My Week at the Worlds: The Highlights

With the PTC Finals now upon us the recent World Championship qualifiers are already fading into the distance as this unusually hectic snooker moves on already, but I could not let the tournament pass without a self-indulgent post to list a few of my highlights and give a shout out to a few people…

So where to start?

First of all the playing side as while I have enjoyed watching these qualifiers during each of the last three years now, each year having a few classic matches that will stay with me for a long time, this season’s was probably the best yet. What really struck me is that while the final round is always great, look at the Stephen Lee v Judd Trump match a couple of years ago and the clash between Zhang Anda and Ricky Walden in 2010, this year the standard in the earlier rounds was markedly improved.

Indeed the best session of snooker from a quality point of view that I have seen all season, indeed arguably ever live was that of the round one clash between Xiao Guodong and Kurt Maflin, breaks of 135, 130, 114 and 100 in consecutive frames setting the baize alight. With players like those, eventual qualifiers Andrew Pagett and Jimmy Robertson as well as David Gilbert, Sam Baird, Liu Chuang, James Wattana and Michael White all impressing, it demonstrated just how much depth there is on the circuit these days.


As well as that session between Xiao Guodong and Kurt Maflin, the other highlights were undoubtedly the black ball finishes which saw Matthew Stevens and Mike Dunn progress from their respective matches during the tournament. The atmosphere for both matches was notably different, Mike winning late at night in front of a crowd made up largely of watching players and myself, while Stevens won before a much larger audience earlier in the day, raising the roof when the black ball dropped. Both though were equally as memorable.

Another stand-out was Andrew Pagett’s win against Nigel Bond, not just because it was a result that shocked me personally, but because of Andrew’s remarkably resilient performance which eventually saw him come back from needing two snookers in the decider to win it on the black. Whether he can repeat this on the big stage at the Crucible remains to be seen and will probably depend on his draw, but stranger things have happened.

While the on-table action was great however, what was equally as enjoyable for me was the experience of getting to know some of the players a bit better and receiving a bit of feedback both on the site and my tweets throughout the week.

Among those that I had the opportunity to chat to, Tony Drago was probably the most memorable having had the experience of driving him to McDonalds following his defeat against Jimmy Robertson as well as having received telephone calls from him throughout the final weekend enquiring as to the latest scores. As well as being great with me, I was really impressed with his love for the sport which just shone through as he watched seemingly every session from the first weekend until the end of the third round. Even after all these years he cannot get enough of it.

It was also great to catch-up with most of the referees as well as players who I had met before such as Ben Woollaston (special thanks for the help with tickets), Stuart Bingham, Jack Lisowski, Dominic Dale, Mark Joyce, Matthew Stevens, Joe Delaney, Stuart Pettman, Alfie Burden, Matt Selt, Mark Davis and Gerard Greene. I was also pleased to meet the likes of Mike Dunn and Michaela Tabb properly having spoken to them on Twitter for months.

From giving Jack a lesson on ‘retweets’, talking rankings with Stuart Bingham as well as admiring Dominic’s shoes, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me and hopefully something that came across during my many tweets during the week. I haven’t got a bad word to say about any of them.

On that note, while I know that tweets are no substitution for live streaming of the qualifiers, I hope that my attempts to update you all via the medium of Twitter were of assistance and that my bombardment of your accounts did not cause too much of an inconvenience. I have to say that the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and it was good to see Roland from Snooker Island (who incidentally was another top person who I met), pop down to assist during the final weekend!

The response really served to underline just how much interest there is in these matches and how World Snooker made entirely the correct decision to make them open to the public rather than stage them in the Academy as had originally been planned. Those of us who had been there before knew in advance just how dramatic they could be and I suspect that even more people will realise that now. Hopefully some from World Snooker are among them and will take note of the ever-increasing role of social networking in modern day sports coverage.

All that is left to be said now is roll on the Crucible which will be my next live snooker event and will no doubt be the highlight of the snooker year once again.

Apologies to anyone that I have forgotten but thanks all for an excellent week.