Premier League Snooker 2008: Tournament Preview

Tomorrow night marks the start of the 2008 Premier League and what promises to be another hotly contested series of matches culminating in the semi-finals and final in early December.

The Players

The field this year is headed by world number one and reigning World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, who has won the Premier League for the last four years. With his quick, aggressive game being perfectly suited to the shot clock conditions he will be favourite to win the title again and at this point it is hard to see anyone stopping him.

Leading the chasing pack however will be both finalists from the 2007 World Championship final, John Higgins and Premier League debutant Mark Selby. Despite a disappointing end to last season losing to Mark King at the Crucible, Selby had a memorable year, capturing his first ranking event title in Wales as well as winning the Wembley Masters in January. It will be interesting to see how a player who in the past hasn’t been the quickest out there, adapts to the 25 second shot clock in the League. He has said that he has made some changes to his cue action in an effort to improve his game, and no doubt his chances during this event so we will have to wait and see. John Higgins meanwhile is a player who at times last season appeared to struggle with the quick pace, but still did enough to reach the final. Now he will be used to the rule from the off he will be hoping to hit the ground running and go one step further this year.

Also back again for another year are the duo with 13 world titles between them, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis. Hendry, a six-time winner of the event, will be looking to reach the play-offs once again and show the form that enabled him to beat O’Sullivan in the league phase last year. Davis meanwhile will be sure to entertain the crowd with his quips and having spent the summer working on his cue action it will be interesting to see how competitive he is. Either way he will enjoy every minute of it.

Finally the league is completed by Chinese star Ding Junhui and last season’s World semi-finalist, Joe Perry. Ding will be hoping for a better season this time around having seen his career stall somewhat following his 2007 Masters defeat to O’Sullivan. He certainly knows how to cope with the shot clock, having scored a record-breaking 495 points without reply against Stephen Hendry in last season’s competition, so it would be no surprise to see him make the play-offs for the second season in a row.

Perry meanwhile is another debutant in the Premier League and he certainly made it the hard way, qualifying by winning the inaugural Championship League final in May. Also reaching the semi-finals of the World Championship that month, Perry finished the season in the best form of his life and started well this time round, narrowly losing to O’Sullivan in the first ranking event of the season. It will be interesting to see therefore whether he can carry this form over to the conditions posed by the Premier League or whether he will take some time to adapt.

Overall it should be a close league with virtually every player having a realistic shot at qualifying for the semi-finals. Again though, O’Sullivan is undoubtedly the man to beat in the end and in these conditions it is hard to see anybody doing so.

Venue and ticket information

For a full schedule of the matches please click here to visit view my ticket information page. More information on the tournament can also be found via the Matchroom sport website.

If you get a chance to attend an evening at a Premier League event then be sure to take it, I have attended the Grimsby round for the past two years and have found it to be great fun. The atmosphere is relaxed, the live TV action is broadcast on the monitors in the arena and MC John McDonald does a great job during the intervals. I will be going to the Sheffield leg this time around and hopefully it will be just as good.

A preview of tomorrow night’s matches will be posted tomorrow.