Well, we’re four events into the new season, with just three more to go. Interestingly, for all their supposed dominance, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins have won just one tournament between them. I’m not suggesting that they’re not the two best players in the world, but I feel that 2010 could be the last realistic chance for both to claim a fourth World title. Controversial perhaps, but I’m going to stand by it. They’ll still be the men to beat, but for me, 2009/10 could be seen as a turning point in the history of snooker.
I firmly believe we are seeing the emergence of a new big four, with another player improving fast and making a big five a very real possibility. I think this decade could be ruled by Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson, Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy. Liang Wenbo is on the up, but I feel he may not reach the same heights as those previously mention. I don’t see a bright future for those originally tipped for glory: Ali Carter, Ryan Day, Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire.
Ding Junhui won his second UK title this season
Of the four, I think Ding looks the most complete, and I can certainly see two or three world titles for the Chinaman. He is strong in all departments, and his bottle has improven drastically. I no longer see him as the fragile figure I felt he was this time last year.
Neil Robertson, winner of this season’s Grand Prix
Neil Robertson is a joy to watch, his potting is sublime, his shotmaking excellent. Not only is he a great character (which is fine news for the game), but his game is certainly good enough to claim the World title, and more than once.
Mark Selby defeated Ronnie O’Sullivan in a thrilling Masters final this year
It’s been great to see Mark Selby’s return to form, and I’ve always rated him as an excellent player. He has bottle, a terrific safety game, and in my opinion he’s the best shotmaker. Have no doubt, he will be a force.
Shaun Murphy has already won the game’s two most important tournaments
Shaun Murphy hasn’t reached too high this season, but he’s already won a World & UK, and I’d be stunned if he didn’t win another World title this decade. I think he could be the weak link of the big four, but he’s a very good player, and if he can recover some consistency, he’ll be a tough man to beat.
Liang Wenbo has improved considerably this season
Liang Wenbo is an affable character, happy-go-lucky, cheeky chappy. His game has improved this season, and the results are improving. I think his lack of a safety game may let him down, but if he’s on-form, his attacking game could still get him places. World Champion though? Not so sure.
All I’m sure of: we are witnessing a turning point in the game’s history. Higgins & O’Sullivan have been great, and still are, but I think we’re finally seeing a shift in power. Exciting times indeed.