Snookerbacker

November 25, 2019

Betway UK Championship Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:00 am

Can anyone stop the big two?

It’s that time of year again, it’s time to head to York for the Christmas markets and the UK Championship, it’s also the week where the BBC come to town and pretend that this is the first tournament since The Crucible.

It’s always an exciting time for snooker fans, not only do we have this, but on the other side of the festive season we also have The Masters and a big part of proceedings here will involve players jostling for position and the right to make the top 16 for Ally Pally with only this and the Scottish Open left to go towards rankings.

But the main aim for the potters will be to add a major title to their CV. It’s usually a very familiar face who ends up taking home the trophy and to be honest for me it would be a big surprise if that weren’t to happen again with the big four players Judd Trump, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby all in great form coming into this, indeed each of the last 8 UK Championships have been won by one of those four and I’d say the odds on one of them winning it again would be very short.

There are many diehard snooker fans that bemoan the demise of this event, whether it be the 128 at the venue or the length of the matches, we do tend to hark back to the classic UK Championships in Preston. But I still think this one holds its own as a major, the venue and the city of York are fantastic and although I think they should reinstate the two session semi-finals, the matches are long enough to ensure that generally, the best players last until the end.

So is there anyone outside of the main four mentioned that might have a chance to break their stranglehold on this title? I suppose the first name that springs to mind now outside the top 4 is Mark Allen who is more than capable of raising his game at the highest level as he’s proved by winning The Masters, Shaun Murphy is coming back into form, John Higgins remains a danger but we’re yet to see much this season from the likes of Kyren Wilson or indeed the enigma that is Ding Junhui, who was last seen trying to hit a bulls arse with a shovel and missing, he currently lies 16th in the rankings, only £4000 ahead of Ali Carter so a poor show here will see him bumped out the Masters.

So, lets have a look at the quarters and see if there is anyone lurking within who might upset the odds.

Quarter 1

The defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan heads up the draw and I’d imagine he’s a man with a point to prove following his narrow defeat to Judd Trump in Belfast, meaning that with most bookies, Ronnie is now a firm second favourite. Looking at his draw it looks pretty straightforward up to the last 16 when I’d say he might have a test in the shape of Ali Carter or perhaps Ding Junhui who may end up having a Masters knockout match in the Last 32, but I’d say his main barrier to winning the quarter comes in the shape of Shaun Murphy. Murphy has been impressive since his season to forget last time with a narrow defeat to Ronnie in the Shanghai final and a title of his own at the China Championship, but on balance I think you have to side with Ronnie to at least make the semi-finals this year.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Ronnie O’Sullivan

Quarter 2

This quarter contains the in-form Neil Robertson and John Higgins and they are seeded to meet in the quarter finals here, but there are a few players that may have something to say about that. Higgins has been posting some decent results as ever but for me he’s not quite as clinical as the Higgins of old and I think there are a couple of banana skins facing him here, not least Stuart Bingham who made his sixth career maximum in Belfast and to me looks to be playing very near his best lately. He can negotiate his opening three matches (though Thepchaiya Un-Nooh will prove a test) to set up a meeting with Higgins and if that happens I think he’ll progress further to a possible match up with Robertson in the quarter finals, at the odds on offer and considering he’s playing well I think Bingham is worth an each way bet in this.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Stuart Bingham

Quarter 3

Another wide open section this with the member of the fab four in this one being Mark ‘6 minutes and 13 seconds’ Selby. Other names that might fancy their chances in this section include Mark Williams, Dave Gilbert and Stephen Maguire and there are some fancy prices around in the quarter betting if you don’t fancy Selby to emerge, he’s arguably the most likely of the top four to perhaps slip up in the early stages with Ricky Walden, a player who likes it here, in his mini-section. Although he’s definitely playing better than he was last season, The Jester is still a little inconsistent and for me he’s not a player to be putting the mortgage on this week. If it wasn’t for the fact that he generally runs out of steam in long events I’d quite fancy a punt on Graeme Dott from what I think is a pretty decent section of the draw. Gilbert still seeks his maiden ranking title and what a week this would be to do that, he has to have a decent chance of making at least the semis and from there with his Masters debut surely already in the bag for after Christmas, who knows?

Predicted Quarter Winner: Dave Gilbert

Quarter 4

It’s only November and Judd Trump has already won £412,000 this season, with three ranking titles already won and the first talk in snooker for some time of potential domination of the sport, he’s definitely embraced his World Champion status and is sweeping all before him with some incredible snooker. It’s fair to say that his section of the draw right up to the Last 16 is extremely winnable, even if he isn’t on his A game so it would be a big shock not to see him at the business end of things again. The only threat I can really see to him making the last eight without coming out of first gear is Gary Wilson but you’d not expect Gary to reverse the Crucible semi-final result there. It’s all set up for a quarter final between him and Mark Allen who also has a fairly straightforward route to the last 16, try as I might I can’t see anything other than a Trump/Allen quarter final and I think if there is anyone this week that could possibly spring a surprise on Judd, it’s Allen.

Predicted Quarter Winner: Mark Allen.

Recommended Outright Bets: Mark Allen at 16/1, Stuart Bingham each way at 35/1, Dave Gilbert each way at 50/1, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh each way at 130/1. Allen at 9/2 and Bingham at 8/1 to win their quarter. Quarter 3 winner punts on Graeme Dott at 20/1, Ricky Walden at 25/1. 

You can view the draw here

November 22, 2019

An Interview with a Rocket

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:03 pm

Decided to play here after all

With the Betway UK Championship fast approaching, the sponsors Betway have caught up with the defending champion to talk about stuff, it was probably meant to be focused on the event but as ever with Ronald it kind of veers off into other avenues, although to be fair they do a half decent job of reeling him back in to the matters in hand.

He talks about why last year’s win meant more to him than a lot of his others, what he feels about being compared to other sporting greats and why it’s not the right time to be making comparisons between him and Judd Trump….

Three decades and 72 titles into his professional career, there will be one thing motivating Ronnie O’Sullivan when he pitches up at the York Barbican to defend the Betway UK Championship title.

“Coffee,” O’Sullivan says. “There are some lovely coffee bars up there, there are a couple of fantastic restaurants.”

O’Sullivan is smirking as he says this, but the inference is clear: simply turning up isn’t enough for him anymore. There has to be something more to get him going.

Take winning last year’s UK Championship, which he celebrated with far more gusto than usual, standing on the barriers surrounding the table and lifting the trophy aloft before pouring a bottle of water over his head.

“I was being riled up by the crowd,” says O’Sullivan, who is the second-favourite to defend his title in 2020.

“Obviously, it was an important match and sometimes your emotions overspill.”

“I took quite a bit of stick during the game, which I thought was a bit uncalled for. It became more emotional for me than usual.”

But there was more to it than that.

“I just thought: ‘Two fingers up to you. You’re going to have to watch me celebrate 19 major titles.’”

By winning his 19th Triple Crown event – five World Championships, seven UK Championships and seven Masters titles – O’Sullivan became the most prolific major winner in snooker history, beating Stephen Hendry’s tally of 18.

The record reaffirms what several people already believed, that O’Sullivan is the sport’s greatest ever player.

In a recent Instagram post, the Rocket declared breaking Hendry’s record as “one of my proudest moments as a snooker player…a huge achievement”, seeming to finding a level of satisfaction that generally eludes him.

“It’s the consistency,” O’Sullivan says. “Anything that relates to consistency is pretty cool, and it was done over a long period of time.

“I’ve won a lot of major tournaments with a lot of pressure involved. I think it’s got to be up there with one of the best achievements that anyone can achieve in any sport.”

Reaching the top of your game inevitably results in cross-sport comparisons.

Neil Robertson referred to O’Sullivan as the “Roger Federer of the snooker table, and probably even better than that” in March, a comment that O’Sullivan admitted he was flattered by.

“The best way to be able to judge how your career’s gone is by comparing it to others,” he says.

“I look at Federer and Tiger Woods going for their majors in tennis and golf. They have four majors a year, whereas we have three, but I’ve been going a bit longer, which I suppose makes my record not look so good. I haven’t done the maths.”

Those that have, however, will see that though O’Sullivan has been going longer, his record in majors stands up next to Federer’s and Woods’.

The Rocket has triumphed in 25 per cent of the Triple Crown events he has competed in, winning 19 of 76. Federer pips that record, winning 25.6 per cent of his majors so far, while Woods has won 17.9 per cent of his.

O’Sullivan was comfortably the youngest major winner, too, winning the UK Championship at just 17, whereas Federer and Woods were 22 and 21 respectively.

It’s not hard to see why he has kept pace with such phenomena. The sportspeople he admires most are perfectionists, obsessed with winning, and combine it ruthlessly with their genius talent.

Consequently, O’Sullivan has become more impatient with mediocrity.

“Because I’ve played sport, I look at lesser players in other sports and just see them as the equivalent of someone down the rankings in snooker,” he says.

“I just think: ‘I ain’t got time to watch people like that.’ I want to watch someone who’s doing the business.

“I wouldn’t watch tennis unless it’s Federer, Djokovic or Nadal. I wouldn’t watch football unless Messi’s playing and I wouldn’t watch golf unless it’s Tiger Woods. I switch over to something else.”

Where O’Sullivan doesn’t compare is prize money. His career earnings from snooker sit at £10.9m – a remarkable sum, but one that is dwarfed by Federer’s £103.5m and Woods’ £118.7m.

“Tennis, golf, F1 and football are global sports,” says O’Sullivan. “I’m not stupid, they look totally glamorous.

“Snooker’s appeal is not as great. I get it, but you make the best of what you can do.”

Not a great just yet

The emergence of Judd Trump as a serial winner should boost snooker’s profile, with O’Sullivan now facing a genuine rival in terms of winning trophies and doing so with panache.

Trump wrestled the Masters title off him last January, beating him in the final, before winning the World Championship in May.

But O’Sullivan says it is too early to judge whether Trump can challenge him for the crown of snooker’s GOAT.

“We’re best off having this conversation in 10 years’ time,” he says.

“To be an all-time great you’ve got to do it over 10 to 12 to 15 years. He’s had one good season, and great sportsmen do it for far longer than that.

“He’s a fantastic player and a fantastic talent, but talent will only take you so far. There are a few more ingredients involved.”

For all of his nonchalance, O’Sullivan thinks and speaks like a champion.

After 27 years of walking the walk, it is fair to say he belongs in the company of Federer, Woods and others when it comes to being one, too.

Ronnie was speaking to Betway 

November 19, 2019

WIN! Tickets for the Betway UK Championship!

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:00 am

The team at UK Championship sponsors Betway have been in touch and offered me some tickets to give away for the UK Championship in York this year, so people, it’s competition time.

The tickets on offer are for the evening session of Thursday 5th December at The Barbican, I have two pairs of tickets up for grabs.

Please only enter if you intend to go or know someone that would gladly take them off your hands, they are non-transferable (i.e. you can’t sell them) as it’s names on the Guest List at the door on the night.

HOW TO WIN – GUESS THE WINNERS

The simple task you have in front of you is to simply select the winner of each of these matches, which all take place on the opening day of play, Tuesday 26th November. As a tie break question you should give your estimate of the highest break of the day. In the event of a tie, this will be used to select the winners.

So here are the matches:

HOW TO ENTER:

Tweet your 16 selections with using the hashtag #SBUKtickets and follow this with your highest break of Day 1 guess – example below

 

RULES:

One entry per person.

Entries close the minute the first ball of the day is struck.

In the event of a tie in the predicted match score, those closest to the highest break of the day will win the tickets.

The winners will be decided by me with no arguments.

November 1, 2019

Champion of Champions

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:16 am

You wouldn’t want it in the house

I’ve really not been switched on at all to the snooker so far this season, but with the cold days and nights beginning to bite, I think this week will finally wake me from my slumber as we head to the Ricoh Arena in Coventry for the annual Champion of Champions event, covered by ITV4.

Now usually this corner of the internet would be peppered with childish quips relating to the unfortunate hashtag that this event has afforded itself, largely I’ll confess down to me. Knob gags and frankly juvenile innuendo would be well under way by now, but not this year, oh no, a brave new dawn means that I’m not going to be making any suggestive noises about feeling aroused by the week ahead or looking forward to the climax or anything of the sort. This is serious stuff and will be treated as such by me, no more Mr Smutty. I promise.

I’m really not sure why I’ve not taken any interest in the snooker so far this season, but as winter draws in and the heating goes on I’m hoping that this will bring with it a rebirth of my passion for all things baizey. It has happened to me before actually, I more or less switched off from snooker from around 1997 until I started this website in 2010. During that period I only really bothered with the World Championship and The Masters and even then you’d not find me in an arsedent in the sofa for 17 days in early Springtime. I can’t think what it was that got me back into it but since 2010 I’ve more or less been 24/7 snooker so I suppose I am due a bit of downtime now and then.

I like this event, which is weird really because I shouldn’t. It has best of seven matches, a weird group format for the first few days, far too much lighting and it’s played on what can only be described as an oversized pool table, yet it is one of the events in the calendar that I’ve come to look forward to, possibly because it’s the first of the ITV ones, whose coverage (and adverts for funeral planning) I think is excellent.

In terms of the table, it’s manufactured by Rasson and is probably one of the ugliest tables I have ever clapped eyes on. Despite it’s hideous exterior however it was roundly praised by all who graced it last season with several top players saying they preferred it to the Star Tables used at every other event, so it just goes to show that you shouldn’t always judge a book by it’s cover.

There has already been some controversy in terms of the field this year, at time of writing there is a strong possibility that Jimmy White will be lining up as World Seniors Champion, even though this is not a main tour event, this only won’t happen if Michael Holt wins the World Open, whoever it is will face Ronnie O’Sullivan on Thursday. Less controversially we also welcome Women’s World Champion Reanne Evans to the event and she lines up against Shaun Murphy on the opening Monday.

Anyway, I just thought I’d post something up about this to try and get my interest going again ahead of a few decent events coming up, not least the UK Championship at the end of the month in York which is always a great occasion, I might post a few bets up on Twitter in amongst my political rants and retweets about rescuing dogs and definitely NO smutty knob related snooker gags.

It wouldn’t really be fair of me to post any recommends up as I’ve hardly watched a ball this season but I’ll probably have a crack on Neil Robertson in the outrights as he’s had plenty of time to find his way there having not been playing in China this week. It should be a decent week and I look forward to settling down on the winter weeknights to watch it, there’s nothing like settling down to a bit of CO…..STOP IT. 

The official Champion of Champions website can be found here

CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS DRAW & SCHEDULE

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 4 | GROUP 4
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)
Neil Robertson vs. Martin Gould

Shaun Murphy vs. Reanne Evans

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Robertson/Gould vs. Murphy/Evans

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5 | GROUP 3
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Mark Selby vs. Yan Bingtao
Mark Allen vs. Matthew Selt

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Selby/Yan vs. Allen/Selt

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6 | GROUP 2
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Judd Trump vs. Stephen Maguire
Kyren Wilson vs Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

Trump/Maguire vs. Wilson/Un-Nooh

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7 | GROUP 1
1pm
 | Group Semi-Finals (best of 7)

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Jimmy White 
John Higgins vs. Stuart Bingham

7pm | Group Final (best of 11)

O’Sullivan/White vs. Higgins/Bingham

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8 | Semi-Final
Winner Group 1 vs. Winner Group 4

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9 | Semi-Final
Winner Group 2 vs. Winner Group 3

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10
The Final

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