anyway, once this year’s Master is decided it’s back to Crondon Park again for Group 2 before embarking on the madness that is the Sky Shootout from the classy seaside resort of Blackpool. Last year provided much mirth and entertainment and I’m sure we can expect more of the same. Of course Ronnie decided not to enter this year but we’ll still have plenty of chaps to laugh at as they are told YOU’RE OUT by the booming voice at the end. Judd plays Higgins and the Nugget plays MJW first up. Also freakishly last year’s finalists Nigel Bond and Rob Milkins are drawn to play each other, I’ll wager the microwave was on full throttle when this draw was made.

That’s it in terms of the professional scene in January, but unfortunately I won’t be able to catch much of the Shootout as the 28th sees me flying over to Dublin for the 2nd qualifying leg of the Snookerbacker Classic and straight from there I’m going to Gloucester on the 30th for the 3rd event there so it’s a bit of a manic end to the month for yours truly.

And that’s January.

Masters Trophy picture courtesy of World Snooker

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