I saw an interview the other day during the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage with Maria Sharapova in which she was asked who her best friends were on the tour.
She explained that she didn’t really have any because, as it was so competitive, the players don’t get that close.
In snooker, it appears to be the exact opposite: the top players are unbelievably friendly towards each other. They practice together, they travel together, they play poker together.
It’s not always been this way. Stephen Hendry once said that in the 1980s, Steve Davis would often pass him in the corridor without exchanging so much as a word.
Hendry himself often remained aloof during his years on top and even now keeps his distance from close friend Mark Williams if they ever have to play each other.
The late John Spencer wrote in his autobiography that he was perplexed as to why modern day players would practice with each other. His point was that it gave your opponents an advantage in the match arena if they already knew all about your game.
Of course, in Spencer’s day there were far fewer professionals and snooker was very rarely on TV.
Today, if you want to analyse how, for example, Stephen Maguire plays the game you can simply refer to a few tapes of his various matches.
But are modern day players too friendly for their own good?
I think that once they get to the match table any friendship is genuinely set aside. All these guys want to win and, anyway, they are there to play the balls, not their opponent.
And when it’s all over, players can return to being friends. I recall a couple of years ago that Neil Robertson beat his friend and practice partner Joe Perry 5-4 in the final qualifying round of a tournament at Prestatyn and Perry then gave him a lift back to Cambridge!