This is a post on various subjects from the world of snooker. The end of the season is coming. The World Snooker Championship (WSC) is coming, and the brief reign of the current champion may soon be over. Time flies. It is hard to believe that another WSC will take place next month. In the meantime, a new phase of the WST Pro Series began this week, and the tournament continues until its completion on March 21. Soon after the WST Pro Series comes the Cazoo Tour Championship, a prestigious event in which only the top 8 players in the one-year list are allowed to compete. And finally, the last phases of the Championship League will occur in late March. The WSC shall begin in the second half of April if everything goes smoothly as planned. Judd Trump will be the undisputed favorite for this year’s WSC, but that doesn't mean it will be easy for the best in the world to win it for a second time. If John Higgins continues to play as he played at the Cazoo Players Championship, surely the Scottish player will become world champion for a fifth time. Another candidate to conquer the Crucible is Mark Selby, who played well throughout the season and won two titles. Selby’s game is really suited for the long matches of the WSC. I think it's unlikely that Neil Robertson will become champion for a second time. For some reason, the Australian player doesn't play at his best at the WSC. And last but not least: I also find it unlikely that the current world champion will be able to defend his title because he hasn’t won anything this season yet. It is not like he lacks talent - that he has in abundance - but talent alone is not enough to win in Sheffield. And of course, there is the possibility of some other player becoming champion, but then again, I find it highly unlikely.
Changing the subject. The Gibraltar Open took place last week. Of course, it was not staged in Gibraltar, but in Milton Keynes. Judd Trump successfully defended his title. The world number one not only won another ranking title but earned a £150,000 bonus for being the best player over the course of the BetVictor European Series, which consists of six individual snooker tournaments: the European Masters, the Championship League, the German Masters, the Shoot Out, the Welsh Open and the Gibraltar Open. Trump won his 22nd career ranking title which is also his fifth of the season. Impressive! In fact, that's a record: Trump is the first player to win five or more ranking titles in a single season for the second time. He won six titles last season (also a record) and has won five titles in the current season. Regarding the tournament itself, Trump looked unbeatable from the start. The winning machine defeated Robbie Williams (4-1), Akani Songsermsawad (4-1), Robert Milkins (4-0), Alexander Ursenbacher (4-0), Mark Allen (4-0), Matthew Selt (4-1) and Jack Lisowski (4-0) in the final. Unlike the other four tournaments he won, Trump was not challenged at the Gibraltar Open as he defeated his opponents so comfortably. Truly a walk in the park. I think he wanted to make up for the frustration of an early exit at the Cazoo Players Championship. The other finalist, the young player Jack Lisowski, had to digest a third consecutive defeat in a final against Judd Trump. Jack had already lost 9-2 in the final of the BildBet German Masters, and 10-7 in the final of the Matchroom World Grand Prix. May that give him extra motivation to take the sport even more seriously and to practice even harder. Judging by what I have seen lately, Jack Lisowski and Kyren Wilson will be Trump's toughest rivals for seasons to come.
Changing the subject again. There are two events that have started and are not yet finished. The first is the WST Pro Series, which is still in its first round. The second round will begin next week and there will be four groups with eight players each. The top two players of each group qualify for the next round. The third and final round will have a single group with eight players and the player to score more points within the last group will be the champion (as far as I know, there will be no play-offs). The final round is scheduled for later this month. The other tournament still in progress is the Championship League Snooker (CLS). Only group 7 remains, in which are Kurt Maflin, Yan Bingtao, Neil Robertson, Anthony McGill, David Gilbert, Mark Williams and Joe Perry. Mark Williams has shown a lot of perseverance. The three-time world champion was originally a member of group 4 and has managed to stay in contention. He will try to qualify in his fourth attempt. The winner of group 7 will join Zhou Yuelong, Graeme Dott, John Higgins, Judd Trump, Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter in the winners group. The final phase of the CLS will be played on April 1 and 2. Just like the Gibraltar Open, both events do not have much glamour, but nonetheless are important to keep both players and enthusiasts busy. The last prestigious event before the WSC will be the Cazoo Tour Championship, which will take place in Newport, Wales, and shall give us a hint of what to expect in Sheffield in April. In addition to the race to claim the remaining titles, there is something more important at stake: the top 16 in the rankings will automatically play at the WSC without going through the qualifiers. At the moment I’m writing this post and according to WPBSA, Anthony McGill, Zhou Yuelong, Stuart Bingham and Joe Perry have chances of conquering the last available spot.
And finally, the most delicate subject. For those who do not know, snooker is one of the most diverse sports that exist. The main circuit is not exclusive for men and has never been to the best of my knowledge. There are also no age restrictions: both teenagers and people well over their 50s are competing on the circuit. It turns out that no woman has ever been able to enter the circuit by conventional methods (Q School, for example). The good news is: two established players on the women's circuit have won their place on the main tour next season. The female players are Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee. England's Reanne Evans is simply the best female player of all time, she has won the Women's World Championship 12 times! The Asian Ng On Yee is not far behind; she is a three-time world champion. It is beyond questioning that the ladies are very talented and competent on the women's circuit, but it is undeniable that the women's circuit itself, also known as the World Women's Snooker (WWS) Tour is far less competitive than the other qualifying events which grant tour cards. The qualifying events are known to be very tough. This has been perceived by some people in the world of snooker as a privilege, or as unfair competition, since there are many more men playing the sport and therefore entering the main circuit by competing on the women's circuit is, at least in theory, much easier. Here's my opinion on the subject: I think it's a good idea, honestly. In my humble opinion, the future of snooker as we know it is at risk for other reasons and I dare not go into details on this subject in this post (I could be abducted for expressing certain opinions on the internet). In truth, the girls are going to play under extreme pressure. They will have to prove that they deserve to be professionals on the main tour, and this is not an easy task. If the ladies are not able of going toe to toe against other players on the circuit, they will be criticized for potentially having taken away an opportunity from another player. Of course, the ladies are not to blame. None of them asked to play on the main tour to begin with. Anyway, I hope they can prepare themselves properly and train very hard. Whatever happens, it will be a pleasure to see the ladies competing!
And speaking of competition, the list of the 16 amateur players who will compete in the WSC qualifiers was released. The list itself is available on the WPBSA website. The English female players Reanne Evans and Rebecca Kenna will be in contention. In addition, the Belgian prodigy Ben Mertens and the French teenager Brian Ochoiski are also playing for the chance of competing at the WSC. The format of the qualifiers will be the same as last year’s: all matches will be a best-of-11, except for the last round, which will be a best-of-19. The action starts on April 5th and ends on the 14th.
Featured images credit: wst.tv