As promised, here is part two of my half term report, this time focusing on the players ranked 9-16.
Incidentally, the irony of someone with a pretty poor academic record doing this isn't lost on me...
PETER EBDON: E (started 9th, now 19th)
Peter is danger of following the likes of Ken Doherty and Mark Williams out of the top 16 after a desperately disappointing start to the campaign in which he has only won one match. He has traditionally struggled in best of nine frame events so needs a vast improvement in the World and UK Championships to arrest his decline.
In truth, he hasn’t played really well for quite a while and this itself must be a worry for him. Only a really big performance now is going to prevent relegation.
NEIL ROBERTSON: B (started 10th, now 14th)
Although Neil has slipped a bit compared to his official ranking, by winning in Bahrain he has taken an important step towards safeguarding his place in the elite top 16 for a fourth successive season.
He struggled early on and lost a couple of close matches so he badly needed an injection of confidence in Manama and that’s what he got, particularly in beating Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals. Now that he’s pulled himself out of this mini-slump the only way is up for the Aussie.
DING JUNHUI: D (started 11th, now 16th)
Ding was all smiles after winning the Jiangsu Classic and Warsaw leg of the World Series but neither of these tournaments carried ranking points and he heads into the second half of the season fighting for his top 16 place. It would be a major blow to him – and a sport increasingly relying on the Chinese market – were he to lose it.
Missing Bahrain was not Ding’s fault but one quarter-final from the other three tournaments will be disappointing for a player who won three ranking titles while still a teenager. The rest of this season serves as a test of character for a great talent whose temperament does not appear to be as strong as many of snooker’s other top stars.
JOE PERRY: C- (started 12th, now 7th)
Joe has consolidated his place in the top 16 and is well placed to finish the season inside the top eight for the first time in his 16-year professional career. However, having reached the World Championship semi-finals last season he will be disappointed with four last 16 finishes so far this campaign.
In fairness, he’s not had the best of draws – running into Ronnie O’Sullivan twice and Stephen Maguire once. Joe has impressed on his Premier League debut but will be hoping for better in this season’s remaining ranking events.
GRAEME DOTT: E (started 13th, now 48th)
Graeme’s rapid decline has been hastened by breaking his wrist in Shanghai, so his grade is a little harsh. Nevertheless, he went to the 2007 World Championship as provisional world no.1 and may start next season needing to win three matches to qualify for the Crucible.
His form did pick up a little in Bahrain but he still suffered another first round exit. Graeme has always been a fighter and he needs those qualities more than ever if he is to avoid disappearing off the radar completely.
MARCO FU: D+ (started 14th, now 9th)
Marco has risen from his official starting place but this is largely down to winning the Grand Prix last season. Two first round defeats and one quarter-final isn’t much to write home about for a player enjoying his highest ever ranking.
I don’t think Marco will drop out of the top 16 but it’s alarming how often he goes to tournaments and just doesn’t perform. We all know how good he is when he’s playing well but he doesn’t seem able to scrap through matches like a lot of players not on top form.
MARK KING: D- (started 15th, now 21st)
One victory in four ranking tournaments means Mark has been unable to make the most of his return to the top 16 and he is now battling to stay in the elite group for another year.
He is a player capable of beating anyone, indeed he has beaten all of the top players at one time or another, but simply hasn’t played well enough this season.
MARK ALLEN: C+ (started 16th, now 11th)
Mark has a semi-final and quarter-final to his name this season but also two first round defeats. Despite these, he is looking good to remain in the top 16 for a second straight season.
A lot of players who get into the top 16 find it tough to adjust to life as one of the elite. Mark is unlikely to be one of them because he’s always had so much self confidence. If he won a title in the second half of the campaign I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised.