Premier League Snooker 2008: Night One Preview

Premier League Snooker – Night One from Grimsby, SkySports1, 7:30pm

Mark Selby v Ding Junhui
Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins

So here we are, night one of the new Premier League season and what a tournament it promises to be. Please click here for my tournament preview posted yesterday.

Match One: Mark Selby v Ding Junhui

So to start with we have world number 3 Mark Selby against Chinese star Ding Junhui in what should be a close match. Selby, last season’s Masters and Welsh Open champion is making his debut in the competition tonight and it will be interesting to see how he handles the 25 second shot clock. He has said that he has shortened his cue action to become a quicker player which should help here, but it is still early on in the season and it remains to be seen whether he is entirely comfortable with it at this stage. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him take a week or two to settle into the conditions posed by the League, we shall see.

As for Ding he should have no trouble settling in. Having topped the league phase last season, making an incredible 12 centuries on the way, he will be keen to keep that form going this time around. He did lose his opening match of the season in the Northern Ireland Trophy to Mark Davis but I wouldn’t expect that to count for much tonight. Ding seems to enjoy the glitzy atmosphere provided by the league and produce his best snooker on a consistent basis in the competition.

The match could go either way but my gut feeling is that Ding will win this, possibly 4-2.

Match Two: Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins

New season, same old story? Judging by O’Sullivan’s success in Northern Ireland it seems that way, and coming to a tournament that he has made his own for the last four years he will be confident of getting off to a good start tonight. Interestingly however, only last week O’Sullivan described Higgins as the only man who can stop him when on full form. Given some of their matches in recent years (THAT performance in the Grand Prix and the 2006 Masters from Higgins), this is perhaps unsurprising, and O’Sullivan clearly won’t be taking anything for granted.

In what is a repeat of last season’s final, Higgins will be hoping for a better result tonight. Having reached the semi-finals in Northern Ireland he has started the season well and will look to give his confidence a further boost with a win tonight. Twice a world champion, we all know that Higgins is capable of beating O’Sullivan, but it has to be said that these conditions and the shot clock in particular favour Ronnie tonight.

O’Sullivan beat Higgins 5-1 on the opening night last season but Higgins will be more used to the shot clock this season and I expect it to be a closer contest. A draw would not surprise me but I will stick my neck out and say 4-2 O’Sullivan.