John Higgins: For legal reasons, I can't express how I feel about this sorry affair. Let's just say my respect for the man is not as substantial as what it used to be, that's just my opinion and it'll take a lot for that to change. However, in spite of all that, it won't change what I think of him as a player: John Higgins is a man I am definitely thankful to have seen play the great game, he's a fine tactician and is one of the all time greats. If he does play a part this season, nobody will like taking him on, but I can't see him being the force he once was. Surely he has taken too major a shaking to be a realistic major winner in the future.
Neil Robertson: finished last season as a deserving World Champion, a title he always looked destined to win, but for all my respect in Robertson, I can't see him repeating the trick this time round. Don't get me wrong, I expect Robertson to win it again at some stage, he's a great player and has the potential to become one of the best we've seen (top ten anyway). Over the next ten years, I expect him to be one of three men taking the bulk of the titles, and I can see him winning tournaments again this time out, no problem. Thing is, retaining the World Championship is something that takes sensational play. O'Sullivan, Williams or Higgins never did it. Hendry was the last man to do it, all of fourteen years ago. Do I rate Robertson in the same bracket as the O'Sullivan, Williams or Higgins? Definitely not yet, and indeed I'd be surprised if I ever did, but Robertson deserves a lot of respect. He's a raking long potter, one of the best the game has had, and has got an awful lot of bottle. Something so many lack these days. Winning five ranking finals in five is a genuinely great achievement, and no coincidence. Robertson is a winner, and don't expect that to change too soon.
Ronnie O'Sullivan: I don't think I need to say anything about him from a playing perspective. We all know the score. One thing I will stick by though: he's the last man anyone wants to face, but I saw a dip last year. Oh yes, from time to time he was the jaw dropping Ronnie O'Sullivan of old, just not as frequently as before. He appeared to be tetchy at times, on edge, and that's not really a criticism of the man, he has a lot of demons to deal with. Mark Selby being one of them at the moment, from a playing point of view anyway. I made the bold prediction last year that 2010 was O'Sullivan last real crack at the World Title, but looking back it was a bit short sighted. He's still possibly the best, or very close to it. But I have a sad feeling that maybe three will be his lot. And that he has underachieved greatly.
Ali Carter: I don't rate him all that highly. If I saw Carter with a clear frame winning opportunity in a decider, I wouldn't fancy him to do the business. Don't get me wrong, he's a very good player, I just feel he has punched above his weight to get this high on the ladder. I can see him winning one of mainstream rankers, not with any great confidence mind, but a World Championship is as far away as ever.
Ding Junhui: He still has problems at the Crucible, and having a betting slip with his name printed on it is never going to a comfortable experience. But for the large part, last season was very encouraging. I rate Ding incredibly highly. I watched him brush all opposition aside in Belfast four years ago, including Ronnie O'Sullivan, and I was devestated to see what happened him against the same man in 2007. For the last few years, I've been worried about the guy, he never looked like he was enjoying himself, but his time in snooker's purguratory has been served. He's a great in the making if he can prove his mettle, and winning the UK last term was not only deserved, but a relief. Ding is good enough to be World Champion, and could win a couple of titles of note this time round.
Stephen Maguire: A walking disappointment. I expected great things from this boy, I bought into the hype 6 years ago, and was genuinely encouraged around the 2007/2008 mark. He has not delivered, and I don't think anything illustrated this as well as his hammering to Graeme Dott at the Crucible. He will not deliver, tough he's good enough to.
Shaun Murphy: He's confident. A plus. A negative. I wouldn't mind backing Murphy to come through a decider, but I'd be just as confident in seeing him play a stupid shot that's not going to work out. His shot selection is baffling to me at times. Murphy is good enough to win the World title again, but I woudldn't be as confident as I was in saying that two or three years ago. He has gone backwards in my opinion.
Mark Williams: He's one of the best players I've ever seen, sensational potter with a very creative safety game. It was great to see him win a ranker last term, but it's a matter of pushing on this time. He did the same four years ago, and failed to make the most of the momentum. I don't expect the same to happen this time. Williams played very well last year, winning in China and doing very little wrong in losing out ot Ronnie at the Crucible. Not to mention, he should have made the Masters final. He's going to be a man to watch this year, definite.
Mark Selby: A serious, serious player. At the moment, his main problem seems to be in motivating himself to take out, no disrespect intended, lesser players. Not winning in Sheffield after taking out the star man so impressively could only have been a disappointment and a half for the Leicesterman, but he must move on. He is more than good enough to win the Joe Davis trophy, and I'd be surprised if he didn't do it at least twice. He has the bottle, he has the safety game, he has everything, and along with Ding and Robertson I expect him to be at the forefront of this decade's challengers. Crucible Champion 2011? Early day, but don't write it off.
Mark Allen: Really like this guy. He's got a lot of attitude around the table, like another Northern Irishman I can think of, and very little fear. I would not be surprised to see him win a World Championship somewhere down the line, confidence doesn't seem a problem, and I would be surprised if his ranking title virginity will last the course of the upcoming season. Keep an eye out.
Stephen Hendry: Great player. Just not anymore. I can see him slipping off the elite 16 this term.
Ryan Day: He's a very sad player to watch right now. I don't doubt that people are being overly harsh on him, he's not a bad player and never has been. I watched him throughout the Grand Prix in 2008, a turning point in his career. He was by far the best player, but a poor first session in the final against Higgins was his undoing, in spite of a really brave comeback. Since then, we haven't seen anything like that from Day. His loss to Mark Davis was a depressing nadir in his career to date, and I'm struggling to find the silver lining right now.
Graeme Dott: The disrespect this man has been shown never ceases to amaze me. I'm not surprised he got as down as he did, personal problems aside he has never been given his dues. World Championship 2010 was a showcase of all that is good about Graeme Dott. He genuinely played out of his skin, and the fact that he didn't win the title is of little importance. It was a giant middle finger waving in the direction of all his doubters. It's great to have Dott back amongst the top sixteen, and I hope he can kick on from last season. He's an excellent player.
Marco Fu: Last season was a disaster. This time round will be a lot better, we can safely say. Two PTC semi-finals have already insured that. Fu is a good player, not pretty to watch mind, but always seems to be a little bit off the main men. Don't expect fireworks.
Mark King: Without wishing to sound disrespectful, I've always seen him as the odd one out in the top 16.
Liang Wenbo: Very nice player to watch, has a bit about him, albeit not between the ears just yet. His shocking shot selection and overly attacking game are holding him back, and until he smartens up a bit that isn't going to change. However: I think he's got the right attitude personality wise, he doesn't let things bother him, and when he's in full flow he can be a joy to watch. A ranking title, even if only a PTC, would not surprise me.
Jamie Cope: Cope has everything you need to be a top professional, with one glaring ommision: bottle. His performance against Ali Carter in Sheffield was so far below what he's capable of that it left me gobsmacked. Cope is technically brilliant, and perhaps the addition of rolling rankings, and dare I say it, matters playing into his hands, will see an improvement this term. Indeed I expect one. He owes it to himself, because he's more than good enough.
- Posts: 5009
- Joined: 02 October 2009
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