The first staging of the 888casino Champion of Champions event must be judged a great success and it proved a number of things:
Ronnie O’Sullivan is still the man to beat
O’Sullivan sailed close to the wind against the two players of the season so far, Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson, and did so again in the final against Stuart Bingham before going on to win the title. The key was his determination to dig in and graft when things weren’t going well. He kept his focus right to the end.
He’s an apt winner because, of all of last season’s champions, he stands apart. There’s no doubt that with O’Sullivan there is an intimidation factor which comes from his success, his personality and his general aura around the table. It’s hard for the other players to just play the balls and not the man.
Some players deny this but the facts, as at the Crucible last season, speak for themselves. Nobody has stepped up and convincingly taken him on now for 18 months. It will be interesting to see if anyone can at the UK Championship and the Masters.
I think of all the top players, Mark Selby is best equipped to do this because he can get under O’Sullivan’s skin, but he of course was a semi-final loser in Coventry.
There should be more invitation events
A number of top players said there should be more events – like this – for top players. They could be accused of self-interest but it doesn’t mean they aren’t right.
Not every tournament has to have a cast of thousands. Snooker works best as entertainment – which is what it should be when televised – when matches are evenly fought, and that happens when the players are evenly matched.
The general public – not those in the snooker bubble – don’t care about ‘fairness’ or ranking points, they just want to be entertained by the best in the world. Snooker historically mixed ranking and invitation events successfully. Let’s reward success more. Let’s reward achievement. Let’s give the top players more events like this.
They drive the interest which keeps the rest in a job.
You don’t need to have been world champion to be a good commentator
Sports broadcasting is not about what you’ve won but about how well you can communicate. In Clive Everton, Neal Foulds and Alan McManus, ITV4 found three of the best in the business.
Neal and Alan have both won major events but neither has been world champion. So what? They are each intelligent, knowledgeable and have excellent vocabularies. Their analysis was thoughtful and interesting. They mixed humour with genuine insight.
There was also discipline to the commentary because everyone knew what their role was: Clive was the lead commentator doing that information-led role and Neal/Alan the expert. It all made for an enjoyable, rewarding watch. ITV’s coverage was excellent.
Snooker in Britain is not dead
It has declined in interest and participation since the heady days of the 1980s snooker boom. The smoking ban was one factor but not the only one. Society has changed. Snooker is no longer a mainstay of terrestrial television like it once was.
But the idea that the sport in the UK is dead is nonsense. Crowds were good this week for a new event in a new place for snooker.
I am about as far from a little Englander as you can get, I can’t stand that parochial mind-set. I wanted snooker to go global many years before it did.
But neither do I want it forgotten that the UK is the place that built the professional game. It still has a place to play in this new era.
Barry Hearn knows what he’s doing
Hearn pulled this tournament together out of thin air. The nit-picking about the format before it began was quickly forgotten once it started.
Hearn deserves credit but he isn’t a one-man band. Sharon, Luke and the others at Matchroom organised and ran the tournament with their usual calm efficiency. They did their best to make it stand out with the set and slightly different dress-code.
Matchroom have a long record of giving people what they want, even when they don’t know they want it, and they can chalk this one down as another success story.