Paul Medati, a professional from 1981 to 1995, has died of cancer at the age of 64.

Medati reached a highest ranking of 58th in 1986 and beat the likes of John Parrott, John Spencer and Dean Reynolds during his career.

He was part of the thriving Lancashire snooker scene of the 1970s/80s that was home to Spencer, John Virgo, Alex Higgins and Dennis Taylor.

He never reached a ranking tournament quarter-final but appeared in the last 16 of the 1983 UK Championship.

In more recent times Medati played on the GB9-ball pool circuit.


Congratulations to Graeme Dott who has become a father for the second time after his wife, Elaine, gave birth to Lucy, a sister for four year-old Lewis, on Thursday.



The old maxim goes that a century only wins you one frame.

This is true but centuries are a very good indicator of form, as proved by the list below which includes centuries for all ranking and professional tournaments played so far.

It is no great surprise that that century machine Ronnie O’Sullivan is out in front. He compiled 50 tons last season and has every chance of making around the same number again (Stephen Hendry holds the record with 52).

Hendry himself has already made seven this season, which reaches its half way point at the UK Championship.

Among those yet to make one this season are Mark King, Ken Doherty and Steve Davis.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

Mark Selby

Ricky Walden

Liang Wenbo

Ryan Day, Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump

Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Tom Ford

Mark Allen, Peter Ebdon, Ali Carter, Matthew Stevens, Michael Holt, Robert Milkins, Andy Hicks, James McBain



It is 20 years to the day since Doug Mountjoy won his second UK Championship title in what is one of the most heartwarming tales in snooker's rich, compelling history.

Mountjoy was one of snooker’s greatest names of the late 1970s/early 1980s but like all the other players of this era had a life long before turning pro.

Snooker was run like a gentleman’s club in the 70s. To become a professional you had to be invited by the other members, not all of whom particularly wanted talented amateurs muscling in on their patch.

Mountjoy could not walk out of school and on to the circuit in the way players of this era have done. He worked as a miner in the coal valleys of South Wales and played snooker in the evenings.

Already twice Welsh amateur champion, in 1976 he won the World amateur crown and was accepted into the pro ranks. He made an immediate impact, winning the Masters at his first attempt.

In 1978 he won the UK title. Three years later he reached the world final at the Crucible where Steve Davis beat him 18-12. He spent 11 successive years in the elite top 16.

But by 1988 Mountjoy seemed a spent force. He was beaten 13-1 by Neal Foulds in the second round of the World Championship and fell to 24th in the world rankings.

At the age of 46 it appeared as if the only way was down.

Desperate to stave off decline, Mountjoy sought out Frank Callan, a former fishmonger from Blackpool who had gained a reputation as one of the sport’s leading coaches.

Callan took Mountjoy’s technique apart and rebuilt it. This was high risk but rewards were immediate. Mountjoy beat Stephen Hendry, the defending champion, at the Grand Prix and began to feel better about his game.

Even so, nobody gave him a chance at Preston Guild Hall, the venue for the UK Championship in what nostalgics may term the good old days.

Mountjoy beat Foulds 9-5 and former world champion Joe Johnson 9-5 before edging John Virgo 9-8 having led him 8-3.

He was so relaxed against Terry Griffiths in the semi-finals that he went to sleep in his dressing room in the interval.

The final against Hendry was very much the old versus the new. The young gun was widely expected to beat the veteran.

Yet from 7-7 after the first day Mountjoy won all seven frames of the third session.

It is fashionable now to pretend that nobody could really play 20 years ago but at one stage he compiled three successive centuries.

At 15-7 he had it won. At 15-12 it was getting sticky but Mountjoy duly completed an emotional 16-12 victory and dedicated it to Callan.

Even more remarkably he went on to win the next ranking title, the Mercantile Classic in Blackpool, and would rise to his highest ever ranking, fifth.

The financial rewards from this golden run of success should have set Mountjoy up for life but he was badly ripped off by a manager.

Worse still, he had a lung removed after developing a tumour and his career hastened to an end in 1997.

Mountjoy went out to Dubai to coach and continued in a coaching role on his return to Wales.

He still plays from time to time in the CIU Championship, a tournament for working men’s clubs, very much back to his roots.

It’s sad that Mountjoy endured an uncomfortable time after his renaissance but he was from a generation that was grateful to have made a living from playing snooker and never forgot what life was like before there was a televised professional circuit.

He was a key character in the soap opera that was the UK snooker boom and, 20 years ago, he authored one of the most memorable of all the many stories that have kept so many engrossed in this great game.



Judd Trump, 19, will become the 11th teenager to compete in the final stages of the Wembley Masters in the tournament’s 35-year history after beating Mark Joyce 6-1 in the qualifying final in Sheffield today.

Trump, an outstanding junior, turned professional in 2005 but has come of age this season, qualifying for the final stages of the first four ranking events and beating Ronnie O’Sullivan on the way to the semi-finals of the Grand Prix.

He used to be very shy but seems now to relish the limelight and there’s no doubt he possesses a fierce talent.

His match against Mark Allen or Mark King at Wembley Arena in January should be one to savour.

The other wildcard will be announced soon with Ricky Walden, the Shanghai Masters champion, the obvious candidate.



The final of the Masters qualifying tournament is between Judd Trump and Mark Joyce.

Most snooker fans know all about Trump by now but what of Joyce?

He hones his talent at the Masters Snooker Club in Walsall, the former practice base of ex-top 16 stars Martin Clark and Alain Robidoux.

Joyce attended a grammar school, which is itself unusual for players of a sport not renowned for their academic application (indeed it used to be said that prowess at snooker was the sign of a misspent youth).

He first rose to prominence when he won the European under 19 title in 2001 at the age of 17.

In 2006, Joyce won the English Amateur Championship, the oldest title in snooker, and after a good run on the PIOS was promoted to the professional ranks.

In his first season he managed to stay on, which is about as much as a rookie can hope for. He had been helped by Robin Hull’s withdrawal from the World Championship, which gave Joyce a walkover into the last 64 and, of course, a lot of ranking points.

Last season, he secured a television debut against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Royal London Watches Grand Prix. He lost 4-0 but the ranking points helped him improve from 73rd to 59th in the standings.

He also lives about a mile from me. The West Midlands has long been a snooker hotbed and it’s good to have another player from the region doing well after Clark (from Sedgley) and Steve James (Cannock), both of whom are long since retired.


Sir Rodney Walker has been re-elected chairman of the WPBSA.

Of course he has. Nobody stood against him or the other directors – Sir David Richards, Hamish McInnes, Peter Ebdon and Lee Doyle – up for re-election at today’s AGM in Sheffield.

The official press release stated that Walker had received the backing of 91.3% of the players.

This sounds impressive but is deliberately misleading.

From an electorate of around 75, only 23 could be bothered to vote. Walker, Richards, McInnes and Doyle each received 21 votes for with two against. Ebdon received 17 votes for with six against.

The board themselves can vote and it is safe to assume Doyle, the chief executive of 110sport, brought in votes from his own players, 11 of whom are eligible to vote.

Therefore, apathy has clearly reigned among the ordinary membership.

Walker has deduced from this that the players are happy with how he is running snooker.

“As a sport we have moved on to a strong and secure footing within the past five years. There are now new challenges which lie ahead, but I am glad that the players have shown today that they would like me to continue to lead snooker as we face these challenges,” he said.

Actually, he received fewer than 30% support from those eligible to vote, although there is even less enthusiasm in removing him.



Are you a former professional snooker player?

Do you know any ex-pro players?

Snooker Scene is interested in tracking down those who have competed on the circuit to find out what they are up to these days.

We were inspired by looking through some back issues and wondering out loud what had happened to all the names in front of us.

We're not really after big names - as their whereabouts are known - but players who had their moments, who played on TV or at the Crucible or had a couple of big wins.

Please get in touch at snookersceneblog@aol.com



If Neil Robertson made one mistake last season it was reading what other people thought of him.

Natural human curiosity of course leads public figures to venture on to the internet to see what is being said about them.

Neil read a couple of snooker forums where he was being roundly insulted.

He told me: “People said some things that don’t have anything to do with sport. They don’t understand what it takes to compete at the highest level.

“I shouldn’t have let it affect me but it did because I was struggling a lot last season.

“They were saying that my career was over and that they’d never see me again and I’d never win a tournament again.

“They said I was lucky to win the tournaments I had. I took it to heart when I shouldn’t have done.”

On the web it is easy to insult people behind the cloak of anonymity. In my experience, the people who do this are usually the last to repeat it in person.

If anyone wants to say anything to Neil's face they can do so in Telford tomorrow.

While it is perfectly acceptable to hold strong opinions, it is also worth remembering that not everyone has a thick skin and can shrug off unpleasant comments, especially when they are struggling for confidence, as Neil was last season.

Neil was also described this week as a ‘cocky Aussie’ by one newspaper – ironically owned by an Australian – because he made some comments about the great champions in sport not failing at the last. He wasn’t comparing himself to Roger Federer and co but this was how his remarks were interpreted.

My advice to him is to unplug his computer.



Steve Davis has received 1,900 last 16 losers points from the Bahrain Championship and Ronnie O'Sullivan 700 points for losing in the opening round.

Both players withdrew from the tournament with medical certificates.

Davis had been due to play O'Sullivan in the last 32.

It makes little difference to O'Sullivan either way because he's so far ahead at the top but Davis now rises five places to 22nd.

My opinion is that World Snooker has done the right thing. Davis withdrew when he had already been put through to the last 16.

Also, although there is natural scepticism regarding the Premier League situation, you can't disprove a doctor's note.


Graeme Dott has withdrawn from this weekend’s leg of the World Series of Snooker in Moscow because his wife, Elaine, is due to give birth at any moment.

Dott, the 2006 world champion, won the Berlin stage of the new competition in July and was due to play Russian hopeful Sergey Vasilev.

“I’m disappointed not to be going to Moscow with the rest of the lads but at the same time I’m just excited that I'm going to be a dad again,” said Dott, who has a four year-old son, Lewis.

“The baby was due last Saturday so it could happen any minute now. It’s the waiting for Elaine and myself that is the hardest part.

“I was looking forward to Moscow having won in Berlin which was amazing, playing in front of the best crowd I’ve ever experienced. But right now my priority is my family.”

The World Series event in Moscow will be the first professional snooker tournament staged in the Russian capital.

It features twice world champion John Higgins, world no.4 Mark Selby and Chinese star Ding Junhui.

“We’ll all miss Graeme in Moscow but will have our glasses charged and ready to toast the new arrival in the Dott family,” said Pat Mooney, chief executive of World Series organisers FSTC management.

“There is nothing more important than Graeme, his wife and the good health of their baby.

“His withdrawal obviously means there is now an opening in the draw and we are working to bring in someone to fill that gap.

“It’s not going to be a problem because players are jumping at the chance to join the World Series.”

The Moscow event is not being televised on Eurosport because of problems related to obtaining the necessary documentation for techinical equipment required for broadcast.

The Grand Finals of the World Series will be staged at the Kremlin next March.

November 22/23

First round matches
John Higgins (Sco) v Antn Ryabinin (Rus)
TBA v Sergey Vasiliev (Rus)
Mark Selby (Eng) v Ruslan Chinakhov (Rus)
Ding Junhui (Chn) v Sergey Isaenko (Rus)



The newly formed Snooker Players' Association (SPA) has sent letters to players throughout the ranks inviting them to become members.

The SPA would effectively be a players' union in the same way the PFA is in English football.

A copy of the letter and further details can be found here.


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.



I’m told it is now unlikely the Malta Cup will be on as a ranking event this season (I hope this information is wrong), which means we are now halfway through the ranking tournament campaign.

So donning my imaginary schoolmaster’s cloak and hat (do they still wear these?) it’s time for a half term report on the game’s top players.

I’m starting with the top eight in the official rankings. You’ll see I’ve laboured the school analogy to the point of awarding grades for performances so far this season.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at those ranked 9-16 and then on Thursday some other players.

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN: A- (started 1st, now 1st)
Ronnie didn’t play at his very best to win the Northern Ireland Trophy but still showed flashes of the sort of genius only he is capable of. He made a break against Dave Harold where the balls had all been positioned awkwardly that had to be seen to be believed.

Ronnie seemed to get frustrated as the Shanghai Masters final went on and was inconsistent at the Grand Prix. Nevertheless, he has surely already done enough to keep his no.1 position at the end of the season.

STEPHEN MAGUIRE: C+ (started 2nd, now 2nd)
Stephen would have hoped for better than a semi-final and two quarter-finals from the first four events as, like any top player, he wants to be in finals and winning titles. However, his consistency has seen him consolidate second place in the rankings.

The big letdown was his performance in his native Glasgow, where he may have felt the pressure of trying to perform for family and friends. Even so, I expect him to kick-on for the rest of the season.

SHAUN MURPHY: E (started 3rd, now 6th)
Shaun has made a dreadful start to the campaign, which is very surprising bearing in mind his consistency over the last couple of years. Still without a win in a ranking event this season, he badly needs some results to get his confidence up.

Most, including me, would expect him to do so but we’ve seen so many great players sink like a stone in recent years that nothing is guaranteed. I hope Shaun pulls himself out of the slump because he’s always entertaining to watch when he’s on top form.

MARK SELBY: C- (started 4th, now 4th)
Mark was disadvantaged over the Bahrain/Premier League date clash but has still done enough to keep his top four place at the midway point in the season. Even so, there are a couple of worrying signs. He had Ricky Walden beaten at 4-1 in their Shanghai semi-final and played a strange shot on frame ball to give Ryan Day his chance to clear up in the last 16 of the Grand Prix.

But one of Mark’s great strengths is his general attitude and I expect him to shrug off this inconsistent start to the season and bounce back in the second half of the campaign.

JOHN HIGGINS: B+ (started 5th, now 8th)
Although John has gone down in the rankings, he was 14th provisionally at the start of the season so will be delighted to be back in the top eight at the halfway point. He was unable to play in Bahrain but won the Grand Prix and was a semi-finalist at the Northern Ireland Trophy.

The only worrying sign for fans of John is that his creditable commitment to the World Series means he is not able to give his game the attention some of the other players give theirs. Being so good, he can get away with this to an extent but it might catch up with him over the longer tournaments, ie the World and UK Championships.

STEPHEN HENDRY: C- (started 6th, now 10th)
Stephen salvaged his season, if not career, with his run to the semi-finals in Bahrain, in which he reminded us just what a great player he can be. The centuries were flying in again and at times he looked as good as in his heyday.

However, in the semis he reverted to the struggling player he looked in the first three tournaments. The test for him for the remainder of the season is to stave off the inevitable decline that comes to all players and keep his top eight place. I’d imagine Stephen would see anything else as a failure.

ALI CARTER: C+ (started 7th, now 5th)
Ali has improved tremendously over the last year because he now has the self belief to back up his obvious talent. Before last season’s World Championship he had only been in two ranking event semi-finals. He has now been in five.

He played superbly in the two semi-finals he was in this season before losing deciders but won’t be happy with two first round exits, in Shanghai and Bahrain. These have taken the shine off what has nevertheless been the most encouraging period of his career.

RYAN DAY: B+ (started 8th, now 3rd)
Ryan is now playing the best snooker of his career but I’m sure he would swap a little of the consistency for a title. He played the best snooker of the Grand Prix but came up short when it really mattered, in the final.

Still, he is up to third place in the provisional rankings with every reason to look forward to the rest of the season. In the class of 2008/09, Ryan is looking like one of the biggest dangermen.


Mark Selby is the latest player to have his say over the Bahrain/Premier League scheduling mess and the need for tournaments in Europe, where the game is hugely popular.

His interview with the Eurosport website is here.


This story on the media guardian website provides the background to a major fallout between the regular snooker press and World Snooker.

What follows is a long, somewhat self-regarding explanation of what it means and why it matters.

I fully accept that it will bore many of you to tears but this is an issue important for myself and my colleagues in the press room.

The Press Association is the UK’s national news agency and supplies copy to virtually every national and regional newspaper in the country.

These papers rely on the PA copy for a whole range of stories, including in sport, as they cannot have a journalist covering every single event everywhere in the world.

It is therefore important that the PA copy is informative, impartial and gives an accurate account of any particular story.

For the last 44 years, Everton’s News Agency, run by Clive Everton, the editor of Snooker Scene, has supplied snooker stories to the PA and covered tournaments for them.

Another agency, Lancaster and Crowther, has done so for around 25 years.

Earlier this month, each agency received a letter from the PA sports editor to inform us that he would no longer be requiring our services.

When asked why, he replied that they would be doing the coverage in-house from now on. Furthermore, they said they will be taking most of their stories from worldsnooker.com in future and that the PA had ‘enhanced its relationship with World Snooker.’

According to worldsnooker.com’s terms and conditions, users of the site cannot “modify, copy, reproduce, re-publish, upload, post, transmit, rent, loan, sell, lease, license, sub-license or distribute any material on the Site or create in any way content and/or derivative works based on the content of the Site or the Site itself or services provided by, or on behalf of World Snooker in whole or in part without our prior written consent.”

The governing body readily agreed to the PA’s request. It seems to suit both sides. PA get free copy and therefore save money and World Snooker get to have their spin on events on the main news wire.

In a letter to World Snooker complaining about this new arrangement, the Snooker Writers Association said: “Worldsnooker.com is a corporate website that does not give an accurate account of what happens at tournaments. Any controversy is basically played down or even covered up. The bland tone of its coverage will result in PA stories that are not going to interest sports editors in carrying copy on a sport that is already struggling for coverage.”

World Snooker responded that the approach from the PA came as a “complete surprise” and appears to believe they had no choice other than to accept.

Well actually they could at least have considered the knock-on effect for the sport as a whole. They could have contacted the SWA to talk it over with them or demanded certain requirements from the PA as to the scope of their coverage.

I have personally covered the qualifiers as conscientiously as I could for the PA for a decade, either at the various venues – Blackpool, Newport, Burton-on-Trent and Prestatyn – or from afar. To be ousted in this way is very upsetting.

What sort of coverage is a guy sat in the PA office going to give them now bearing in mind worldsnooker.com offers only scant reports on them and sometimes none at all?

When something controversial (ie interesting) is said or happens at a tournament, only those newspapers with specialist correspondents present will carry coverage because worldsnooker.com won't mention it.

The regular snooker press are a committed (some of them should have been) group of people who have written about the sport for many years, often from a position of deep affection for it.

Now this cosy new relationship between the PA and World Snooker will result in even less coverage of a sport already struggling for space in newspapers.

When I started in this sport, The Daily Telegraph and Times were guaranteed to carry a reasonable sized report on a day’s play from any tournament no matter what had happened.

Now, it is rare for either paper to include more than a paragraph.

It has to be a really good story these days for sports editors to be interested. Uncontroversial PR of the sort fed to PA by worldsnooker.com is not going to appeal to anyone.

Some of my colleagues are even talking about no longer going to tournaments.

Players are now warned that they will be disciplined for even the mildest of statements. At the Northern Ireland Trophy in August they were all given a letter advising them to answer ‘no comment’ to even routine questions.

By the time of the final in Belfast there were no journalists present at all.

World Snooker in their letter to the SWA write that “We very much appreciate that we need to work together with the snooker writers.”

That’s assuming there will be any snooker writers left.



John Higgins has given an interview to the Eurosport website in which he speaks of his frustration of how the sport is being run by World Snooker.

Higgins has become the most vocal critic of the governing body among the players since setting up the World Series earlier this year.

As a twice world champion he is entitled to his opinions and I think most of his fellow players would agree with them.

The World Series has shown that there is a huge appetite for snooker in Europe and credit goes to him for taking tournaments to the continent.

However, I am slightly alarmed by the mention lower down the interview of reducing the traditional game from 15 reds to six or ten.

John is right that there are many, many things that could be improved in terms of how snooker is run.

But one thing that does not need changing is the game itself.

Interview here.



The wildcard for the Wembley Masters will be announced at some point between the qualifiers later this month and the UK Championship.

Therefore, Ricky Walden has to be considered the outstanding favourite to receive an invite.

He did, after all, win the Shanghai Masters with victories over Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson, Steve Davis, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

I’d be surprised if Ricky is overlooked but it is not impossible. There are a number of other leading contenders as well.

Judd Trump impressed in a BBC tournament (which of course the Masters is as well) by beating O’Sullivan before losing to John Higgins in the Grand Prix semi-finals.

Liang Wenbo brought his exciting, ultra attacking style of play to the World Championship and got all the way to the quarter-finals.

Former top 16 stars Dave Harold and Matthew Stevens have appeared in ranking tournament finals while veteran Steve Davis has found a bit of form.

But surely Walden is the leading contender for a Wembley place.

And he’s just the sort of player who could do some damage there come January.


Neil Robertson was the worthy winner of the Bahrain Championship.

He went to Manama low in confidence but gradually found some during the week.

His performance in beating Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals could well have turned his entire season around.

It’s unfair on the late Eddie Charlton to compare these two Australians because he was at his peak before there was a recognisable circuit like today.

Nevertheless, Robertson has a reasonable claim to be Australia’s most successful snooker player ever. His victory in Bahrain gave him his third rankling title. Only 15 other players in the game’s history have won this many.

He had some off table stuff to deal with last season that distracted him from his on table efforts.

He now has a new coach, Steve Prest, and practises in a new club and will hopefully kick on from this victory and win more tournaments.

I hope so. Neil is good to watch and it’s good for any sport to have players of different nationalities winning titles, particularly in the British dominated game of snooker.

Matthew Stevens could have led the final 8-6 but missed an awkward black and failed to win another frame.

This was a further disappointment for a man who had already won only one ranking title from six finals.

At least he has some confidence back and a bunch of points as he attempts to rejoin the elite top 16, which is where a player of his class belongs.

So what of the Bahrain Championship?

Not even the most deluded spin doctor could claim the crowd turnout during the week was good. It must have been the lowest attendance for a ranking tournament final I have ever seen.

Players thrive on an atmosphere and tend to raise their game when the crowd gets behind them.

We saw much high quality snooker during the week but the event obviously missed Mark Selby, John Higgins and Ding Junhui, who were all contracted to play in the Premier League, and Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis, who withdrew with sick notes, although of course Davis was also in the Premier League.

If World Snooker stages this event next year then they should do so at a time when everyone can enter and if they have to come to a separate arrangement with O’Sullivan to get him there then they should seriously consider that as well.

No one player is bigger than the sport but snooker benefits from having all its stars taking part in tournaments, particularly new ones in new territories.



As so often happens to players who go on to lift a title, Neil Robertson suffered a major scare in the opening round of the Bahrain Championship.

He led Marcus Campbell 4-1 but only beat him 5-4. Similarly, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ricky Walden were taken to deciders in their opening matches in Belfast and Shanghai respectively.

Of course, Robertson hasn't won the title yet but, like so many Aussie sportsmen, he is super confident and well aware that Matthew Stevens has lost five of his previous six ranking finals.

So I would make Robertson the favourite.

My main hope, though, is that the final is high quality and brings in a big crowd after what has been a disappointing turnout all week.



For all the talk of withdrawals and non-entries, the cream has risen to the top in Bahrain.

The semi-final line-up is brimming with quality, although interestingly it features four players who were in no sort of form before the event began.

Stephen Hendry has been consistently impressive here – a stark contrast to his form in the first three ranking events of the season.

Matthew Stevens has won eight of his 19 meetings with the seven times world champion – a pretty good record – including two finals, the 2003 UK Championship and 2005 Northern Ireland Trophy.

How nice it is to see this talented Welshman playing so well again. I had questioned whether he could bounce back and here is the answer.

Neil Robertson impressed me against Stephen Maguire yesterday. The key frame was the fourth. Maguire had just made breaks of 122 and 81 and was starting to get on top.

Robertson, though, responded with a run of 75 and did not lose another frame.

The Aussie is through to only the third ranking event semi-final of his career. He won the other two and went on to be crowned Grand Prix and Welsh Open champion.

However, Robertson will have his work cut out against Mark Allen, who hit three centuries during his 5-2 defeat of Barry Hawkins in their quarter-final.

I expect Allen to win a ranking title sooner rather than later.
We haven’t seen him yet on the TV table in Bahrain but I’m looking forward to his semi-final, indeed both semi-finals.

Whatever the gripes and problems in snooker, the game itself remains as fascinating as ever.


Stephen Hendry isn't happy that Ronnie O'Sullivan failed to go to Bahrain.

He told the Daily Record that the world champion 'just does what he wants.'

O'Sullivan withdrew from the tournament before it began, claiming to be 'run down.'

I have sympathy for what Hendry says because crowds have been poor and there is no guarantee this new ranking event will be staged again.

However, it is only fair to point out that he has changed his tune over O'Sullivan's behaviour.



Crowds have been poor in Bahrain. This is a new event and they tend to take time to build up but some will wonder if there was ever really sufficient interest in this country.

My attitude is that any new tournament is better than none and that this one shouldn’t be knocked.

But to see even the great Stephen Hendry playing in an arena that isn’t even half full is a little dispiriting.

Of course, crowds are not always great in the UK. In Belfast they were poor, although I’d put that down to the fact it was held in August. In Glasgow last month they were much better.

Snooker is still very popular in Britain but there needs to be a big promotional push to let people know there are tournaments actually happening.

Unfortunately, relations between the media and the WPBSA have just fallen to an all time low for reasons I will explain in due course.

What we do know is that in continental Europe there would be a huge turnout were major events to be staged.

At the Berlin leg of the World Series in July there were sell-out crowds of up to 1,600 at a time.

In Warsaw last month there were also huge audiences and I believe this would be repeated in many other parts of Europe.

Let’s hope the final in Bahrain attracts a full house.

Top players revel in a great atmosphere. It also makes for good viewing. Despite all the non-entries and withdrawals, the cream has risen to the top now and it would be a shame if they did not get the support they deserve.


Robert Milkins deserves huge credit for overturning a 4-0 deficit to beat Michael Holt 5-4 in Bahrain yesterday.

This is unusual, though not unheard of.

I have huge sympathy for Holt, who seemed to be in the best form of his career. As I’d expect, he took it all with great self-deprecation, saying: “I wish there was a video of that match so we could give it to people who were feeling down on themselves. After watching it they’d be outside doing cartwheels and saying ‘at least I'm not Michael Holt.’”

At least he’s in good company. Even the greats of the game have lost matches from a long way in front.

Steve Davis led Alex Higgins 7-0 in the 1983 UK Championship final and was beaten 16-15; he led Dennis Taylor 8-0 in the 1985 World Championship final and lost 18-17; he led Ryan Day 4-0 in the first round of the 2000 Welsh Open and lost 5-4.

Ronnie O’Sullivan was 8-2 up on Peter Ebdon in the quarter-finals of the 2005 World Championship but was beaten 13-11.

Stephen Hendry led Mark Williams 8-4 in the quarter-finals of the 2001 UK Championship but lost 9-8.



It was once written in a newspaper that Barry Pinches spends his time “lording it round the snooker clubs of Norwich.”

There have been a lot of odd things written over the years but this will take some beating.

Anyone who knows Barry knows that ‘lording it’ is not something he would ever do, in Norwich or anywhere else.

Most people seem to assume he will be easily beaten by Stephen Hendry at the Bahrain Championship today.

I would offer a note of caution to Hendry fans.

You don’t need a particularly long memory to recall their match in the second round of the 2004 World Championship, which went to a deciding frame before Hendry won 13-12.

The seven times Crucible champion has also won their other two meetings but Pinches, who wears a distinctive waistcoast in his beloved Norwich City’s colours, is one of those players who can cause all sorts of problems for players not on their game.

He’s been a pro for 19 years now and although he has never quite risen above journeyman status he has a maximum to his name and is closing in on 100 centuries (currently on 92).

He has already had two tons in Manama this week and will exploit any errors coming from the cue of Hendry.

Barry’s in the position of having nothing to lose, really. Hendry, on the other hand, is desperate for a good run and so will be the one under pressure.

It's all live on Eurosport at 12pm UK time.



There was a frame in the Stephen Maguire v Mark Davis match in Bahrain today that finished 49-1 to Davis.

The 50 points scored thus equalled the lowest aggregate frame score in a ranking event match. Graham Horne and Barry Mapstone also aggregated 50 in a frame during a qualifying match for the 1996 British Open qualifiers. Horne won the frame 34-16.

This is slightly misleading, though, as it does not include frames where players have conceded at ridiculously early points, as several have over the years.

Therefore, the record only applies to 'proper' frames.

Regardless, it's not really the sort of record you'd want to hold.

EDIT: This may all be nonsense (see comment below)


Reports of Mike Hallett's death have been greatly exaggerated.

In fact, they've been made up.

According to this online encyclopedia, Mike "died of medical complications following a stroke he suffered four days before his death. His family are currently seeking compensation from the NHS and Berkshire hospitals for negligence that may have resulted in his death. He was 46."

Indeed, he was 46 but he's now 49.

If Mike has been dead all this time then he's done a remarkable job as a commentator alongside me on Eurosport.

Mike is well and truly alive in more ways than one - he reached the final of the last PIOS event, won his first match in the latest one yesterday and is poised for a return to the main tour.

Whoever wrote the entry has either badly got the wrong end of the stick or maliciously tried to start a rumour.

Either way, I'm happy to confirm that Mike lives.


You write off truly great players at your peril.

Stephen Hendry is the greatest snooker player of all time.

Therefore, it wasn't a huge surprise that he should finally find some form this season, as he did in beating Ricky Walden 5-3 in the Bahrain Championship last night.

The back-to-back centuries he compiled were a reminder of how good Hendry can be.

We should not get carried away. This is only one match, one result.

But he cued very nicely indeed and if he continues this form will take some stopping in Manama this week.

I know Stephen believes he is still good enough to win titles. I personally wouldn't back against it in Bahrain.



The last 16 line up at the Bahrain Championship is becoming not so much a who’s who of snooker as a who’s that?

So far, only two members of the elite top 16 – Ryan Day and Neil Robertson – have made it through.

There will surely be more to follow today and tomorrow but it does still give hope to some of the lower ranked professionals that this may be their turn to shine.

Take Robert Milkins. But for a miracle pot on a green by Matthew Stevens the Gloucester man would probably have been in the 2005 Irish Masters final.

Since losing that semi-final 9-8 from 8-5 up he has done very little. Down to 71st in the provisional rankings, his match against Michael Holt will be his first appearance in the last 16 of a ranking tournament since the 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy.

Holt will start favourite having beaten Jamie Cope in the previous round, although playing Milkins may bring back painful memories for him.

When they met at the 2001 B&H Championship Holt missed a red in the decider and banged his fist on the table rail in frustration.

So hard did he bang it that he had to be taken to hospital with a broken knuckle.

Looking back he was lucky this did not affect his career (he didn’t, as claimed by worldsnooker.com, pull out of the following month’s UK Championship).

What of the other lower rankers?

Could Barry Pinches or Mike Dunn win a ranking title?

Unlikely but you never know.

Few gave Bob Chaperon much hope in the 1990 British Open and he ended up winning it.

Whoever wins out of Stephen Hendry and Ricky Walden this evening will fancy their chances.

We still have the likes of Stephen Maguire, Ali Carter and Mark Allen to come.

But this has already been the sort of event where a shock winner would not be such a shock.


Steve Davis has now withdrawn from the Bahrain Championship, giving Dominic Dale a bye through to the quarter-finals.

The official reason given is ill health. Of course, Davis is due to play in the Premier League on Thursday.


The biggest surprise for me about the Royal London Watches Grand Prix was that Ryan Day, who played the best snooker of the tournament, performed so badly in the final.

You’ll recall he lost 9-7 to John Higgins, who would himself admit that he was nowhere near his best.

Can Ryan make amends in Bahrain?

I see no reason why not. He has played the best snooker of his career over the last 18 months and, despite not having won a ranking title, is currently third in the provisional rankings.

Day has beaten Dave Harold 5-2 to become the first top 16 player into the last 16 after seven completed matches.

It is an advantage that a number of top players are either out of the tournament or not part of it to start with but there is still plenty of quality around, not least Day’s next opponent, his fellow Welshman Matthew Stevens.

But Day must know this is one of the best chances he will ever have to land a ranking event.



If four successive first round defeats don’t constitute a crisis then nothing does.

This is particularly true for Shaun Murphy, beaten 5-4 by Mike Dunn in Bahrain today, because he has been a model of consistency for the last couple of years.

Last season, he lost just one first round match.

He will go to the Maplin UK Championship next month winless since beating Dave Harold in the first round of the World Championship last April.

What went wrong?

Even the best players feel the pressure. Confidence is so important and you only need to lose a couple of matches to suddenly be under it.

The same thing happened to Mark Williams. He won his first match in 48 successive ranking events – easily a record – before finally losing to Fergal O’Brien in the 2003 UK Championship.

This one defeat precipitated a decline so rapid that it cost him his top 16 place.

There have been newspaper reports of difficulties in Shaun’s marriage.

That's entirely his business but it’s worth remembering that all players have lives away from the green baize and that they face the same problems and struggles as anyone else.

He’s too good a player not to pull himself out of this slump but these are worrying signs.

More worrying was his statement at the Grand Prix that he was happy with how he was hitting the ball.

The only way to solve a problem is to admit there is one to solve.


Perhaps Thailand finally has someone who can emulate the achievements of James Wattana.

Yesterday, Thepchaiya Un Nooh, who is 23, beat Colm Gilcresst 11-7 to win the IBSF World Amateur Championship in Wels, Austria.

He had beaten Wattana on the way to the final and compiled breaks of 143 and 139 in defeating Gilcreest.

It’s worth remembering that Thailand was the leading place for snooker outside of the UK for several years throughout the 1990s.

Players were treated like pop stars and Wattana’s success inspired a nation to become interested in the game.

Yet the last of 14 ranking events to be staged in Thailand was back in 2002. There is no imminent sign of a return.

Let's hope Thepchaiya's emergence will reignite interest in this once snooker-mad country.


How likely is Steve Davis to play in Bahrain on Tuesday?

Here's a clue.



I’m pleased for Marcus Campbell, who today constructed the 66th maximum in snooker history and the first in the Middle East.

His cheque for £22,000 – assuming no other player makes a 147 (not a safe assumption these days) – is the biggest of his 17-year professional career. Last season, he only earned £17,000 during the whole campaign.

Marcus has almost defined the term ‘journeyman.’ He is far too good a player to drop off the circuit but has never quite threatened to win a major title.

It is ten years, almost to the week, since his other great achievement when he defeated Stephen Hendry 9-0 in the first round of the 1998 UK Championship, arguably the biggest shock in snooker history.

He has never risen higher than 41st in the rankings and has reached only one ranking event quarter-final, at the 1998 Scottish Open in Aberdeen.

However, to have remained on the circuit for this long is a considerable achievement.

Marcus’s previous claim to fame in an overseas event was making a hole in one during a round of golf at Mission Hills, Shenzhen at the 2000 China Open.

He used to play in glasses before having his eyes ‘lasered’ in an attempt to improve his fortunes.

He qualified for the televised phase of the World Championship at the Crucible in 2001 but his career suffered a major blow in 2004 when his cue was broken beyond repair by baggage handlers at Cardiff airport.

Campbell’s previous highest break was 141, made in the 2006 Grand Prix, and he becomes the eighth Scottish player to make a 147 in competition after Hendry, John Higgins, Stephen Maguire, Graeme Dott, John Rea, Jamie Burnett and David McLellan.

This is the third maximum of the season after Jamie Cope’s effort in the Shanghai Masters and Liang Wenbo’s 147 in the Bahrain qualifiers.

They have become far more common since Steve Davis made the first on TV in 1982 but it is still an achievement worth noting and Marcus should be very proud of himself.



Wildcards add an important local dimension to ranking tournaments but it seems unlikely any of the six involved in the Bahrain Championship tomorrow can cause an upset.

The six have been drawn from different countries in the Gulf region where snooker is popular but the standard is yet to reach that we are used to on the circuit.

Of course, part of the reason for having wildcards is to help encourage the growth of the game in a particular country.

Ding Junhui was a wildcard in the 2005 China Open in Beijing and went on to win the title, sparking a snooker boom in the process.

Oddly, the one wildcard possibly capable of springing a surprise, Bahrain’s own Habib Subah, who has previously played on the main tour, has not been put on the main table by tournament organisers.

This means Eurosport’s coverage launches with Rod Lawler’s match against Isa Ali Al-Hashimi and highlights of Mike Dunn against Ahmed Abdulla Asiry.


How many professional snooker players have there been over the years?

It’s probably between 2,500 and 3,000 but very few have been like Quinten Hann and I dare say many involved in the sport are glad of that.

This brash Australian was born with a considerable natural talent but his career ended in disgrace.

Let’s be clear: Quinten was a fine player. When he got his head down he was often very impressive to watch.

He should have been a star: the Aussie swagger, the good looks and the talent. Sadly, for reasons best known to Quinten himself, he chose the path of self destruction.

The signs were there at an early age. As a boy he was banned by the Australian association for spitting at an opponent’s mother. Hann claimed he had actually been taking part in a ‘spitting contest’ with a pal and that the woman had got in the way.

He remains the youngest player ever to make a televised century, which he did at 13 in the junior event of the 1991 World Masters, a tournament won by John Higgins which also featured Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams.

Hann turned pro in 1995 and his talent was plain for everyone to see. He began to make a name for himself off the table as well when spotted by a model agency.

But he had a problem and it seemed to be in dealing with the pressure.

At the 1998 UK Championship and again at the Irish Open that year he needlessly conceded frames with as many as 12 reds remaining.

Why? Possibly because he needed to give himself an excuse to lose. If he gave the match away he could rationalise it in his own mind that he hadn’t really been beaten.

At Telford in 2000 he twice smashed into the pack off two cushions in breaking off in his match in the Grand Prix against Ronnie O’Sullivan. In two other frames he simply smashed into the reds after O’Sullivan had broken off.

A section of the crowd, who paid good money to see a proper match, booed him off.

I once asked him why he broke off in this way. He said he had a “50-50” chance of potting a red.

This was, of course, nonsense.

Quinten seemed to attract trouble, much of it unnecessary. I recall he arrived at the qualifiers of the 2000 World Championship in Newport with a pair of grey combat trousers, which did not conform to the WPBSA’s dress code.

He was informed that unless he bought a pair of proper trousers he would be scratched from the tournament.

Quinten went to a nearby Marks and Spencers and bought a pair of black trousers. He played in them with the labels still attached before giving them to a girl he had met to return and get his money back.

Hann once played in the UK Championship wearing socks because he had broken his ankle doing a parachute jump.

Far more seriously, he twice stood trial, and was twice acquitted, of rape. There were newspaper reports that he had been arrested for firing a gun outside a nightclub back in Australia.

At the 2004 World Championship he had to be separated from Andy Hicks by referee Lawrie Annandale after Hicks won their first round match.

Hann told him: “You’re short and bald and always will be and I’ll fight you for £50,000 any time you like.”

Hicks, a mild mannered, sensible sort, declined.

It was again an unnecessary, petulant way to behave but what wasn’t widely reported was what Hann said a day or two later when I interviewed him.

He seemed to be genuinely sorry.

“It just got a bit out of hand,” he said. “There was a bit of needle there and I took offence at what he said when he shook my hand. I’m not proud of what I said. I feel bad about it but everyone wants to win so badly at the Crucible. It was just the heat of the moment.

“I haven’t got the best temper in the world and I was out of order.”

He had, at last, recognised that his actions were not of the manner expected by a professional sportsman.

It was, though, far too late to salvage his own reputation as one of snooker’s bad boys.

He earned support from O’Sullivan, who said: “A lot of the other players don’t like Quinten because although they pot the balls, he pulls the birds.”

Indeed, Ronnie was in his Hann’s corner for ‘Pot Whack’, a bizarre boxing match with Mark King at Bethnal Green a couple of months after the spat with Hicks.

King looks like a man who can carry himself and it was widely assumed he would win.

Instead, it was Hann who triumphed over three bruising rounds. I interviewed him in his dressing room afterwards and he looked like he’d just won the world title at the Crucible.

He seemed to be the sort of character who could bounce back from anything.

That notion was disproved in chalet 147 at Pontin’s, Prestatyn in 2005. Hann was recorded by undercover journalists from The Sun newspaper, posing as members of a betting syndicate, saying he would be prepared to lose a match at that season’s China Open for £50,000.

He was later recorded giving them his bank details. The ‘sting’ was called off as the journalists could obviously not be party to a criminal act.

The Sun ran the story on the front page and Hann went back to Australia. He was later banned from playing in all WPBSA events for eight years.

Despite everything, I have to say I quite liked him, or rather I liked the fact that you were guaranteed to get a story out of him.

I can fully understand why he rubbed so many people up the wrong way and many of his actions in matches were deeply unprofessional but he did at least bring something different, if controversial, to the sport.

Put simply, he was a journalist’s dream. There was always something to write about.

However, match fixing – or in this case the intention to fix a match – is the worst thing a snooker player can do and it was quite correct that he should be thrown out of the game.

The Quinten Hann story is ultimately a tragic one: a talented player with the world at his feet undone by his own greed.

He doesn’t deserve any sympathy but I can’t help thinking snooker would be a little more colourful if he was still around.



Here’s a question for a grey, miserable Thursday: who is the best player never to have been ranked inside the top 16?

For me, it’s a straight fight between Dominic Dale and Andy Hicks.

Dale, whose highest ever ranking is 19th, has to be ahead on points as he has won two ranking titles, the 1997 Grand Prix and 2007 Shanghai Masters.

His problem, quite obviously, has been consistency. It’s actually quite hard, considering the huge number of points gained, not to make a rapid rise up the rankings if you win a tournament, which is exactly as it should be.

After Dominic’s first win he went up from 54th to 23rd. His Shanghai success, though, did not bring an improvement. In fact he went down a place from 31st to 32nd.

The ‘Spaceman’ only won three ranking event matches after winning the title and two of those were in the round robin phase of the Grand Prix.

What of Hicks? Within the space of a year in 1995/96 he appeared in the semi-finals of the World Championship, the UK Championship and the Wembley Masters (although the latter doesn’t carry ranking points).

That year he got up to 17th in the world rankings but never made it into the elite group.

I’d say Andy is every bit as good, if not better, than some of the players who have been top 16 members but, like Dale, consistency has let him down and he has lost a lot of close matches during his career.

The brutal truth is that there are many more than 16 players good enough to be in the top 16.

Getting there takes some doing and even players capable of great performances are not guaranteed a place.



Interest is said to be high for the new Bahrain Championship with tickets apparently selling very quickly.

"People from as far as Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been constantly contacting us trying to book tickets in the fear that they will be sold out soon - that's how much interest there is for this championship," said Shaikh Abdulla bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa, the president of the Bahrain Snooker Association in an interview with the Gulf Daily News.

"I am very pleased with the response from the public so far, and am looking forward to more tickets being sold over the next few days as the championship nears."

Shaikh Abdulla did, however, admit that the withdrawal of world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan was a blow.

"We are all disappointed and shocked of his withdrawal but the event will still have many of the world's best players and it will still be very competitive with a lot of great snooker to be played," he said.

Crowds make a huge difference to the perception of any tournament.

If it's a packed house with a good atmosphere it makes it attractive to those watching on television.

There's nothing worse than tuning in to find there's hardly a soul in the audience.

In a sensible move, World Snooker have switched Marco Fu's match with Dominic Dale from Sunday morning to evening to fill the gap left by O'Sullivan's no show.


In my latest column for Betfair I am tipping Jamie Cope is the outsider to follow at the Bahrain Championship.

I would like to apologise to Jamie for scuppering his chances in this way (although my previous tips Ricky Walden and John Higgins did win).

It seems to me that Cope has what it takes to win a title. His game is a little bit too focused on all out attack but this can be very effective.

I'd certainly like to see him in the top 16 because he's good to watch and plays the game in an attractive way.



After all the non-entries and withdrawals, one man who will play in the Bahrain Championship is Graeme Dott.

The 2006 world champion broke his wrist playing football at the Shanghai Masters, which cost him his place in that tournament and the Royal London Watches Grand Prix in Glasgow.

He has been told to rest the wrist but fully intends to go to Bahrain and compete.

"To be honest, the wrist is still pretty painful and I would imagine it will be like that for the next few weeks," Dott said.

"I will take pain-killers and hopefully, that will help me. I did not expect to make this event so if I win my first game I will definitely look on it as a bonus.

"If I lose I can at least say I've had a bit of match practice. I'm just desperate to get playing again. I couldn't play in China and I didn't feel any better when I missed the Grand Prix, which was hard to take.

"It's not going to be easy. I've not practiced for six weeks but I will give it my best shot and if I come through it will be a massive boost.

"I've no idea what is going to happen. But put it this way. It's better than sitting in the house.

"It does not seem so long since I was going to the world championship as the defending world champion.

"Now I am 45 provisionally but you have to start somewhere and I need to win some games to move up the rankings as quickly as I can."

Credit to Graeme for going to Bahrain when he had a clear reason not to.

Had he not done so the tournament would have been without the last three world champions.


Before this year’s World Championship, Ali Carter had appeared in only two ranking event semi-finals during 12 years on the professional circuit.

He has now figured in a final and two semi-finals from the last four ranking events.

Those two semi-finals saw him lose narrowly in deciders despite playing about as well as can be expected. Ronnie O’Sullivan pipped him in Belfast and Ryan Day in Glasgow.

Can Carter win a ranking title?

I see no reason why not. There were question marks over his temperament but, for me, they were dispelled when he completed his maximum break at the Crucible.

The final black was missable had he needed it merely for the frame but to knock it in for a big money 147 was proof that, under pressure, he can respond.

What Ali lacked was confidence and this was largely because there was so little snooker to play in.

So little, in fact, that he took a commercial airline pilot’s course for something to fall back on. He also bought a snooker club in Chelmsford which he helps to run.

Without question, the turning point came at the Championship League, a relatively relaxed new event that nevertheless offered large financial reward and, crucially, high quality practice opponents.

Carter did well – very well – in this and it toughened him up for the Crucible.

He is now fifth in the provisional rankings and has at last found the consistency he had been looking for.

He’s a confident sort and this will help him as he searches for his first ranking title.

Will it come in Bahrain? Obviously, the none appearance of four top players will be a help but ultimately it will come down to – as any tournament does – taking the chances when they come along.

There are still many top quality players heading for the Gulf. Carter has as much chance of bringing the trophy back as any of them.


The Bahrain Championship had a depleted field long before Ronnie O’Sullivan’s withdrawal yesterday.

The clash of dates with the Premier League meant that Mark Selby, John Higgins and Ding Junhui could not enter.

We still don’t know what Steve Davis is going to do.

There have been other dates clashes this season which caused a World Series event to be cancelled and uncertainty as to who could play in pro-ams in Europe, which are spreading the snooker word across the continent.

How can this be avoided in future?

The answer is simpler than you might think.

Each year there should be a ‘fixture conference’ chaired by World Snooker to which all independent promoters are invited.

World Snooker run the professional tour – which should take precedence – but it is in their own members (ie the players) interests to be able to play in as many tournaments as possible.

There is no reason why the dates for all tournaments should not be agreed in a civilised manner that benefits the sport as a whole.

Of course, some new events may be added that scupper things but, in principle, there is no reason why everyone can’t get round a table and act like grown-ups.

Surely the game itself is the most important thing?



Ronnie O'Sullivan has withdrawn from the Bahrain Championship.

This is his statement:

"With a great deal of regret I have decided to pull out of the Bahrain tournament.

"I have been very run down recently due to my hectic playing and promotional schedule, and my doctor has advised me to rest for a couple of weeks.

"I realise it is not good for me or the tournament if I am way below my best and don’t want to run the risk of exacerbating the problem and making myself more ill, potentially jeopardising the rest of the season, so I think it is right for me to take my doctor’s advice in the circumstances.

"I am very sorry not to be competing in Bahrain as I am sure the tournament will be a great success and I look forward to taking part in competitions there in the future."

I'm afraid this new tournament has turned into something of a farce.

You'll recall that Mark Selby, John Higgins and Ding Junhui were unable to enter because of the clash of dates with the Premier League, which they had already signed contracts to play in.

What does Steve Davis do now? He has a walkover into the last 16 but if he wins that match he will have to withdraw to play in the League.

How does anyone explain any of this to the folks in Bahrain?


And so to the Bahrain Championship, a tournament I’m sure everyone agrees is a welcome addition to the circuit.

This is the first ranking event to be staged in the Middle East for 14 years. Players of the early 1990s loved going to Dubai and I’ve no doubt the leading stars of today will receive an enthusiastic welcome in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

A few years ago, Matthew Stevens would have been one of the favourites. However, when I was looking down the draw earlier it was something of a surprise to see his name.

When was the last time he even played in a big TV match?

He didn’t qualify for Belfast or Glasgow and was only excused having to do so for Bahrain because of the enforced withdrawals of Mark Selby, John Higgins and Ding Junhui, who are all playing in the Premier League.

Matthew needs to start performing. He is currently 33rd in the provisional rankings and in danger of disappearing from view altogether.

So what went wrong?

Firstly, let’s nail one much repeated myth, namely that his game fell apart following the death of his father, Morrell, in 2001.

Actually, his form had already started to look shaky following his failure to win the 2000 world title. He led Mark Williams 13-7 in the final but lost 18-16.

He was still young and knew there were plenty more chances to come but must have found himself thinking in the months that followed that he should have been world champion instead of his good friend.

Of course Morrell’s death did then have an impact. He was his biggest supporter, travelled the circuit with him and Matthew was only 23 when he died.

Stevens won the 1999 Scottish Masters, 2000 Wembley Masters and 2003 UK Championship, got up to as high as fourth in the rankings and developed a reputation as a form man at the Crucible.

From 2000 to 2004 he appeared in a final and three semi-finals there but each match he lost was close – 18-16 to Williams, 17-15 to Higgins, 17-16 to Peter Ebdon and 17-15 to Graeme Dott.

Such close defeats inevitably take their toll and create a sense of uncertainty when future matches go to the wire.

So it was that the Welshman should lose in the final in 2005 to Shaun Murphy, a match he again led and again could have won.

Then another tragedy, the long illness and subsequent death of his best friend, Paul Hunter.

Remember, these two had travelled the circuit together since they were juniors. It is inconceivable that Paul’s death did not seriously affect him, on the table and off it.

His form deteriorated to such an extent that at the Crucible in 2007 he needed to beat Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals to stay in the top 16.

All was well when he led 12-7 but Murphy recovered to win 13-12 and Stevens was relegated from the elite group.

Does he have the hunger to return? Has he ever had the determination of the true greats of the game?

Only he can tell you, but one thing I do know is that, in terms of pure talent, Stevens is one of the best players I have ever seen.

I would like to think that his best days are not behind him but, at 31, he is facing an important few years that will tell us one way or another.


Fergal O'Brien has become only the 27th player in snooker history to compile a century of centuries in professional competition.

Fergal made two successive tons during his 5-4 defeat to Barry Pinches in the final qualifying round of the Bahrain Championship last week.

The Dubliner turned professional in 1991 and has long been regarded as something of a grinder.

I can assure you that if that's all he is he would not have reached 100 centuries.

Let's not forget he came very close to winning the 2001 Wembley Masters, losing only after Paul Hunter's inspired comeback.

Fergal did win the 1999 British Open and was runner-up in last season's Northern Ireland Trophy.

I expect Joe Perry, currently on 91 career centuries, or Mark Selby, who has made 89 thus far, to be the next player to join this exclusive club.

Stephen Hendry remains top of the pile on 719 with Ronnie O'Sullivan on 544.