In the 1970s there was Ray Reardon, in the 1980s there was Steve Davis and in the 1990s there was Stephen Hendry.

In seasons since, John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams have all had spells of dominance but will snooker ever again have a figure who wins the lion’s share of major titles over a prolonged period of time?

Well, forever is a long time. But how about the next few years?

Mark Selby is the world no.1 but he isn’t the game's dominant player in the tradition of Reardon, Davis and Hendry.

O’Sullivan is world champion but, although he dominates the headlines, he didn’t dominate last season. Nobody did. Several players had their moments. Most of the major titles were shared around.

Why? Because there is a core group of around ten players who play snooker to a very high level and who are all capable of beating each other on the big occasions, and indeed they do so.

There is very little between them, even though O’Sullivan is still regarded by many (including players) as better than the rest at his best.

Stephen Hendry once won five consecutive ranking titles. This was extraordinary then but it would be even more so today because Hendry did not have as many players at the top of the game playing to the sort of standard he was capable of producing.

Standards rise all the time in sport and snooker is no different. Through the ranks there are now more players able to play at a high standard. Often players play brilliantly and lose early in tournaments.

But this is by no means the whole story. It isn’t just about ability but also mindset.

The reason Davis and Hendry dominated, apart from how they played, was that they wanted to. They wanted to so much that they made the sacrifices necessary to dominate.

Few players since have been as driven as that. Most come from humble, working class beginnings. When they start earning money in much greater amounts than they would have thought possible when young they become comfortable. They start to spend their money and enjoy themselves.

This is entirely understandable. It is human. Many would feel it a sad state of affairs if they didn’t.

But this approach doesn’t make champions who will threaten places in my fictional Mount Rushmore of snooker.

The Davis’s and Hendry’s were the players who stopped in on Saturday night because they wanted to be up early on a Sunday morning to practise. They were the players who won a tournament and put it out of their minds. They were relentless in their belief that nothing was ever good enough, that success could always be bettered.

Higgins and O’Sullivan have freely admitted they are not made this way, and Williams doesn’t seem to be either.

If a player can earn £200,000 a year playing snooker, if they are happy to win a title or two a year, then they may well wonder why they should change.

Even with the Davis/Hendry approach there is no guarantee a player could dominate again, such is the tough opposition out there.

If it did happen and a player emerged who topped the rankings and won most of the major prizes, would it be a good thing for snooker?

In some senses, yes. It would provide a focal point, as Phil Taylor has in darts, as the man to be shot at.

The downside, though, is that many people do get bored watching the same player win everything, as if it takes away the sense of the unexpected.

The question is, will it happen again?

Well, if it does then it is going to take one very, very special player.


Anonymous said...

I've always thought that the lack of a stand-out player right now, isn't because of the general high standard. I think there has been a general high standard for a long time (including when Hendry was dominant) - just that there hasn't been that special player come along (or that 3 came along at the same time!!).
I think the standard at the very top is now is good, but not great, and there is a chance for someone to grab the game by the horns... There are many solid players, the great players are all late 30's, and there is an opening for someone to dominate, and I think it would be good for the game of someone does??
Step forward Trump/Brecel????

Anonymous said...

Too much dominance makes the game too predictable, no dominance makes it too unpredictable, neither are conducive to spectator entertainment. Look at men's tennis where you have the holy trinity of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, albeit Federer seems to have fallen away slightly; it's taken tennis to a whole new level if you ask me. It was a similar scenario between 1998 and 2004 when you had the "Big Four", which I think was snooker's most competitive period. The problem with the current game is that the top players just aren't winning often enough for any serious rivalries to develop.

Kevy Canavan said...

Judd Trump could do it, if he really knuckled down and put the game before everything.
Tweeting and partying seem to be a big part of his life at the minute, and maybe that's what stopped him last year. Certainly in the worlds, where he suffered from illness. Perhaps if he didn't burn the candle at both ends, his immune system might have been in better shape.
As he gets older, and matures as a person, and a player, it will be interesting to see how he develops.
I, for one, hope that there is nobody who'll dominate snooker again like Hendry did in the 90s. I was too young then to really follow snooker, but I can't imagine anything more boring than the same faces winning everything, every year, like the way football has become.
I love an under dog.

Anonymous said...

Hendry at his best with his old mindset would not dominate now IMO . The standard is just too high .
Hendry said himself that when he looked at the draw for the world championships he couldn't see himself losing the first two rounds , and by the time he had won those matches he was into such a groove he was unstoppable . With the calibre of opponents nowadays such a groove is impossible to attain. That's why Higgins has fared so much better in recent years with an outstanding 'all round game ' .

Anonymous said...

3.38 Yes just look at the incredibly difficuly passage 80/1 shot Matthew stevens had at sheffield to reach the semi's - Fu, Hawkins and Day. What a standard! The Hendry of the mid 90s would have destroyed each of them 3 (the last 2 with a session to spare, and Fu by 8 clear frames). And, he'd still be world number 1 by a distance.

Anonymous said...

I was disappointed not to see Hendry receive a knighthood in the Queen's birthday honours.

Anonymous said...

anon 3.38

if Hendry was the player he was he would still look at todays Draw and not fancy Loosing hes being modest to say the least.

Anonymous said...

3.38 I actually think the standard is lower than it has been for a long time. Why are the 30'somethings still winning World Titles?? Because of lack of strength in depth...
Ronnie and Higgins are ten years past their best, but they have taken the last 2 Worlds.. that implies to me that the game has gone backwards a little.
How many kids in the UK are playing snooker today - compared to the snooker boom in the 80's?? I would hazard a guess that it is a hell of a lot less.. so in theory, it is probable that the game should go backwards a touch.
Obviously a snooker boom in other parts of the world should redress this balance - but it isn't quite there yet imo.

Kenn Fong said...

I can't speak to the specifics of snooker, Dave, since I'm so new to the game. But the level of competition in every sport has gotten much higher and stronger across the board for a number of reasons. Although it's harder for one player to dominate, the breadth of very good players is much wider in every sport.

I think it comes down to three major factors: technology, training, and money.

Tiger Woods spoke of technology this weekend when he was asked about all the teenagers in the US Open. He said they have so many more advantages than he had because modern training methods are so advanced from his day. He said the most he had was VHS, but today a young player has all sorts of virtual training methods which include detailed virtual analysis of a player's technique.

Besides the individualized training advance, today's young player can now review the current masters of the game and review them over and over again. Before Tiger's day and the advent of cable/satellite television and video recording, if you wanted to see the great players of the day, you would have to go to an event where they were playing or wait for one to be televised. Today, at any hour of the day or night, any player with a computer and broadband can watch hundreds of hours of play.

In my case, and I'm not even a snooker player, I have access to thousands of hours of snooker on YouTube and live events streamed on the Internet, whereas otherwise it would be nearly impossible for me to see even decent players on a regular basis without traveling an hour each way to one of two venues within a 50 mile radius.

A friend who grew up playing snooker in a small town in Nebraska in the 50s had never seen a century break ever, but in one week I was able to show him two maximums on YouTube. He was amazed because he said a 50 break was fantastic in his day. He told me he saw specific techniques he wished he had seen 60 years ago.

Another huge difference in training which is unrelated to video is nutrition and fitness. American professional baseball has something called "Spring Training," which is a legacy of the old days when players wouldn't touch their equipment after the season ended, so Spring Training was necessary not just to regain their sharpness but to sweat off some of the beer gut they acquired in the off-season. Babe Ruth, who was acknowledged have been the dominant player of his age by a huge margin would have a hard time keeping up with today's players, many of whom have highly specialized fitness and nutrition regimes in the off season. Ruth, who was known to consume a dozen hot dogs and half a dozen beers as a snack, wouldn't get a second look from major league scouts, because he wouldn't be able to hit modern fastballs and breaking pitches.

Finally, the money available to even journeyman professional players would attract many who never would have considered a professional career. So it would be harder for one player to emerge and dominate just based on sheer numbers alone.

Here's another question you might wish to write about: Is it good for snooker (or any sport) to have one dominant player (or team) or is it better to have a number of very strong players so the outcome of each event is more in doubt? Although the US TV ratings for golf are down because Tiger has fallen from his pre-scandal heights, each event is more interesting because we wonder who will win and if Tiger can rise to the occasion.

Anonymous said...

I expect Zue Juelong to dominate snooker in around 4 years for the next 12 years.

Anonymous said...

By the time this decade reaches its end, I think the big 3 (of which Williams is the least dominant) + Robertson + Trump will have dominated the 2000 - 2020 era.

Obviously not in the same way as their predecessors have dominated and one could argue it isn't even domination, but surely they will have won many more ranking titles compared to their fellow snooker players.

Next WC winners: 2013 - O'Sullivan. 2014 - Robertson. 2015 - Higgins. 2016 - Trump. 2017 - Trump. 2018 - Robertson. 2019 - Trump. 2020 - Robertson.

Now to predict some other stuff with my magic 8 ball :D

Anonymous said...

I think ronnie will retain his world title next year to. But in the next few years I'd say Robertson is the only stand out player who could dominate but saying that he's not exactly young either. I think judd trump is a good player but needs to improve his safety game a lot more to win a world championship.

Anonymous said...

Ronnie won't retain his world title. He hasn't been able to so far, and it will get tougher every year for him now. In fact I can't recall him ever defending a major. I would expect Robertson to nab another world title or two, but he's in his 30s now, and while Ronnie and Higgins have shown there is pretty of mileage left in a 30 year old player, the consistency starts to go. Ronnie and Higgins have been up and down like yo-yos in the last 3-4 years. Trump is the most obvious candidate in terms of his age, but after a phenomenal 2011, it has to be said 2012 isn't turning out to be a vintage year for him.

Anonymous said...

Absolute rubbish no such thing as being to old in snooker ray reardon won his 6th world title when he was 45. Ronnie could add a couple more if he really wanted it the same goes for Higgins. And can I just say mark selby as no1 is a complete joke he will never win a world championship as he is to negative. Ronnie is the best end of !!!