Stephen Maguire's Beijing form certainly makes him one of the favourites for the world title but it's been ten years since the player who won the tournament immediately before the World Championship went on to triumph at the Crucible.

That was John Higgins, who won the 1998 British Open in Plymouth before landing the sport's greatest prize.

What does this mean? Probably nothing, as few players win back-to-back ranking titles in any case.

Maguire is in what appears to be the easiest quarter of the draw, which includes the struggling Graeme Dott and inconsistent Neil Robertson.

If he could get through this Shaun Murphy or Mark Selby could be waiting in the semis.

Whatever, it's good to see Stephen playing well again.

I'm going to crow here - because I get very little chance to do so - and republish something I wrote on this very blog last July:

Looking at the season as a whole I’m going to predict one player in particular to watch: Stephen Maguire.

You’ll recall the manner of his semi-final defeat to Higgins at the Crucible. Entering the final session leading 14-10 – having played superbly – he was beaten 17-15, missing the pink in losing a crucial 30th frame which would have put him 16-14 up.

I well remember Maguire turning pro in 1999. I interviewed him after his very first match. He seemed far too polite and reserved for this game but they breed them pretty tough in Glasgow and his personality soon came to the fore.

He’ll have been gutted by his Sheffield exit with the sure knowledge that he let a gilt-edged chance to become world champion slip.

And he’ll be back fighting harder than ever to prove himself as one of the game’s best, which he is, as proved by the manner in which he won the 2004 UK Championship.

I suspect he feels like a wounded animal at the moment and will want to get stuck into the new season to cast off the disappointments of the last campaign.

How things have turned round for him.

He heads to Sheffield in less than three week's time with the perfect chance to make amends for last year's disappointment.


Anonymous said...

nice post David and good prediction. If Maguire does not let his head drop when things go not too well he has a chance. I suspect that over the years a big reason for the player winning the previous tournament not winning Sheffield was lack of recovery time when there was only a week in between.This year this does not apply. As a crucible attender since 1983 I would be surprised if a first time finalist took the title (it has happened but rarely) as nerves play a strange role and snooker at the crucible seems a different game to snooker anywhere else! I feel that the old establishment of former champions Williams, Ebdon, Hendry and Doherty should not be written off too lightly - I expect Ebdon and Doherty to far exceed many peoples expectations. John H

Anonymous said...

A good call, David. Last year many of my friends looked at me as if I had gone mad when I told them after the China Open that Maguire would be the man to beat at the Crucible. It was just my intuition: at that time, I felt that he was just about to return to the winning ways. It was close, he could have easily been in the final (remember when he lost a frame in the third session by going in-off on the final black?). Eventually, of course, Selby stole the limelight with his superb effort. In the past Jimmy White and Matthew Stevens were considered the best players never to win the world championship. The same can be also said of Stephen. He definitely has the talent and the ability to lift the trophy. It's a shame that he is underestimated, and again and again written off beforehand. I sincerely hope that he will prove his critics wrong. Regards, Gabriel

Anonymous said...

I would love to see Maguire win it but Murphy will sadly. He won the 190th, 200th ranking event and this will be the 210th. The only time Parrott missed out on the Crucible was 2005 when Murphy won it and will again miss it this year. Wales rugby team won the grand slam in 2005 and have done it again in 2008. Histroy always repeats itself, just ask ABBA.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the first post. With the way the calender previously worked, a good run in the tournament leading upto the World Championship could be seen as a double gilted sword, as having only one week of 'recovery' could be a problem, especially mentally. Now, although the players have to adjust from coming back from China, the three weeks provide ample opportunity for recovery.

Stephen certainly has the game to be a World Champion. He has, on occassion, been let down by his concentration and maturity. He has a good run to the semis this year, and if he can lay aside the ghosts of last year then, who knows?