The 2009 Betfred World Snooker Championships has brought a much needed revelation to the so called ’dying sport’ as the games future stars took centre stage in what has been a truly fascinating tournament in Sheffield.
I have been an arm chair fan of each major Snooker event that is shown on the BBC for many years especially the World Championships in Sheffield. Whenever a major tournament commences I am the first to admit to friends and family alike that I will be extremely difficult to get hold of for that extended period of time.
This year has been no different. One thing that is obvious to me and many in the 2009 World Championships is the progressive step-up of tomorrows stars. Try to ignore Stephen Hendry rolling back the years and John Higgins being Mr Consistent, this years tale is all about the pupils becoming the masters.
Pick up any type of newspaper from the past week and I guarantee you will spot the name Mark Allen in every sports section. The northern Irishman has written the Snooker headlines for all the right reasons over the past week(s).
His aggressive style has not gone unnoticed and he was not surprised to send world number one and favourite Ronnie O Sullivan packing in round two, a result which inspired the youngster to wipe-out his opponents comments earlier on in the year that Snooker was dying and instead took the headlines himself.
“To play one of your heroes at The Crucible was a dream come true, and that inspired me. I’ve always been confident in my own ability but you look at my results on paper and you’d probably question that! But I’m starting to perform more consistently,” he told BBC Sport.
“There are more than enough players to take the mantle. I don’t think the game has ever been in better health player-wise.”
He added, “I’m here to win matches and to win tournaments and if that brings headlines and media interest you have to be prepared for that as a snooker player. It’s what you play snooker for at the end of the day.”
Its difficult how a neutral could understand Ronnie O Sullivan’s claims that the sport is dying!
Mark Allen isn’t the only player this year to make the step up. Jamie Cope, whose Cuing action has been compared to the 1978 World Champion Ray Reardon, took John Higgins two a final frame decider in their second round match.
The 23-year old from Stoke showed all the qualities needed to become a future World Champion beating the experienced Joe Perry in round one and had one foot in the quarter-final stage against Higgins and the Scot had kind words to say about his spirited opponent.
“Jamie is going to be feeling absolutely devastated but it will hold him in good stead. He’ll come back again and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll win it [the title] one day, no problem.”
Two-time world champion John Higgins faced another of the sports young breed of future stars in his quarter-final epic, just edging past a fantastic Mark Selby in what was one of the greatest snooker matches I had have ever witnessed.
For a second successive match, John Higgins was taken to the wire in a final-frame decider and once again Higgins’ experience was the only factor that separated the players.
The Scott told World Snooker, “Only Ronnie playing great stuff has stopped him winning another Masters, and the UK when he made a 147 in the last frame.
It speaks volumes that only Ronnie has been able to stop him. I could tell after the 2007 final, I said he’ll come back and win this, because he’s improved beyond belief over the last 2 or 3 years.”
One other player who has excelled at this years championship’s is the Australian Neil Robertson. An outsider at 25-1 before the competition began, now very much a threat in the semi-final as the Aussie hopes to become the first overseas player to win the illustrious tournament since 1978.
With this new talent breathing down the experienced players backs and powering up the top 16 rankings, it wont come as a surprise to see the boys of the 90’s, the likes of Stephen Hendry, John Higgins and Peter Ebdon, joining the boys from the 80’s in the BBC studio and commentary box.
John Higgins v Mark Allen
Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson