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World Snooker Championships
Member Name: oxonian
World Snooker Championships
Date: 07/05/08, updated on 07/05/08 (255 review reads)
Advantages: One of the most highly fought and exciting sporting events.
Disadvantages: Marathon format of games may only interest die-hard fans
On Saturday the 19th April 2008 - the 39th Snooker World Championship, sponsored by 888.com, commenced. This event is unquestionably the event that every Snooker player, who enters the professional game, wants to win. Taking place at the aptly named Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, this year's World Championship promised to exhibit one of the most thrilling contests it has ever produced. With the masters pitting themselves against pretenders to the throne in marathon-format games, it did not disappoint!
The World Championship
Thirty-two players comprise the televised stages of the 5-round World Championship. Half of these places are taken by the 'Elite top 16' players in the world who gain automatic entry into the tournament. The rest of the places are won as a result of winning all of the qualifying matches that lead up to the finals.
Among the seven main ranking events in the Snooker calendar, there is not a match or a final, which goes beyond the best of 19 frames (or first to 10). However, the World Championship is a gruelling marathon, where the first round is played to a best of 19. The second round and quarter-finals are played to the best of 25 frames, the semi-final is played to a best of 33, and the final is played to a best of 35 (first to 18 frames). Therefore, this contest is one of gladiatorial proportions.
Each of the games leading up to the semi-final are played in two sessions of 8 frames and a final session to the finish. The semi-final and final are played in three sessions of eight frames and a final session to the finish.
Going into the first week, all fans and pundits had their favourites. John Higgins was one of the obvious choices as he was the reigning World Champion and World No1. He has not won a ranking title this season but he still remains the best and most consistent all-round player in the game at the moment.
In contrast, Mark Selby had been the star of the season, having won two major tournaments - the Masters and the Welsh Open. Akin to John Higgins, Selby is an all-rounder - an effective potter, terrific safety player and strong on positional play.
Another strong contender was Stephen 'On fire' Maguire, a Scot that went into the event with two ranking titles under his belt in the 2007/8 season - the China Open, and the Northern Ireland Open. Having made a 147 in the former, his form was in the best shape.
Moreover, the feisty and successful Australian Neil Robertson was in with a chance. Having, similarly, won two major titles in the 2006/07 season, he was a fire that could be difficult to extinguish.
However, the bookies favourite was none other than the legendary Ronnie O'Sullivan, making his 16th appearance. Despite the sudden dominance of the new breed of player, Ronnie has an unbeatable game when on top form... and perhaps even when he is just in form. To quote Steve Davis, Ronnie is "The greatest genius sportsman there has ever been.".
Ronnie made his first century break at the age of 10, and his first maximum at the age of 14. Undoubtedly, he is the most exciting player to watch, and mutually the most controversial. In recent times he has walked out of a quarter-final, half-way through, and after his exit at the recent China Open, made some lewd comments which were accidentally picked up by his microphone during a press conference. Nevertheless, love him or hate him, he is arguably the most naturally talented player that Snooker has created. He has won the world championship twice, and has achieved 9 maximum breaks in competition, one of which was rattled off in five and a half minutes, hence his title 'The Rocket'.
The Holy Grail achievement in Snooker is a 147 break - which is the maximum amount of points that can be accumulated with the balls on the table. The 'maximum' is the equivalent of getting perfect sixes in figure skating, or a 9-dart finish in darts. The reward for getting one of these is £147,000, plus the prize of £10,000 for the highest break.
The maximum had been achieved 7 times prior to the 2008 Championship, and two of those were by Ronnie O'Sullivan. This year, Ronnie's superior ability to control the cue ball allowed him to achieve his third maximum break at the Crucible, and his ninth in competition. It was a superb 8 minutes, and deemed the best 147 that has ever been executed on television.
Such is the rarity that a 147 occurs, that it has never been achieved twice in one Championship. With the aggressive style of play a lot of players adopted, it seemed only a matter of time before the second one occurred. During the quarter finals, Ali Carter, who has never compiled a 147 break, attained the supreme maximum in front of a packed arena and millions of viewers en route to sending Peter Ebdon back to Dubai - sharing the £157,000 prize with Ronnie.
Stephen Hendry v Ding Junhui was, to all intents and purposes, the Master vs The Apprentice, and was one of the most significant second round matches. Chinese sensation Ding is widely regarded as a future World Champion and one of the most lethal players on the circuit. Hendry's form had deteriorated over the last few years and featured in only one ranking final since 2005. It should have been a formality for Ding to pulverise the ageing Hendry. Conversely, it was Hendry that provided the comprehensive demolition job, burying Ding with a 13-7 scoreline.
Ronnie O'Sullivan vs Mark Williams was a superb contest. In 2001/02, two-time World Champion Williams was invincible, and winning every tournament in sight. In recent seasons he has been a shadow of his former self, but in this match, he exhibited signs of returning to his best. At first, the frames were shared evenly but Ronnie inevitably moved up a gear, and at that point Williams was mainly subjected to his seat to painfully watch Ronnie as he systematically destroyed him. Ronnie ended the match emphatically with the afore mentioned 147 break.
The quarter final match between Stephen Maguire vs Neil Robertson had the makings of a great match, with both being amongst the hottest prospects in the game. However, Maguire performed magnificently, pile driving himself into an 8-0 lead. With only 6 more frames to win, Robertson had too much to do. Robertson managed to get a few frames back but he could not stop Maguire in his tracks.
The semi final between Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Hendry was a major event - it should have been the final, given the form they both showed in the build up. Hendry showed early signs of dominance with a 4-1 lead. Ronnie managed to storm back to a 4-4 at the end of the first session. The match promised to be close but unfortunately, of the 15 frames that took them to the end of the match, Hendry was to claim only two of them.
Ronnie O'Sullivan played, what Stephen Hendry said was, "perfect snooker" as he whitewashed Hendry 8-0 in one session, ending the match 17-6 - a phenomenal achievement against the seven-time world champion and master of the Crucible. To quote Stephen Hendry after the match, he said Ronnie is "the best player in the world by a country mile". How could he lose?
And the winner is....
After getting to the Final with a session to spare, Ronnie had a whole day to rest. In antithesis, his opponent for the final, Ali Carter, had won his place on the back of an epic 32 frame match against Joe Perry, which he eventually won 17-15 on Saturday evening. Having got to his first ever final, he was fighting the fatigue of 15 days on Snooker, and about the play the genius of the baize who had just performed the best snooker.
As the game began at 3pm on Sunday the 4th of May, Ronnie took an early lead. In the words of Stephen Hendry , "Ronnie is a fantastic front runner. If you let him get in front, he will bury you", which did not bode well for his opponent. Carter helped seal his own fate by making simple mistakes. Ronnie never reached the outstanding level he attained in the semi-final, but his performance was still excellent, and the match rapidly became a complete one-horse race. At 8.30pm on Monday the 5th, well under the 12am finish of last year, the final scoreline was 18-8, and BBC coverage of the final was cut short by nearly three hours.
Ronnie won his third world title, £330,000, and the rank of number one in the world. However it was anti-climax to a fantastic 17 days, and seeing a victor looking terribly underwhelmed by winning the most important event in his profession was far from inspiring. Not one to disappear without causing some controversy, he went on to explain he may retire at the top, causing everyone to groan in a 'here we go again' fashion.
All in all, the World Championship was a pleasure to watch. The overall standard of Snooker was high, with two 147's and the second most amount of century breaks in history. There were a few upsets too, with Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy and John Higgins, the hottest prospects for victory, progressing no further than the second round, having fallen victim to surprise underdogs.
For a long time, the Brits have monopolised the game. Therefore, it was fantastic to see four superb Chinese players competing with the best in the world. Liang Wenbo was the best and most entertaining performer of the bunch, haphazardly getting through to the quarter finals on his first attempt. It marked a significant step in the game's evolution, and it will not be too long before more international players populate the game.
Ultimately, it was not a pretty end, but it was a sexy World Championship, and if anything, it proved there is life in the old dogs yet.
Thanks for reading!
FINAL (best of 35 frames)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) 18-8 Ali Carter (Eng)
Stephen Hendry (Sco) 6-17 Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng)
Ali Carter (Eng) 17-15 Joe Perry (Eng)
Ryan Day (Wal) 7-13 Stephen Hendry (Sco)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) 13-7 Liang Wenbo (Chn)
Ali Carter (Eng) 13-9 Peter Ebdon (Eng)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) 12-13 Joe Perry (Eng)
John Higgins (Sco) 9-13 Ryan Day (Wal)
Ding Junhui (Chn) 7-13 Stephen Hendry (Sco)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) 13-7 Mark Williams (Wal)
Joe Swail (NI) 12-13 Liang Wenbo (Chn)
Shaun Murphy (Eng) 4-13 Ali Carter (Eng)
Mark King (Eng) 9-13 Peter Ebdon (Eng)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 7-13 Stephen Maguire (Sco)
Stuart Bingham (Eng) 9-13 Joe Perry (Eng)
John Higgins (Sco) 10-5 Matthew Stevens (Wal)
Ryan Day (Wal) 10-6 Michael Judge (Ire)
Ding Junhui (Chn) 10-9 Marco Fu (HK)
Stephen Hendry (Sco) 10-9 Mark Allen (NI)
Ronnie O'Sullivan (Eng) 10-5 Liu Chuang (Chn)
Mark Williams (Wal) 10-3 Mark Davis (Eng)
Stephen Lee (Eng) 4-10 Joe Swail (NI)
Ken Doherty (Ire) 5-10 Liang Wenbo (Chn)
Shaun Murphy (Eng) 10-3 Dave Harold (Eng)
Ali Carter (Eng) 10-9 Barry Hawkins (Eng)
Mark Selby (Eng) 8-10 Mark King (Eng)
Peter Ebdon (Eng) 10-9 Jamie Cope (Eng)
Neil Robertson (Aus) 10-4 Nigel Bond (Eng)
Stephen Maguire (Sco) 10-3 Anthony Hamilton (Eng)
Steve Davis (Eng) 8-10 Stuart Bingham (Eng)
Graeme Dott (Sco) 7-10 Joe Perry (Eng)
Summary: A Championship which separates the men from the boys.
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