The final part of my look ahead to the new season is an assessment of the world’s top eight, in reverse order...
Fu seems to suffer from inconsistency but generally comes good against the top players. He is ahead against Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, which is some boast, but only tends to play his best stuff in one or two tournaments a year.
He’s a better player than his one career ranking title suggests. Indeed, his metronomic style can often be deadly but there are times when he can look rather average – as when he lost 13-3 to Shaun Murphy at the Crucible last season.
He’s already second favourite for the world title next May and there are plenty of people who say he’s the second best player in the world. Well, actually, he’s the seventh best player in the world according to the world rankings and failed to follow up his excellent 2007/08 season in the campaign just gone.
Despite this, I rate Selby very highly. A number of the matches he lost last season were extremely close and he has the potential to be one of snooker’s top three or four players going into the next decade. I predict he will move back up the rankings this season.
Day is now the highest ranked player not to have won a ranking title. It becomes more of a psychological barrier with each final he loses but I think he can get there. He’s certainly got the ability and I think he can remain a top eight player for a number of years to come.
Also, one win could open the floodgates. In a sport where a number of established names are now on the back nines of their careers, Day is one of those who could take over their respective mantles.
Carter came of age in 2008 when he reached the world final and played superbly in the concluding session of the Welsh Open final to beat Joe Swail and land his first ranking title.
It was a fine performance and about time. Now that he’s won one, he could certainly win a number more titles, although his life will change when he becomes a father next month and he also has a new pressure to deal with this season: he starts it second in the provisional rankings.
Higgins was simply superb in winning a third world title last season and has reached that point in his career where he no longer has anything to prove. This makes him extremely dangerous.
I think he finds it hard to get himself up for some tournaments but when he’s on his game he’s as good as he ever was, and as good as anyone has ever been.
Murphy was Mr. Consistency in the 2007/08 season and then went right off the boil at the start of the last campaign before recovering to win the UK title and reach the final at the Crucible.
He had well documented off table problems and now those have receded I would expect him to return to become a regular again at the business end of tournaments.
Maguire’s best form tends to come in spurts lasting a couple of months. It didn’t really spurt forth last season but I’d expect it to resurface at some point.
He’s had his eyes lasered and has already been in two finals before hitting a ball in a ranking event. Maguire’s one desire is to win the world title. His problem may be putting too much pressure on himself to accomplish this feat.
If you look back through O’Sullivan’s career, he has tended to land roughly three titles a season. This hit rate will start to slow up at some point but I’d be surprised if he didn’t find success somewhere on the circuit this coming snooker year.
He is still, at times, spellbindingly brilliant while at other times, as they always have, the dark clouds descend. Predicting what he will do where is tricky, but if he doesn’t win the Premier League it will count as a major shock.