As we approach the final of the World Championship, let's look back and the high and low points of the greatest snooker show on earth.
THUMBS UP FOR...
- Liang Wenbo
Yes, his shot selection was at times suicidal but he was a refreshing presence in the tournament. He became a cult hero after walking into the arena unannounced for his second session against Ken Doherty and proved his fighting qualities by prevailing against Joe Swail in the most exciting of all the matches thus far.
- Brendan Moore
This was Brendan's first time refereeing at the Crucible and I was very impressed with him. Definitely capable of taking charge of the final in future years.
- Close finishes
You can't beat the Crucible for drama when a match goes close and, in the first round in particular, we had a number that did: Hendry v Allen, Ebdon v Cope, Davis v Bingham to name but three. Davis's comeback was a joy to watch, even if he did fall short in the end.
- Ronnie O'Sullivan
On and off the table, O'Sullivan has been exemplary. The standard he produced in taking all eight frames from Stephen Hendry in the second session of their semi-final was up there with the all time great performances at the Crucible. His 147 was an exhibition of sheer natural talent.
- Ali Carter's 147
Carter has been guilty of slipping up at important moments throughout his career but was cool personified in completing a maximum break just a day after O'Sullivan made his. Some break it was, too, not least the final black, which would have been a pressure ball to win a frame, let alone for a 147.
- The sponsors
I thought whoever took over from Embassy would struggle to establish themselves as the recognised sponsor but 888.com have been so enthusiastic that they've managed it. I'd even argue that they've helped to reinvigorate the event over the last three years without it losing its essential heavyweight status.
THUMBS DOWN FOR...
Once again, the middle part of the tournament was overshadowed by complaints about playing conditions. It seems logical now to re-cloth the tables on the first Wednesday as well as the middle Sunday and second Wednesday. This would surely lessen any complaints at next year's championship.
- The Joe Swail-Liang Wenbo controversy
Swail didn't do himself any favours, although, in his defence, he was speaking minutes after suffering a very disappointing last gasp defeat. The fact is, the referee - in this case Alan Chamberlain - asked both players if they were happy the balls had been replaced properly. Swail said he was and, if he had not been, should have said so in the arena.
- MC Rob Walker's 'Let's get the boys on the baize' intro
I wouldn't fault Walker for his enthusiasm but I can't be the only person who finds this catchphrase annoying. Last night, we had two of snooker's greatest champions playing. O'Sullivan and Hendry are not 'boys' they're all time greats. Plus, the crowd does not need to be whipped into a frenzy when they basically have to be quiet for the best part of three hours.
- The strike 'threat'
Possibly the biggest non-story of the championship was the idea that top players will put down their cues because of a row over logo spaces. They won't. Simple as that.
Interested though many of us were in the Champions League semi-finals this week, there is a section of the media who seem to believe sports coverage should begin and end with football. After his epic win over Stephen Maguire, Joe Perry was asked by a journalist how it felt that nobody had been watching because they were all tuned in to Chelsea v Liverpool. Apart from this being obviously wrong - not least because the snooker was still going on a good hour and a half after the football had finished - Joe had every reason to feel aggreived having just pulled off the win of his career.