This is how he has reached that status:
2008 - R1 Mark Williams 2-5
2009 - R1 Tian Pengfai 5-3, R2 Liang Wenbo 0-5
2008 - R1 Rory McLeod 5-1, R2 Mark Davis 5-2, QF Mark Allen 5-2, SF Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-6
2008 - R1 Dave Harold 5-4, R2 John Parrott 5-0, QF Steve Davis 5-3, SF Ryan Day 5-6
2009 - R1 Robert Milkins 1-5
2008 - R1 Michael Judge 3-5
2008 - R1 Ian McCulloch 9-2, R2 Peter Ebdon 9-5, QF Mark Williams 9-8, SF Marco Fu 7-9
2009 - R1 Rory McLeod 9-7, R2 Stephen Lee 9-5, QF Ding Junhui 8-9
2009 - R1 Jimmy White 5-1, R2 Graeme Dott 5-4, QF Shaun Murphy 5-2, SF Anthony Hamilton 5-4, F Joe Swail 9-5
2010 - R1 Mark Davis 5-1, R2 Neil Robertson 5-2, QF Ryan Day 5-2, SF Stephen Maguire 6-3, F John Higgins 4-9
2009 - R1 Nigel Bond 5-0, R2 Stuart Pettman 2-5
2010 - R1 Liu Chuang 5-1, R2 Joe Perry 5-3, Mark King 5-1, SF Mark Williams (to be played today)
2009 - R1 Gerrard Greene 10-5, R2 Neil Robetson 8-13
What I read from those results is that Ali Carter is clearly a very good player. He's without doubt a good top 16 player and definitely top 10. However closer analysis of his progress to world number 3 reveals only a small number of impressive results. In the 2008 UK he beat Peter Ebdon 9-5 - he had previously beaten Ebdon at the Crucible in the match which saw his famous 147. This obviously gave him confidence for their next meeting, however Ebdon was in the middle of a marriage break-up at the time so that may have played a part. In the next round he beat Mark Williams however who can forget the kick Williams suffered when in the balls and seemingly on his way to victory in the deciding frame? The kick proved to be his last shot.
In his up to now one ranking event win, the only player of note he beat was Shaun Murphy. You can only beat who's in front of you so it's not his fault, however Jimmy White, Anthony Hamilton and finally Joe Swail is a dream draw for any top 16 player. He reached the final the following year beating some quality opposition in Neil Robertson, Ryan Day and Stephen Maguire before being outclassed by John Higgins in the final. The Maguire match was a strange one in that Mags had been on the top of his game in despatching Mark Williams the day before, but failed to show up in the semi. Not Carter's fault by any means, you can only beat who is in front of you.
So those UK and Welsh aside, the only top 16 players he has beaten in that time have been Mark Allen (5-2), and this week Joe Perry (5-3) and Mark King (5-1).
He is a quality player, however for me his game is all about break-building and not a lot else. A suscession of kindly draws have flattered his ranking. A comparison with in my opinion better players in Mark Selby and Neil Robertson reveals many more clashes with the likes of each other, Ding, Murphy, Ronnie and Higgins as well as tough qualifiers in Doherty, Cope and Wenbo.
For me Carter's first round at the Crucible against Jamie Cope will be good test of whether he really is world number 3 and a genuine contender for the spoils. A world number 3 should despatch of Cope quite easily, and should also cope with Williams in this afternoons China Open semi-final so let's see what happens. Good luck to Carter, he seems like an amiable chap and is a quality snooker player, but for my money he's not the best of the rest behind O'Sullivan and Higgins.
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