For the first time, professional snooker players have been drug tested out of competition.

UK Sport has confirmed that five such tests took place from July to September of this year.

“This is the first time we’ve done it in snooker, although out of competition testing is nothing new for us,” a UK Sport spokesman told me.

He added that the WPBSA “can request out of competition testing whereas in competition testing is conducted on a random basis.”

Put bluntly, this means that if the WPBSA suspect a player to be taking an illegal substance they can have them tested.

“World Snooker has the authority to test players in and out of competition in accordance with our anti-doping policy,” a WPBSA spokesman told me.

Indeed it does.

And indeed it should.

Any professional sport should ensure that its house is fully in order and free from speculation about the behaviour of its participants.

Snooker was one of the first sports to implement a drugs testing programme in 1985.

It followed lurid newspaper reports that Kirk Stevens was a cocaine user, later confirmed by Stevens himself. He never failed a test at a tournament, though.

There have been relatively few instances of players failing drugs tests. When they have they tend to be either through taking a cold cure and not checking the contents or through using social drugs such as cannabis.

Famously, Ronnie O’Sullivan was stripped of the 1998 Irish Masters title after testing positive for cannabis during the event.

Out of competition testing may turn up further instances of players using illegal substances between tournaments – stop and test 100 people at random in the street and you’ll find at least three or four who have recently used drugs.

But do drugs enhance performance in snooker?

In his autobiography, O’Sullivan writes of how he was taking Prozac when he won the 2001 World Championship.

This is not a banned substance. It was medically prescribed and I would argue enabled O’Sullivan’s performance rather than enhanced it.

Similarly in the 1980s Neal Foulds was unfairly dragged into a row over Beta Blockers, which he had been medically prescribed and perfectly entitled to take.

I can’t think of many substances a player could take between tournaments to enhance how they play in it.

To be very blunt, snorting a line of cocaine a fortnight before playing in a tournament is not going to improve a player’s performance in it but it is, of course, illegal.

There is not a drugs problem in snooker. The amount of positive tests over the years is far smaller than in most other sports.

However, I think out of competition testing in snooker makes sense as it is commonplace in other sports.

I do not know whether the WPBSA asked UK Sport to test specific players or whether the five tests done so far were based on random selection.

I asked the WPBSA to clarify the process for out of competition testing but have received no reply.

In contrast, UK Sport could not have been more helpful. Their spokesman told me: “the governing body can request that we test a player. There is no need for the player to be notified in advance.”

In this case, the WPBSA must ensure players know that if drugs testers turn up they should co-operate. ‘Failure to comply’ is considered to be as serious an offence as failing a test.

The British 400m runner Christine Ohuruogu missed three tests and received a ban, although she later won gold medals at the World Championship and Beijing Olympics.

One thing is for sure: should any player fail a test or fail to take a test we will find out.

The WPBSA disciplinary process is cloaked in unnecessary secrecy but UK Sport publishes all its drug findings in quarterly reports.



David Morris today narrowly avoided setting an unwanted world record at the Bahrain Open qualifiers.

The Irishman scored just ten points as he was beaten 5-0 by Michael Holt in the final qualifying round.

This was only two more than the record for the lowest ever number of points scored in a world ranking event.

Graham Bradley mustered only eight against Paul Smith in the qualifying rounds of the 1992 Welsh Open.

The record for the lowest number of points scored in a televised ranking event match is 11 by Mark King in the 1997 Grand Prix.

The all time low was set by Maureen McCarthy in the B&H Championship.

She scored only two points in one match and earned the unfortunate nickname 'binary' due to the fact that the marker's sheet read 0-0-0-1-0-0-1-0 etc.



Liang Wenbo today produced one of the best breakbuilding performances ever seen in beating Martin Gould 5-1 at the Bahrain Open qualifiers.

Liang made a 147 as well as breaks of 115, 139 and 139.

Ronnie O'Sullivan made five centuries during his 5-2 victory over Ali Carter in the Northern Ireland Trophy last year.

Peter Ebdon, Tom Ford, Stephen Hendry and Shaun Murphy have previously made four centuries in a best of nine frame ranking event match.

However, the audience for Liang's extraordinary performance was miniscule. His table at Prestatyn only seats 20 people and it was not a full house.

How different it would have been had World Snooker heeded my advice and put a webcam on the qualifiers.

The standard of snooker and big names at Prestatyn this season make much of what happens there more interesting than some matches at the main venues.

And it doesn't cost very much to stream matches live.

The money would certainly be better spent than on the Hotshots PR initiative, of which virtually nothing has been heard since it was launched.

Judd Trump turned this down because he wanted to concentrate on his snooker and has gained more media coverage in the last fortnight than all the Hotshots put together.

Why? Because ultimately it is what happens on the table that matters.

And it is on the table that Liang has reminded us just what an awesome talent he is.

What a shame hardly anyone witnessed this slice of snooker excellence.


We will (hopefully) soon be recording the first, some say historic, Snooker Scene podcast.

Thanks for all your suggestions as to what Clive Everton, Phil Yates and myself should talk about.

I have decided to throw it open to snooker fans and therefore ask you all to send us some questions you would like answered.

We will then pick some of the best ones and endeavour to answer them.

Please either leave your questions as a comment below or email them to snookersceneblog@aol.com.

It would be help if you left your (first) name and where you are from.

Many thanks.



Ronnie O'Sullivan's new official website can be found at http://www.ronnieosullivan.tv/.

It is not yet up and running but there is already a forum open.


There is only one World Championship to come in this 00s decade and so it is safe to state that Ronnie O’Sullivan has been the outstanding player of this period.

A reader, Sam Hinton, has sent me some research he has done taking in ranking points earned over the last ten seasons.

They are based on around 70 ranking tournaments and help paint a picture as to which players have found success - although of course some did not come to the fore until later in the decade.

Here is the top ten from 1998-2008:

1) Ronnie O’Sullivan 215,901 (total points)
2) Mark Williams 203,409
3) John Higgins 198,173
4) Stephen Hendry 196,720
5) Ken Doherty 166,702
6) Peter Ebdon 163,732
7) Stephen Lee 153,318
8) Matthew Stevens 146,604
9) Graeme Dott 133,327
10) Alan McManus 120,938

Points earned in the 1998/99 season counted towards ranking positions at the start of the decade.

In terms of ranking titles won this decade (starting in 2000), the top ten reads as follows:

1) Ronnie O’Sullivan 15
2) Mark Williams 9
3) John Higgins 7
4) Peter Ebdon 5
5) Ken Doherty, Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire 4
8) Ding Junhui, Stephen Lee 3
10) Graeme Dott, Paul Hunter, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson 2

O’Sullivan has not dominated the decade in the way Steve Davis did the 1980s and Stephen Hendry the 1990s but has still been the leading player of what has been a very competitive era.

He has compiled more centuries and more maximums than any other player in the last ten years.

Mark Williams and John Higgins, who turned professional with him as teenagers in 1992, are second and third respectively.

In the case of Williams, it is a reminder of how good he has been. Some may have forgotten this after his struggles of the last couple of years.

Notice Hendry fourth in terms of ranking points won – more than creditable for a player now late into his 30s.

Of course, had we examined the period 1995-2005 we would have got different results, so I don't present this as anything other than a fun and interesting analysis.

In a year’s time we will be gearing up to welcome a new decade.

Who will be the dominant force?

Ding Junhui?

Judd Trump?

Shaun Murphy, Stephen Maguire or Mark Selby?

Or what about O’Sullivan, who will end it as the age of 43?

We’ll only know with 2020 vision.



The Grand Finals of the World Series will be staged inside the Kremlin, the iconic seat of Russian power.

They will no longer be held in November but have instead been switched to March of next year.

A replacement event will still be staged in Moscow on November 22-23.

"The chance to hold the final in the Kremlin, one of the world's most iconic buildings, was irresistible," said Pat Mooney, chief executive of the World Series.

"It will be the ultimate launching pad for snooker in Russia.

"Eurosport, who have been covering the event, and the World Series of Snooker have had thousands of ticket enquires from fans all over Europe.

"We originally fixed the final for Moscow next month but when a chance came to play it in the Kremlin in March, John [Higgins] and I decided we could not possibly say no.

"However, to avoid disappointment for fans an additional World Series leg will be run on the original dates towards the end of November at another venue in Moscow."

What an amazing thing this is. Has there ever been a more extraordinary venue for a snooker tournament?

Vladimir Putin, when he was Russian president, played a frame against Tony Blair, the then British prime minister, at Chequers a few years ago.

Perhaps he could get a wildcard?


Qualifying gets underway this morning in Prestatyn for the Bahrain Open, the newest ranking event on the snooker calendar.

There are four rounds in total to decide the 16 qualifiers to join the 16 seeds in Bahrain next month.

I will repeat what I always say about the qualifiers: if you are able to go along and watch then do so. You get to see some really good snooker and, later in the week, some very big names - Jimmy White, John Parrott, Steve Davis, Mark Williams and Judd Trump to name but a few.

Follow the action here.



The latest World Series event in Warsaw, Poland at the weekend once again drew huge crowds and proved the popularity of snooker on mainland Europe.

As in Berlin in July, the audience was not only enthusiastic but also fair to all players.

It was obvious they were genuinely excited to see top class snooker close up.

Ding Junhui produced a vintage 64 clearance to win the last frame of the final and beat Ken Doherty 6-4.

His shot from pink to black was, under the circumstances, probably the best of the tournament.

It was good to see him smiling again. Freed from the pressures of ranking points he produced some great snooker over the weekend, particularly during his 5-1 semi-final victory over Steve Davis.

Hopefully he can use this as a springboard for the rest of the season. He is surely too good not to win another ranking title very soon.


Many congratulations to Sir Rodney Walker, the WPBSA chairman, who has been named Man of the Year in the annual Yorkshire Awards.

These awards have been running for 20 years and recognise achievements by those from the region. The awards are decided on after nominations are received and reviewed by a committee.

The chairman of this committee is, er, Sir Rodney Walker...



Green baize legend Steve Davis believes the World Series will help spread the snooker word across Europe.

Davis, 51, turned professional 30 years ago and has 28 ranking titles to his name, including six World Championship crowns.

He makes his World Series debut in Warsaw, Poland this weekend.

In the 1980s, Davis and his manager, Barry Hearn, promoted invitation events in countries new to snooker which went on to stage fully fledged ranking tournaments - including China and Thailand.

And Davis believes the game can only benefit by taking tournaments to countries where snooker has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to Eurosport’s extensive coverage of the professional circuit.

“What the World Series does is to take top flight snooker to countries who have not had a great deal of exposure,” he said.

“The last leg in Berlin was a huge success and hopefully, Warsaw will be the same.

“Snooker has become a little bit stale in the UK and the aim is for Europe to become a catalyst to kick-start the game again. It’s all about making the world sit up and take notice.”

Davis faces Polish champion Rafal Jewtuch in the first round tomorrow.

The action starts live on Eurosport2 at 1pm UK time.


I was interested to hear Ryan Day tell Hazel Irvine that one of the reasons he had never done particularly well in a UK ranking event before the recent Royal London Watches Grand Prix was possibly to do with the British press.

Ryan explains here (from around 3.20) that some stories had ‘got my back up.’

Myself and my fellow journalists couldn’t remember any stories in which he had been maligned.

Actually, Ryan hasn’t had that much coverage over the years (perhaps this was what he meant).

It brings into question the relationship between players and the media.

Journalists have a low reputation generally. This is because of the actions of a few hacks and their newspapers.

People usually say they don’t believe what they read in the papers but you soon find that the very same people base almost all their views and opinions on what they’ve read or heard.

In snooker, there is a small, committed group of journalists who cover the circuit, including the qualifiers.

Our relationship with just about every player is very good. They know we would never willingly stitch them up. Apart from the fact that we’re not like that, it would spell professional suicide as they would never talk to us again.

I’ve been told many things – often deeply scurrilous – by players over the years that I would never report.

Some would argue this is not a good thing, that the old principle of ‘publish and be damned’ should apply.

Perhaps they are right, but I have no wish to become snooker’s version of a ‘3am girl’ (for those outside Britain, they write a showbiz and gossip column in the Mirror).

Often it is simply the case that what has been written is misunderstood.

I don’t think Ryan really believes the media is the reason why he’s yet to win a ranking tournament.

But perhaps it’s a salutary lesson to those of us who wield a pen (or in most cases a laptop) that even the most inconsequential of articles may be taken the wrong way.



Snooker legend Steve Davis and Chinese sensation Ding Junhui will be making their debuts in the World Series of Snooker in Warsaw this weekend.

Davis, six times the winner of the World Championship in the 1980s, faces Polish champion Rafal Jewtuch in the first round.

Ding, who won three ranking titles as a teenager, takes on Polish qualifier Piotr Murat.

Mark Selby, the reigning Wembley Masters champion, and 1997 Crucible winner Ken Doherty are also in action in the third leg of the World Series.

It is organised by John Higgins and manager Pat Mooney in an effort to take snooker around Europe, where it has grown in popularity in recent years through Eurosport’s coverage of the professional circuit.

One of the Polish wildcards will be guaranteed a place in the Grand Finals and will be selected by Higgins.

“It gives us a chance to bring in local talent," said Higgins.

“It is a dream for some of these guys to play against their heroes in the type of match conditions we are used to on the tour.

“I look at someone like Ding who came out of China and became a world star and I wonder why we can’t have someone from Poland or Germany or the Czech Republic do something similar in five or 10 years time.

“But we have to give them a chance. With the way that snooker is organised at the moment it would take someone four or five years to break through the log-jam.

“With the World Series we are trying to offer them little short-cuts and a little taste of the big time.”

The Warsaw leg of the World Series will be broadcast live by Eurosport.

Here are the transmission times (British time given):
Saturday, October 25: 1pm-4pm (Eurosport2), 5.30pm-10pm
Sunday, October 26: 1pm-5pm (Eurosport2), 6.30pm-10pm


I realise journalists are supposed to be impartial but I’d like to wish my Eurosport commentary colleague Mike Hallett good luck for this afternoon when he takes part in the semi-finals of the latest PIOS event at Prestatyn.

Some people question why the stars of yesteryear carry on playing. For instance, James Wattana and Kirk Stevens are in the forthcoming IBSF world amateur championship.

But why shouldn’t they? Snooker has run through their blood since boyhood. If they can still play to a standard that satisfies them then I see no reason why they should stop.

Look at Steve Davis. He is not the player he was but good enough to reach the quarter-finals of the last two ranking events.

The notion that players should retire the minute their form starts to slip is not one I subscribe to.

Put simply: if you enjoy doing something then carry on doing it. Who is it hurting?

Mike’s run to the semis also demonstrates that those who blithely dismiss the players of the 1980s and early 90s don’t know what they're talking about.

At 49, he is still capable of producing a standard necessary to compete on what is a very competitive secondary circuit.

He is rather unfairly remembered for losing the 1991 Wembley Masters final 9-8 to Stephen Hendry from 8-2 up.

Think of all the hundreds and hundreds of professional players there have been. Only 45 have won a ranking event, in Mike’s case the 1989 Hong Kong Open.

He won the 1991 Scottish and Belgian Masters – two high quality invitation tournaments – and occupied a highest ranking of sixth.

He was also Hendry’s partner in the last World Doubles Championship in 1987 and for the doubles in the 1991 World Masters, both of which they won.

I’m pleased to see Mike is still enjoying playing after all these years and the fact that he has beaten so many younger players this week shows he can, on his day, still compete.


Ronnie O'Sullivan's official website - ronnieosullivan.biz - has today closed down.

His manager tells me this is because the site administrator cannot devote the time required to maintain it.

However, Ronnie fans should not despair - a new website devoted to the great man will be up and running soon.



Shaun Murphy has become the latest big name to give his backing to a new players’ union, the Professional Snooker Players 'Association.

It has already received a thumbs up from John Higgins, Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.

And today Murphy tells the Sheffield Star: "I think it’s a great idea. It's great news and I fully support it.

"It’s something that all the major sports have. I think it’s about time something like this happened and the players can have their say.

“I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before. There’s been a lot of upset in snooker over the last 20 years so it’s funny it's taken 20 years to get up and running.

“If it had been here 15 years ago maybe we wouldn’t have had the problems we’ve had.”

I’ve already heard it put about that the new body is a front for Barry Hearn (Matchroom) and Pat Mooney (World Series) to ‘take over the game.’

Actually, Hearn and Mooney have made it clear that, once the PSPA is set up, they will withdraw from having anything to do with running it.

The first test of the union’s strength will be when it is required to step in on a player’s behalf over some row or another.

There’s no reason why it can’t co-exist reasonably happily alongside the WPBSA.

That said, when you look at the political unrest that has blighted the sport over the years this may seem like a naive hope.



There's more to snooker than the professional circuit so well done to Liam Highfield, 17, who recently made a 147 break in the first EASB English Premier Tour event of the season.

Liam is pictured here receiving a certificate from the EASB's John Hartley.

We're used to big breaks flying in during pro tournaments but it's worth noting the many talented teenagers in the junior ranks.

Judd Trump was one who played in loads and loads of junior events when he was a kid and so was used to being a winner before he even turned pro.

Respect should go to Malcolm Thorne, who has been running junior tournaments for the best part of 25 years.

It's people like him who provide a base from which young players can go on to become household names.


John Higgins could be described as an underachiever, which sounds like a strange thing to say about a player who has won the World Championship twice, the UK Championship twice, the Masters twice, 19 ranking events in total and been world no.1 for a total of three seasons.

However, it is actually meant as a compliment.

Higgins’s victory in the Royal London Watches Grand Prix on Sunday was his first major title since he captured his second world crown 18 months earlier.

He was one of my tips for Betfair for the reasons that he was in his home city and it was about time he won another one.

I have to say – and hope John would not take offence at this – that overall it was probably the worst he has ever played to win a ranking title.

But this should be of no concern. He has the trophy after all.

When he became world champion in 1998 at the age of 22 it looked as if the Scot would become the game’s next dominant force after Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry.

It didn’t quite happen, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the standard around this time was the highest it has ever been – before or since. Higgins had several top quality opponents, most notably his contemporaries Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams.

It all went wrong for him when he lost 17-15 to Williams from 14-10 up in the 2000 Crucible semi-finals. Had he won the world title that year he may well have won it three, four or maybe five times.

(Of course, he still could but, as he is now 33, this seems unlikely).

But the other major factor that stopped him dominating was his growing realisation that there was more to life than snooker.

John became a father for the first time in 2001 and again in 2004 and earlier this year. He is a family man and enjoys family life. In an interview earlier this year he said, “I don’t think when I’m on my deathbed I’ll wish I spent more time on a snooker table.”

In other words, he is contented enough at his profession that he can, from time to time, cut down on practising, even if this means he sometimes produces performances well below standards we expect from him.

Something interesting has happened to Higgins in the last couple of years: he has suddenly become interested in the administration of snooker.

He has helped to set up the World Series and was involved in setting up a new players union.

He has also become quite outspoken about certain aspects of the way the game is run and clearly believes that snooker must look to life beyond the UK to grow.

All this suggests he is already looking to life beyond his professional career, even though there’s no reason why it doesn’t have several more years to run.

Crucially, Higgins has the respect of his fellow professionals. In fact, most believe he is the best all round player in the sport.

I admire his off table enterprise but hope he continues to hone his talents on the table because there is no reason why he can’t win at least one more world title.

His career record speaks for itself. That it could be even better is testament to his all round skill.

Not just now but when we are all older and we talk of the great snooker players we have seen, John Higgins will always be mentioned.

Date of birth: 18/5/75
Home Town: Wishaw, Scotland
Turned professional: 1992
World Ranking: 5
Provisional ranking: 6
Highest ever ranking: 1 (1998-2000, 2007/08)
Prize money last season: £138,775
Prize money this season: £87,500
Total career prize money: £4,563,595
Career centuries: 379
Centuries last season: 17
Centuries this season: 5
Highest tournament break: 147 (x5)
World ranking titles: (19) 1994, 1999, 2005, 2008 Grand Prix; 1995, 1996 International Open; 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004 British Open; 1995, 1997 German Open; 1997 European Open, 1998, 2007 World Championship; 1998, 2000 UK Championship; 1999 China International; 2000 Welsh Open



The Royal London Watches Grand Prix final was one of the strangest I've ever seen.

John Higgins was in complete control at 7-2, even though he wasn't playing his best stuff.

He became unusually anxious, Ryan Day recovered, and then the mistakes grew on either side.

In the end, Higgins won 9-7 to cap a great week at the SECC in Glasgow.

Does anyone now seriously prefer the round robin format to the random draw?

Those who warned it would produce a sub standard winner were well and truly proved wrong.

Unlike last year, not a single player has publicly complained about the tournament format. Neither did I hear any moans about conditions or much else for that matter.

The venue was first class, the crowds were very encouraging, the tournament was well organised and there was plenty of top quality snooker and interesting stories.

Judd Trump came good for the first, but surely not last, time.

Day proved his fighting qualities by coming through three deciders, including a 55 clearance to the black to see off Mark Selby.

Peter Ebdon added a bizarre bit of theatre by lying on the floor after suffering some bad luck at the end of his defeat to Jamie Cope.

All in all, the Grand Prix was a success story.

Don't let anyone tell you interest in snooker is over in the UK. There's plenty of life in this sport yet.


WPBSA chairman Sir Rodney Walker today gave the clearest possible indication that the World Championship will remain at the Crucible.

There had been speculation - started by him - that it would be going to China when the Sheffield contract runs out in 2010.

I suggested this may be a smart tactic on his part to drive up the Sheffield bid and in a BBC interview today he confirmed that the Crucible remains a heavy favourite.

"There’s no firm offer from China but there is interest," Walker said.

"News of that has brought interest from the Middle East but I’ve already begun negotiations with Sheffield city council which have started very well.

"There’s a lot of excitement about it going out the UK but people have to understand we have a contract with the BBC and if the World Championship left the UK it would put at risk our BBC contract, which would have serious financial consequences.

"The likelihood is that the event will stay in the UK and in Sheffield.

"Sheffield will put a provisional offer in front of me before the end of November. The plan would be to get a new deal in place so that we can announce it ahead of the 2009 World Championship, which would take us to 2015. But it depends whether any of these other proposals turn into serious offers."

Steve Davis, six times the Crucible champion, made a good point in response to this.

He said: "Most players would want it to stay in this country and at the Crucible. The best idea for China or other countries would be to create their own super event which, over time, would be compared to the World Championship. Why not do that instead of trying to steal the World Championship?"

So it looks like the Crucible is set to keep the game's greatest event for at least another seven years.

Not everyone will believe this is a good thing but I think most probably would.


There's been a lot of fuss made of the fact John Higgins has never won a ranking title in Scotland but the truth is that prior to the Royal London Watches Grand Prix there had only ever been ten staged in his home country.

This is fewer than have been held in China.

It isn't Scotland that has inspired Higgins but Glasgow. If the Grand Prix were still being staged in Aberdeen he would be staying in a hotel like everyone else.

As it is, he can stay at home a few miles from the SECC venue. Indeed, he was snug there the other night when the official tournament hotel was hit by two fire alarms, causing players, officials and media to sleepily traipse outside into the cold.

Higgins will win his 19th ranking title if he beats Ryan Day but it's the Welshman who has played the best snooker of the tournament.

Day will become the 46th winner of a ranking event if he takes the title today. He has lost two finals - the 2007 Malta Cup and Shanghai Masters - but has won his last two meetings with Higgins, including at the Crucible last season.

Day is guaranteed to be third in the provisional rankings whatever happens. His rise has so far been achieved through consistency but, like any top player, he wants to win major titles.

I'd make him a slight favourite but feel he must make a good start. If it goes close tonight then Higgins's greater experience may be telling.

Higgins will have all of his family with him and that will of course be a source of inspiration.

Either way, I get the feeling this will be a really good match.


The Sunday Telegraph's Jasper Gerard was engrossed by Judd Trump's victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan but not impressed by BBC2's decision to leave the decider before it was over (Rob Walker may wish to look away as well).


If Ryan Day beats John Higgins he will become the seventh Welshman to win a ranking title.

The others are Ray Reardon, Terry Griffiths, Doug Mountjoy, Mark Williams, Dominic Dale and Matthew Stevens.



Judd Trump today appears in the semi-finals of the Royal London Watches Grand Prix at the age of 19.

The last teenager to appear in the Grand Prix semi-finals was John Higgins, also 19, in 1994.

Of course, Higgins plays Trump today.


The Sun newspaper reports that Shaun Murphy and his wife Clare have separated.

Shaun's private life is his own business but the upheaval goes some way to explaining his poor form this season.

Read the story here.


Ronnie O’Sullivan played some strange shots towards the end of his defeat to Judd Trump yesterday.

Some will have formed the impression that he wasn't bothered whether he won or lost but it is worth pointing out that pressure gets to even the greats.

O’Sullivan was obviously disappointed with how poorly he was playing and it was getting him down.

Many other players would take Ronnie’s ‘poor’ form but he has always been a perfectionist and is always aiming for a higher level than he can reach.

But when I hear him say in interviews that he isn’t happy with his game, I wonder if he just means he isn’t happy full stop.

O’Sullivan suffers from depression and his mood swings are hard to manage.

He likes the Premier League because it’s a series of one night stands for big money but loathes hanging around venues for a week.

I’m not sure how keen he is to go to Bahrain. World Snooker doesn’t officially pay appearance money but don’t be surprised if the world champion is suddenly put up for media interviews or promotional work before and during the tournament.

Ronnie may be embarrassed with his form but the fact remains that he is more than 9,000 points ahead of the chasing pack in the provisional rankings.

He will win more titles but I was amazed to hear some of the BBC pundits suggest he would equal Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world triumphs.

This seems to me to be very, very unlikely. O’Sullivan has never been a winning machine like Hendry or Steve Davis. He thrives on isolated inspirational performances that are often mirrored by periods of frustration.

More likely is that his career will continue is the same vein as before: plenty of highs, plenty of lows.

Some great performances, centuries, maximums and stunning play.

Controversy, strange defeats and statements likely to stir up furious debate.

This is the full Ronnie O’Sullivan package and the reason he remains such a fascinating figure.



The king of snooker has been dethroned by the boy prince.

Judd Trump's 5-4 victory over Ronnie O'Sullivan was gripping stuff and the 19 year-old should be congratulated.

I understand BBC2 ended its coverage midway through the deciding frame (although it was on the red button) to go to a programme about homes.

What a shame for those who couldn't see the end. It was great entertainment and, in Trump, a star is born.

It does strike me as rather ironic, however, that this obvious choice for the new World Snooker 'Hotshots' programme is doing so well while most of those actually chosen are struggling.

You can do all the magazine interviews and PR you want. Ultimately, only performances on the big stage count for anything and this was one of which young Trump can be very proud.


Interesting piece on Stephen Hendry in The Guardian.

The conclusion that Hendry never played Ronnie O'Sullivan when they were both at their best is obviously wrong but it's a good tribute to a great champion nonetheless.


The random draw format at the Royal London Watches Grand Prix has been a great success and the draws themselves full of excitement but MC Rob Walker, who presided over the quarter-final draw last night, made himself and the game look stupid by announcing Steve Davis had drawn John Parrott.

In fact, Parrott was about to play Ali Carter who, perhaps fired up by being completely forgotten, went through him 5-0.

Parrott himself was not impressed. He said: “To be perfectly honest I’m a little bit embarrassed about that. Ali came up to me behind the curtain and said ‘Good luck in the next round.

“I know that was a joke and I’m not blaming Rob for what happened in the match but he will have to do better than that.”

Many people like Walker's relentless enthusiasm. However, he is ultimately there to bring the players into the arena - nothing more, nothing less.

I hear he is planning to get children involved in the intros tomorrow.

World Snooker should not let this happen. The tournament is about the players, not the master of ceremonies and this is supposed to be one our major events so should be treated with the appropriate dignity.


Never let anyone tell you that snooker isn't exciting.

And if they do, show them a tape of Ryan Day v Mark Selby from the Royal London Watches Grand Prix last night.

Day missed a red with a chance to lead 4-0 and it looked like it might be a massive turning point.
At 4-3, he had a chance to force a re-spot but missed the pink. But at 4-4, he superbly cleared with 55 to the black after Selby missed matchball red.

Why on earth did Mark play it at pace, disturbing reds on the top cushion when he didn't need to?

Whatever the reason, it contributed to a pulsating encounter and proved that you don't need big breaks every frame to produce great entertainment.


Ronnie O'Sullivan will today appear in his 15th quarter-final from the last 17 ranking events he has competed in.



Absolutely bizarre.

Peter Ebdon has just responded to Jamie Cope fluking a snooker on the yellow in the deciding frame of their match at the Royal London Watches Grand Prix by lying on the floor.

Ebdon had successfully laid the two snookers he needed and laid another before Cope hit the yellow, which ran behind the blue.

When Ebdon eventually got back up he left the yellow on and has been beaten 5-4.

I'm not absolutely sure but I'm pretty certain the late Joe Davis never behaved like this.


I’ve heard commentators say several times this week that the standard in snooker is ‘higher than ever.’

I disagree, at least at the top level.

There’s no doubt that there is much greater strength in depth on the circuit now compared to, say, 15 years ago. Throughout the ranks, players are capable of very fine performances, although not usually when it comes to the final stages of ranking events.

However, at the top end I would say standards have fallen. Be honest, how many really good performances have there been at the Royal London Watches Grand Prix so far?

Mark Selby and Ding Junhui, yes, but not many others.

Steve Davis spearheaded the rise in standards in the 1980s. Stephen Hendry did the same in the 1990s.

For me, standards peaked a couple of years either side of the millennium, from around 1997 to 2003, where Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, John Higgins, Paul Hunter and Matthew Stevens all produced some of their very best snooker.

O’Sullivan is said to be ‘in a class of his own.’ He himself is embarrassed by this. In his interview after beating in Liang Wenbo in Glasgow earlier this week he said he had only been in the last three ranking finals because ‘everyone else has played rubbish.’

This is going a little far. Ronnie is so good that he win tournaments playing at 75% of his best but doesn’t derive much pleasure from doing so.

When he says he has played badly after apparently excellent performances he is not looking for attention. It's just that he knows he is capable of better.

Ronnie's performance in beating Hendry in the Crucible semi-finals last season stands as one of the great displays of snooker.

But other than that he has only produced his very best stuff in short bursts, yet he is comfortably the best player in the world.

He played his best ever snooker in the 2000/01 season, although he himself believes he was at his best as a teenager.

Let’s put this into context: the standard is still very, very high. It is much higher than it was 20 years ago, perhaps 15 years ago but not ten years ago.

And snooker needs its top stars to start firing. The World Championship final – our showcase – wasn’t much of a spectacle this year even though the event itself was one the best ever.

Standards perhaps dipped because the number of tournaments has fallen (though they are now rising again) but for snooker to catch the general interest, they need to rise again.

Will they? There’s no reason why not.

But it needs several players to raise their games considerably.


Judd Trump, 19, has become the first teenager to reach a ranking event quarter-final since Ding Junhui at the 2006 Maplin UK Championship.

Meanwhile, 51 year-old Steve Davis last night became the first player aged over 50 to reach successive ranking event quarter-finals for almost 24 years. Ray Reardon reached the quarter-finals of the 1984 UK Championship and 1985 Mercantile Classic at 52.



Adrian Gunnell was last night warned for slow play in his match against Shaun Murphy.

Actually, the rules govern time wasting but it's the same difference.

I thought the referee, Leo Scullion, should have warned Gunnell during the interval rather than at the start of frame five. It seemed a strange moment to do it.

All of which begs the question: how slow is too slow?

Adrian is a methodical player. I've seen him play many times in the qualifiers and this is the pace he plays at. He is slower than most.

But is he too slow?

It's hard to say, not least because there's nothing written down in the rules stipulating the time that should be taken over shots.

Interestingly, having been warned by Scullion, Gunnell did not speed up at all. He maintained the same pace. The ref had the option to dock him a frame but did not do so.

Nor should he have. Gunnell plays at the pace he plays at. He's not a Ronnie O'Sullivan or Tony Drago but was not trying to drag the game down deliberately.

One thing I do know is this: Gunnell's match against Steve Davis could be a real grind.

Scrap that.

It WILL be a real grind.


Stephen Hendry and John Higgins are meeting for the 33rd time today.

Hendry has won 16 times, Higgins 14 with two draws in the Premier League.



A question some have been asking after seeing him referee in Glasgow this week.

The answer is that he's a 50 year-old Glaswegian who spent 20 years as a policeman.

On the same theme, get well soon to Jan Verhaas who has returned to the Netherlands through ill health.


Mark Selby will begin the defence of his Masters title against Mark King or a wildcard pick.

The tournament runs from January 11-18 at Wembley Arena.

Ronnie O'Sullivan faces Joe Perry in his first match while the tie of the round looks like Shaun Murphy v Ding Junhui.

You can view the draw here.


Ronnie O'Sullivan has been named Player of the Year in the annual Snooker Writers Association awards.

O'Sullivan won the World Championship, UK Championship and Premier League last season and returned to the top of the world rankings.

Liang Wenbo, who is playing O'Sullivan in the Royal London Watches Grand Prix in Glasgow today, has been named Newcomer of the Year following his giant-killing run to the quarter-finals of the World Championship.

Mark Selby's capture of the Masters title at his first attempt earns him the Achievement of the Year award.

Barry Hearn is the recipient of a special award in acknowledgement of his services to the sport over the last 30 years.

Hearn, manager of Steve Davis and boss of Matchroom, who promote the Premier League, is particularly commended for being so open and accomodating with the media.


The last player to successfully defend the Grand Prix title was Stephen Hendry in 1991.



Mark Selby is my main tip to win the Royal London Watches Grand Prix for the reasons I give in my latest preview for Betfair.

Put it this way: if he doesn't win this week he will surely lift some silverware this season.

Michael Holt is my outsider to follow. I wasn't surprised he beat Mark Allen. Holt seems much more sure of himself this season and is not allowing frustration to get to him.


Stephen Hendry has come a long way since he lost 5-4 to Joe O’Boye in his first qualifying match in the Grand Prix.

The year was 1985 and Hendry was just 16. He has since won the Grand Prix on a record four occasions and is the game’s greatest ever player.

Hendry’s form has dipped over the last couple of seasons. Some would argue he should retire to protect his legacy.

I think this is nonsense. He is, after all, sixth in the world rankings and was a World Championship semi-finalist only a few months ago.

Look at Steve Davis: 51 and still battling, a quarter-finalist at the Shanghai Masters and a winner yesterday over Neil Robertson.

But there is a major difference between Davis and Hendry, namely that Davis enjoys rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck into the tactical stuff, whereas Hendry can’t bear that side of the game.

So his natural potting and break building game had better hold up otherwise he will slip down the rankings.

I know Hendry believes he can still produce the consistent form he conjured to dominate the game in the 1990s.

I believe this was the best snooker anyone has ever played because he did it tournament after tournament (indeed he won five ranking events in a row in the 1990/92 season).

Hendry can still play very well on occasion but, as he approaches his 40th birthday, these will inevitably become fewer.

Nobody wants to see him ending up at Prestatyn. I think if it came to that he would think seriously about retiring.

But he’s not there yet and a few wins such as yesterday’s over Dave Gilbert should help restore his lost confidence.

He told me after he won his record seventh world title that if he never won another match it wouldn’t bother him.

I didn’t believe him. He’s a born winner and it is still only winning that gives him satisfaction.

Nothing else comes close.


In 1992, Ronnie O'Sullivan at 16 beat 78 year-old Fred Davis 5-1 in the Grand Prix qualifiers.

The 62 year age gap is the biggest ever recorded in a professional match.



You can read my interview with Stephen Maguire in the Sunday Herald here.


The Grand Prix (including the LG Cup) has provided nine different players with their first ranking title.

They are: Dennis Taylor (1984), Stephen Hendry (1987), Peter Ebdon (1993), John Higgins (1994), Dominic Dale (1997), Stephen Lee (1998), Chris Small (2002), Neil Robertson (2006) and Marco Fu (2007).



All through the Royal London Watches Grand Prix I shall be posting a fascinating (or not, depending on your viewpoint) fact about the tournament.

First up: Steve Davis is the only player to have competed in the final stages of every Grand Prix since the first in 1984.


Ken Doherty is joining the BBC's snooker team for the first half of the Royal London Watches Grand Prix.

Ken is a good choice for punditry: he has been world champion, he has the respect of his fellow pros and his genial manner comes across well on TV.

Of course, he'd rather be in Glasgow as a player but it was another BBC pundit, John Parrott, who beat him 5-0 at Prestatyn.

Steve Davis will also be swapping the studio for the arena after qualifying with a 5-4 victory over Tom Ford.

Meanwhile, over at Eurosport Mike Hallett and myself discuss the new format.



Graeme Dott has officially withdrawn from the Royal London Watches Grand Prix after breaking his left wrist playing football in Shanghai.

His doctors have advised a six to eight week lay-off, which would mean the 2006 world champion could also miss the inaugural Bahrain Championship next month.

It is not known whether Dott will receive his first round losers points for either the Shanghai Masters or Grand Prix.


One man’s bad luck is another’s good fortune.

Graeme Dott may not play in the Royal London Watches Grand Prix and even if he does won’t be expecting much with a broken left wrist.

Step forward Judd Trump, his 19 year-old opponent.

I first saw Trump play when, at ten, he won the EASB English under 15 title. He turned professional four years ago and had huge expectations placed on him.

Some would argue he is yet to deliver. Actually, he has risen the rankings each year in the way, for example, Stephen Maguire did in his early years on the circuit, qualified for the Crucible in 2007 and was a frame from doing so last season.

What he is yet to do is get used to playing on television.

But Trump has time on his side. There have been very few teenage ranking event winners – Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Paul Hunter and Ding Junhui – and you don’t get extra points for winning titles before you are 20.

What Trump needs is a good run in a tournament, preferably beating a couple of big names, to give him the self belief he needs to make the next step.

Glasgow would be as good a place to start as any.



The Royal London Watches Grand Prix is snooker’s second longest running ranking event (the UK Championship began in 1977 but was not given ranking status until 1984).

As we approach this year's event here, in chronological order, are the tournament’s ten best moments according to yours truly.

I should point out that I am including the LG Cup as it was effectively the same event with a different name.

Dennis Taylor was not going to play in the first Grand Prix. His mother died a few weeks earlier and he pulled out of the previous event, the International. His family persuaded him to play at Reading and he produced a career best performance to take the title, thrashing Cliff Thorburn 10-2 in the final.

Rex Williams was a fine billiards player who never quite made it at the highest level in snooker but enjoyed a golden week in Reading in 1986 to become the oldest ever ranking event finalist and returned to the elite top 16 as a result.

Stephen Hendry remains, at 18, the youngest ever Grand Prix champion. This was the first of his (to date) 36 ranking titles and proof that his much talked about potential was no myth. He beat Dennis Taylor 10-7 in the final and would win the Grand Prix a further three times.

Steve Davis’s 10-0 defeat of Dean Reynolds remains the only whitewash in a ranking event final and completed a miserable couple of years for Grimsby’s top players at the hands of the ginger magician – he beat Mike Hallett 9-0 in the Masters final at Wembley in 1988.

Jimmy White’s vast army of fans have suffered many disappointments over the years but 1992 was a golden year for their man as he won several top events, including the UK Championship and, in a thrilling final, the Grand Prix for a second time with a final frame victory over Ken Doherty.

Dominic Dale’s 9-6 victory over John Higgins was a huge shock as the Scot was regarded as snooker’s best player at the time and would indeed go on the become world champion and world no.1 a few months later. However, it took Dale ten years to win another ranking title, the 2007 Shanghai Masters.

Marco Fu was competing in his first tournament as a professional and beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and Peter Ebdon to reach the final at the tournament’s new home in Preston but ran into an in form Stephen Lee who made two centuries and eight half centuries to win 9-2 and scoop his first ranking title.

This was a classic but for some reason has been largely forgotten. John Higgins looked down and out when he rashly conceded the final frame of the first session still able to win it to trail Mark Williams 6-2. But the Scot dug deep and demonstrated the qualities of a great champion to come back and win 9-8.

Chris Small beat John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan on successive days en route to the LG Cup final and outlasted his fellow Scot Alan McManus 9-5 to win a lengthy final. It was a victory for one of the game’s great triers who faced huge adversity in the shape of the bone disease Ankylosing Spondylitis which would, sadly, end his professional career.

Higgins’s capture of his third Grand Prix title was completed with one of the most devastating displays of snooker ever witnessed. He compiled four successive centuries and accrued 494 points without reply – which remains a record in a ranking event.


Paul Hunter died two years ago today.

Snooker still misses him badly. It’s no exaggeration to say that he was one of the best things about our sport.

I was at Wembley for his three Masters triumphs and backstage where his natural graciousness in either victory or defeat was much in evidence.

I well remember his semi-final defeat to Ken Doherty at the Crucible in 2003 when his disappointment was tinged with the knowledge, sadly misplaced, that he had many more chances to win the game’s greatest prize.

And I remember being at the 2005 Irish Masters when Paul told the press that he had been feeling unwell because of a stomach complaint that doctors could not diagnose.

Nobody could have possibly imagined then what was to tragically unfold.



Stephen Maguire is returning to the 110sport management stable in a new three-year deal to "capitalise on commercial opportunities as a top player."

The world no.2 left the Stirling-based camp last year having been managed by 110sport since turning professional in 1999.

"I left 110sport to go it alone for a little while, but I realised if I am going to capitalise on my commercial opportunities as a top player, then 110sport is the place to be," said Maguire.

"I've had many happy years with 110sport - and I'm really looking forward to being managed by them for the next three years."

I suspect part of the reason for the return is so that Maguire can work with Terry Griffiths, 110's director of coaching, who helped him earlier in his career.


The Crucible does not have a divine right to stage the World Championship.

Or rather, if it wants to continue staging it then Sheffield’s business community should pay the appropriate price.

I think most snooker fans regard the Crucible as the natural home for the game’s leading event.

Players are divided but it is the one venue where all professionals want to have competed at least once in their careers.

It does have a unique atmosphere created by having fewer than 1,000 spectators sitting so close to the players.

It is the venue where careers have been made and broken, hopes realised and dashed.

Backstage, there is insufficient room for a major sporting event, although this may change with the ongoing renovations.

This is far from ideal but any sport’s shop window is what appears on TV and the Crucible arena makes for compelling viewing.

WPBSA chairman Sir Rodney Walker should not be characterised as some mercenary determined to sell the World Championship down the river to dastardly Chinese promoters.

Far from it. Last time the contract came up for renewal he favoured the Crucible over a bid from Liverpool which was worth more to snooker’s coffers than the Sheffield proposal.

It may be that by making public the approach from China he is sending a message to Sheffield that they will have to pay an increased amount to continue staging the tournament.

It brings around £3m into the local economy each year. A few weeks ago, Sheffield city council passed a motion expressing ‘concern’ that the World Championship may leave the steel city after the loss of 888.com as sponsors.

So Sheffield recognises how important the event is to them. I think Sir Rodney may be marking their cards that they should reflect this in their bid when the contract is renegotiated.

I think the Crucible is still the likely venue for the 2011 World Championship.

But it is up to Sheffield now. If they really want to keep it then they should pull out all the stops to do so.


Graeme Dott's participation in the Royal London Watches Grand Prix hangs in the balance.

The Daily Record reports that doctors have advised a six-eight week lay off after Dott broke his left wrist playing football in Shanghai. He is currently wearing a plaster cast.

Dott still has not been told whether he will receive his 700 first round losers points for the Shanghai Masters. Obviously, if he doesn't get them for that event he won't get them for the Grand Prix either.

If this uncertainty continues, my advice to Graeme is simple: go to Glasgow, break off and then concede.

Although this would look farcical, he would have been deemed to have played in the tournament and then withdrawn.



The Daily Mail reports that Sir Rodney Walker, the WPBSA chairman, was approached in Shanghai by promoters looking to stage the World Championship in China.

Walker makes it clear the game's top event will remain at the Crucible until the end of its contract in 2010.

After that, who knows what will happen?

My guess is that it will depend on the BBC. I would imagine they would want the tournament to stay in the UK.

But is there a price the Chinese offer that the WPBSA cannot reasonably turn down?

Full story here.


A total of 26 players have compiled in excess of 100 century breaks in professional competition.

Stephen Hendry is out in front on 718. Ronnie O’Sullivan is clawing back the deficit all the time and is now on 540.

Who will be the 27th to reach this milestone?

It appears to be between Fergal O’Brien, who is on 98, and Joe Perry, currently on 90.

Fergal obviously starts favourite but has not qualified for the upcoming Royal London Watches Grand Prix.

Joe, of course, is in Glasgow and also in the partypoker.com Premier League where the open style of play tends to mean centuries come with great abundance.

On outsider could be Mark Selby, currently on 85 but a player who has stepped up the century count in recent seasons.



Nobody could say that the draw opened up for Ricky Walden at the Shanghai Masters.

To win the title, he beat Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson, Steve Davis, Mark Selby and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

This was some performance and the manner in which he finished off with a century having let slip a good chance to win 10-7 proved his bottle under intense pressure.

He became the 45th winner of a world ranking event and the lowest ranked player at 35th ever to beat O'Sullivan in a ranking final.

The only real surprise for those who have seen him play at the qualifiers is that it took Walden as long as this to make the breakthrough.

But what a breakthrough. He is now 17th in the provisional rankings and virtually certain to be the wildcard pick for the Wembley Masters.

Ricky has never played at the Crucible. He has never been in the top 32. He earned less last season than O'Sullivan picked up for winning the Northern Ireland Trophy.

But he's well and truly arrived now and I for one believe he has the talent to stick around near the top for some years to come.

It bears out what I said about him almost two years ago.

Watch Ricky's winning break here.



No decision has yet been made as to whether Graeme Dott will receive his losers' points from the Shanghai Masters and so the list will be issued with him down in 50th place.

If he does get them he will be 42nd.

Two years ago, Mark Williams withdrew from the Royal London Watches Grand Prix in Aberdeen after playing two round robin matches citing an injury from an incident in the gym.

This seems to me to be the precedent that will ensure Dott gets his 700 points.


Ronnie O’Sullivan does not have the right to tell referees how to do their jobs.

However, he does have the right to make a polite request as to how they officiate.

It’s a thin line and some will feel O’Sullivan crossed it today when he told Terry Camilleri: “I don’t mind seeing you but I don’t want to hear you.”

In my opinion, this was acceptable as it seemed to be a simple request rather than a direct criticism. However, Ronnie was unwise to tackle this in the arena at the end of the fourth frame.

It was, after all, the interval and he could have had a private word backstage away from TV cameras and microphones.

If there’s one thing guaranteed to put a referee under pressure it’s the feeling he’s been publicly rebuked.

It's also quite difficult for referees to get into position in time when O'Sullivan is playing due to his lightning fast speed of play around the table.

There’s very, very little aggro between players and referees.

It was different, though, when Alex Higgins was around. He once told John Williams he should move because he was “standing in my line of thought.”

He also once asked Williams to move during a match at the Crucible.

Williams responded: “I’m staying here. I’ve stood here all day. I’ll referee, you play.”

That is pretty much the maxim by which players and referees should relate to one another.


The Shanghai Masters has been an absorbing event which once again proves the huge interest in snooker in China.

Crowds have been large and enthusiastic, the snooker has been high quality and the plush Grand Stage arena has come across well on the television, giving the tournament an air of class.

This is due to the organisation of the local promoters and World Snooker who have brought the event together after several months of hard work.

In China, there are a lot of people to keep happy - sponsors, dignitaries, players, spectators, a huge media turnout and the broadcasters. This is far from simple but the Shanghai Masters should be regarded as a success.

The day before it began there was a red carpet parade in which the players were treated like film stars.

This was something of a culture shock for the lads, who often walk around UK snooker venues without receiving a second look.

Ronnie O'Sullivan has produced some excellent snooker and is a huge favourite to win his third ranking title in succession.

But Ricky Walden has already beaten Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson, Steve Davis and Mark Selby and should go out and enjoy today's final.

Win or lose, he will always remember his week in Shanghai.



John Higgins, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui have not entered the Bahrain Championship following the clash of dates with the Partypoker.com Premier League.

They had little choice. They signed contracts to play in the Premier League months ago but their absence is obviously bad news for the new ranking event and will harm their ranking positions.

However, it’s good news for Matthew Stevens, Jamie Cope and Ken Doherty as they are seeded through to the venue.

The tournament will be broadcast live on Eurosport from November 8-15.



Based on what we’ve seen this week, I think only Mark Selby can stop Ronnie O’Sullivan winning the Shanghai Masters on current form.


Because Selby is the only player remaining who will not try and play Ronnie at his own game.

In their Welsh Open final last season, Selby dictated the pace towards the end. This was an entirely justifiable tactic and he deserved his victory.

Ricky Walden and Stephen Maguire are both very attacking players but will have to raise their games to beat O’Sullivan if he plays like he did in beating Mark Williams today in what was a really excellent match.

If he does win on Sunday, Ronnie will become only the third player to capture three successive ranking titles since the rankings were introduced in 1976.

Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry were the other two and this is the sort of company in which O’Sullivan belongs.

You can read the views of myself and my Eurosport commentary colleague Mike Hallett here.


What an intriguing quarter-final line up we have at the Shanghai Masters.

Steve Davis becomes the first fifty-something to appear at this stage of a ranking event since Doug Mountjoy at the 1994 British Open.

If he wins today he'll be the first player of such an age to get through to a ranking semi-final since Rex Williams at the 1986 Grand Prix.

The last time Davis played Ricky Walden it proved a painful experience. Steve banged his head on a thick steel door at the 2005 China Open in Beijing, became dizzy during their match and had to withdraw during the third frame.

Later that day I banged my head on the same door and I can confirm that it was not pleasant.

A year later Davis was due to play Walden to qualify for the final stages of the same tournament but didn’t realise and so Walden had another walkover.

Does Ricky have the hex over him? We’ll find out shortly.

He’s a player with a great talent and it’s good to see him finally doing something in a ranking tournament.

Mark Selby and Marco Fu played a frame of 77 minutes at last season’s UK Championship – the longest ever on TV until Shaun Murphy and Dave Harold beat it by 16 minutes at the China Open.

Fu would be a popular winner for local fans but Selby has arguably played the best snooker of the tournament so far and will take some beating.

Stephen Maguire is looking to become the first person to win two ranking titles in China in the same year following his Beijing success last March.

But he has his work cut out to contain Ryan Day, last year’s runner-up, who has really found his feet in the last 18 months.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams have between them won five of the nine world titles contested in the current decade.

Ronnie made his latest 147 against the Welsh left-hander at the Crucible last season but was in a funny mood during his match with Joe Perry and could be vulnerable.

Williams is a good traveller. He won the 2002 China Open in Shanghai and the 2006 edition in Beijing.

He has also won three ranking titles in Thailand and is due another victory.



Jamie Cope has become only the tenth player to compile more than one maximum break in professional competition at the Shanghai Masters today.

Cope made his 147 in the third frame of his last 16 match against Mark Williams.

It follows his max in the 2006 Royal London Watches Grand Prix.

It is the 64th officially ratified maximum break in snooker history and the second in a ranking event in China after Stephen Maguire's effort at last season's China Open in Beijing.



Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse for Graeme Dott...

It is not guaranteed that he will receive his 700 losers' points for withdrawing from the Shanghai Masters after breaking his arm playing football.

There is a clause in the WPBSA players' handbook which states that players should avoid any sport or activity which could put their ability to participate in tournaments at risk.

A decision will be made by the weekend.

Playing football was certainly ill advised as an injury could have occurred.

On the other hand, there have been occasions in the past where players have received losers' points after missing tournaments through claiming illnesses which were dubious to say the least.

It would surely be a kick in the teeth to deny Dott a small crumb of comfort from a miserable week.

EDIT: It will make a big difference to Dott. With the points he'll be provisionally 42nd; without them he'll be 50th.


It's just Graeme Dott's luck that - as first revealed here last night - he has broken his arm playing football.

It rules the Scot out of the Shanghai Masters but, with an operation, he may be able to compete in the forthcoming Royal London Watches Grand Prix.

How it will affect his career depends on the nature of the injury. Dave Harold missed five tournaments in 2004 after breaking his wrist on New Year's Eve. Anthony Hamilton's career was similarly hampered when he broke his wrist intervening in a mugging in London in 2000.

But Stephen Hendry won the 1994 World Championship despite fracturing a bone in his elbow during the tournament.

Dott went to defend his world title in 2007 as provisional world no.1. He is now 44th in the latest standings and sure to fall lower.

This injury follows his diagnosis last April for depression. It has been a rough year for Graeme and I for one wish him well.