8.9.08

WEMBLEY WILDCARD: THE EARLY RUNNERS AND RIDERS

There are still four months to go and plenty of snooker to be played before the Masters at Wembley Arena but thoughts will soon be turning to who should get the wildcard.

As most people know, the tournament is for the elite top 16, plus the winner of a qualifying event, plus a discretionary choice.

The wildcard should reflect two things: achievement by a player outside the top 16 and popularity.

So who are the early runners and riders?

The favourite in my view is Liang Wenbo as he ticks all the relevant boxes.

He became the first Chinese player to reach the World Championship quarter-finals and did so playing entertaining, attacking snooker.

Liang goes for everything. This is not necessarily advisable but it does make for compelling viewing.

He’s only 21 and his presence in the event would raise interest in the Masters in China.

I think World Snooker were right to hold over two of his qualifying matches in the Shanghai Masters to the venue as his popularity back home is rising all the time.

If not Liang then who?

Mark Williams won the title in 1998 and 2003 but has now dropped out of the top 16. He would certainly add to the tournament’s prestige, as would two other relegated players, twice runner-up Ken Doherty and Stephen Lee, who lost to Mark Selby in last year’s final.

Dave Harold reached the Northern Ireland Trophy final while Steve Davis would be the choice of nostalgics.

And then there’s Jimmy White, the darling of the Wembley crowd for 26 years until he was overlooked last season.

White has made a fine start to the new season but will have to keep it going to get a look-in next January.

The way snooker is at the moment, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if someone outside the top 16 – perhaps Jamie Cope or Judd Trump – did something dramatic, possibly even win a tournament, to stake their claim for the wildcard.

The announcement will be made in November after the Shanghai Masters, Royal London Watches Grand Prix and Bahrain Championship.

So there’s plenty that can happen to alter the above list of runners and riders.

13 comments:

Nottingham Snooker News said...

It's a shame there can't be two wildcards, because I think both Wengbo and White would both add to the appeal of the tournament for obvious reasons.

Dave H said...

Thinking about it, there were two wildcards a couple of years ago but as the event is for the absolute elite of the sport the organisers have to be careful not to go down the road of having too many players in it

Monique Limbos said...

If the Masters is for the absolute elite, it would be uncalled for in my opinion to give the wildcard to Liang or to Jimmy White. The way Liang played Higgins in the NIT might be entertaining in the eyes of many but it was utterly stupid! As for Jimmy - although he seems to be on the climbing - he's far from the elite level.
I'd say, if Mark Williams confirms his place in the provisional top 16 with good runs the this fall tournaments, he should be the one to get it.

kimball said...

Liang Enbo,Judd Trump,Mark Allen
and Jamie Cope, all go for everything, I am a great fan of all four. but my personal choice
would be Mark Williams!
The gutfeeling is that Mark is on
his way back and if he is, he could
win the Masters.
A pity they can´t sort it out and
make a rankingtournament out of
the Masters.
Kimball

kimball said...

Liang Enbo,Judd Trump,Mark Allen
and Jamie Cope, all go for everything, I am a great fan of all four. but my personal choice
would be Mark Williams!
The gutfeeling is that Mark is on
his way back and if he is, he could
win the Masters.
A pity they can´t sort it out and
make a rankingtournament out of
the Masters.
Kimball

Dave H said...

I disagree with that last point, Kimball. The prestige of the Masters comes from the fact it is NOT a ranking event but a high class invitational tournament.

(and Mark Allen will be in as world no.16)

ProSnookerBlog said...

I agree with Monique really, not only is Willams a twice winner of the tournament but he is one of the best players the sport has seen and is still competitive as he showed by beating Shaun Murphy in Northern Ireland. If he has a good run in the next couple of events then I think that the Masters would be better for having him in it and I hope that would happen.

Anonymous said...

Having a qualifying tournament is a bit of an ass to be honest, if you want to class The Masters as an 'elite' event

It leaves only 1 wildcard spot remaining for a 'name' player like the ones already mentioned.

There are many players outside the top 16 who would add to The Masters, which makes having a pre-qualifying event even more ridiculous in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, what would happen if somebody won the tournament then fell out of the top 16? ie if Lee had won it last year of if one of the wildcards win it. Does that reduce the wildcard next year? Does it push the World Number 16 out? Or do they try to appease everybody?

Also, out of curiosity again, does anybody ever turn down their invitation to the Masters? It's a big financial pot but had anybody ever turned it down for ay reason, political or not?

kimball said...

Ok Dave, I stand corecctedregarding
Allen and the prestige of the Masters.
But anyway, the calendar is packed,
so why not let the pretournament
do a double as qualifying for a
rankingtournament, to save space?!

A questionmark to me is the draw of
top 16, are there any kind of draw
or are they slotted in after a fixed system?
Kimball

Dave H said...

The top four are seeded as per the World Championship. Players ranked 5-8 are placed to avoid the top four in the first round and the rest are drawn at random.

I'm not aware of any player turning down a wildcard. There could surely never be any good reason to do this.

Anonymous said...

maybe iam imagining it but was there 4 wildcards once about 10 years ago. There was still 18 players top 14 and 4. I think mark king was 16 and missed out and wasn't happy. I think steve davis and jimmy white were among the wildcards

Jon said...

Cliff Wilson was invited to the Masters on winning the World Amateur.

The pros kicked up a fuss and said they would boycott if an amateur played.

The easy solution would have been for Cliff to turn pro, but Cliff was a strong-minded individual and not one to "do as he was told".

I'm not sure if the invitation was withdrawn or if Cliff turned it down, but he did not end up playing.