Rankingswatch: Bahrain Championship Update

So with the fourth ranking event of the season now completed, it is time to examine the latest provisional rankings and see how the results in Bahrain have affected them…


With four of the top 16 players not involved in the event for various reasons, there was a real opportunity for the remaining players to get some solid ranking points behind them and play their way into some form. Two players who certainly managed to do this were finalists Neil Robertson and Matthew Stevens, importantly so as both entered the tournament ranked well outside of the provisional top 16.

Robertson, the eventual winner of the event, takes 5,000 points and moves up seven places from 21st to 14th on the new list. This must be a relief as last season he reached only one quarter-final in a ranking event while his start to this season had until now not been any better. He showed in 2006/7 that he belongs in the top 16 and hopefully now he will have the confidence to play well for the rest of the season and ensure that he stays there.

Stevens meanwhile came into the event ranked down at 31st place, shockingly low for a player of his ability. His 4,000 points take him right up to 22nd position and while he still has a lot of work to do if he wants to get back in the top 16, he is at least back in contention now rather than scrapping for his top 32 place as was the case previously. The key for him is playing well in the qualifiers though because while he is a good player on the big stage, he has admitted himself this week that he finds it hard to get himself motivated for the matches at Prestatyn. If he can solve this and go deep in another few tournaments then he has every chance.

The finalists were not the only previously out of form players to get a few good wins under their belts however as Stephen Hendry had by far his best run of the season to reach his 82nd career semi-final. Though he remains 10th on the provisional list, he has at least closed what was a 3,000 point gap to Marco Fu in ninth to just 500 points. The gap between him and Jamie Cope in 17th place is also now up to nearly 4,000 points, a useful gap as Hendry seeks to remain in the top 16 for a record 22nd consecutive season.

Similarly Mark Allen, who since his quarter-final in Northern Ireland had not done anything of note in a ranking event, also reached the semi-finals and did his chances of moving up the rankings at the end of the year the world of good. I expect him to retain his top 16 place quite comfortably and possibly break into the top 10 if he can perform well on a more consistent basis.


With all these players and more enjoying good wins in the tournament and moving up the rankings, who has suffered as a result?

The obvious three are Grand Prix winner John Higgins, Ding Junhui and Mark Selby who were forced to withdraw from the event due to their Premier League commitments and have received 0 points as a result. While Higgins and Selby have not lost out too much due to their previous good performances and the poor results of players around them, Ding really could have done without this handicap and now slips down to 16th in the latest provisional list. While his top 16 place is far from secure though, his recent performances have looked much better and I would expect him to remain among the elite for a while yet, but he has to go out there and perform because he is in real danger right now.

Two other players to have received 0 are Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis, though I would expect these to change once their medical certificates have been studied and verified by WSA. You can expect O’Sullivan to receive 700 points while Davis will take either 1,400 or 1,900 depending on how World Snooker interpret his withdrawal. Watch this space.

Of the top 10 players who played in the event, Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter and Marco Fu all lost in the first round and missed out on a chance to really capitalise on the absences from the event and move up the rankings. Shaun in particular though must be starting to really worry as five consecutive first round defeats in ranking events sees him not only down in 6th (actually up one this week ahead of the absent Higgins), on the provisionals, but right down in 37th on the one year list. He really needs to go on a run soon or next season is going to be an uphill struggle…

Another player to lose in the first round was Peter Ebdon, not for the first time this season. Now slipping down to 19th in the latest rankings and consistently losing matches, it is beginning to look like this could be the end of Peter’s long stay in the top 16 as the players above him such as Jamie Cope, Ding Junhui and Ricky Walden all look capable of going deep in tournaments at the moment. With Peter’s preference for the longer matches being no secret, it might just be that the upcoming UK Championship is almost make or break for him…

While world number two Stephen Maguire did reach the quarter-finals in Bahrain, extending his lead over third placed Ryan Day and closing the gap to O’Sullivan at the top slightly, I think he will be disappointed not to have gone even deeper and made more inroads into O’Sullivan’s lead. With the gap standing at nearly 7,000 points, he needs all the points he can get if he wants to have a real run at the number one spot in the near future and he could, and probably should have done more this week.

Lower down the list

Outside of the top 16 battle, the likes of Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott continue to struggle as both again slumped to first round defeats this week. To be fair to Graeme he performed admirably given his recent lack of practice due to his broken arm, but this doesn’t help his ranking which is now as low as 48th, remarkable for the man who won the World Championship two years ago. Similarly Ken who was ranked number 2 for 2006/7 is now down in 38th and as he continues to struggle badly, it makes you wonder how long he will carry on playing if things don’t improve.

What I am also finding interesting now is the battle for places on the main tour as the most impressive tour newcomers such as Peter Lines, Atthasit Mahitthi, Li Hang and Vinnie Muldoon are beginning to move into contention for a top 64 place. Due to the low number of starter points that they are assigned at the start of the season, it is hard for them to progress and retain a place on the tour, but as the likes of Hang and Muldoon consistently win two or three qualifying matches every event as they are at the moment, they are starting to challenge those more established players who have had poor starts to the season.

These include the likes of Joe Delaney, Lee Spick, James McBain and Rodney Goggins who have all had poor starts to the season and need to start performing sooner rather than later if they are to escape relegation from the tour next May. One player who has done just this is Robert Milkins who before Bahrain was ranked provisionally outside the top 70, but following his quarter-final run now sits in 57th place and well placed to remain on the tour for another year.