Battle for Top Spot Heads to World Open

Provisional rankings, official rankings, projected seedings – whatever list you go by, there is guaranteed to be a new world number one following the conclusion of the World Open which begins tomorrow…

Since the creation of the World Snooker rankings back in 1976 there have been just seven different players who have managed to top the official ranking list.

Now with the new rolling rankings system in place however (see more here), this week will see points from the 2008 Grand Prix removed, meaning that the absent John Higgins who won that tournament is already guaranteed to drop down two places when the rankings are again revised. In fact, my projected seedings list and the official list should actually match up following this event, although there is still the EPTC2 to be played before the new seeding list becomes effective.

So who is in contention for the number one spot?

Mathematically there are four players who could leave Glasgow as snooker’s eighth number one player, namely Neil Robertson, Ali Carter, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire.

On the rise, Ali Carter

At the top of the list is world champion Neil Robertson who heading into the Shanghai Masters enjoyed a significant lead over his closest competitors and appeared to be almost guaranteed to take that top spot. What a difference a tournament can make however as his round one exit to Peter Ebdon coupled with a second ranking event title for Ali Carter saw the Captain reduce his arrears by 6020 and leave himself just 190 points behind. This means that Ali’s target in Glasgow is simple, go one round further than Neil and he will stand an excellent chance of moving up to number one.

An added element of intrigue however is that while Neil has the advantage by way of his narrow points lead, he does have by far the harder opening tie at the SECC as he faces 2006 world champion Graeme Dott in a re-match of their recent World Championship final showdown, surely an impossible match to call. Ali Carter meanwhile faces former pro Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in what will be a tough match for the young Thai player, despite his amateur credentials.

What of Maguire and Murphy? For them the situation is simple, they need to hope that both Neil and Ali crash out at the first hurdle and then go on to win the tournament themselves. Bearing in mind Ali’s opening match I would not expect this to happen but you never know, John Higgins faced a similarly unlikely mountain back at the Crucible in 1998 and look what happened…

So who will do it? I think that it is a hard one to call, particularly with the short nature of the event which makes it even more unpredictable! Based on current form and the difficult of their respective opening matches however, I would have to back Ali Carter to become the eighth player in the history of the rankings to be officially ranked at number 1.