Rankings – State of Play Heading to Sheffield

With the World Championship now under a week away, today sees me take a look at the current rankings situation and identify the remaining issues still to be decided when the snooker circus hits Sheffield…


Battle for number 1

The battle for the number 1 spot in next season’s rankings is already over following the early exit of Ronnie O’Sullivan at the recent China Open, ensuring that John Higgins now cannot be caught at Sheffield.

The Chasing Pack

The battle for second place however is a little more open with Ali Carter, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui and Stephen Maguire all still mathematically in contention to overtake Ronnie, though the three-time world champion nevertheless remains a warm favourite to finish there come May.

If Ronnie were to suffer a shock defeat to Liang Wenbo at the Crucible next week, Ali Carter would have to reach the quarter-finals to move ahead of him whilst Neil Robertson would need to make it a round further to the last four.

To be certain of finishing in second place O’Sullivan needs to reach the final to head off the threat from Ali.

The Top Eight

Prior to the China Open it looked as though the top eight was relatively well set already but following Mark Williams’ triumph and the strong runs of Stephen Hendry and Mark Allen, the situation has altered a little.

The top six do remain well-placed and almost certain to finish up inside that top eight at the end of the season, an important factor because this will ensure that they will not meet a fellow top eight player before the quarter-finals at ranking events next season.

The final two places however will be be contested between Mark Williams, Shaun Murphy and Ryan Day, with the likes of Stephen Hendry, Mark Selby and Mark Allen not out of the picture either if they can make it to the one-table set-up. With many of those players poised to meet at the last 16 stage in Sheffield, there could be even more riding on those matches than usual…

The Top 16

Arguably more important than anything that I have said above however is the race for the top 16 as the players look to save themselves a trip to Presta…I mean Sheffield next season.

Like last year, the top 16 are also relatively well set as while there are players who are still in the tournament who could change the situation, the majority of these are qualifiers and so have already gained their full points by winning their opening round match.

The obvious exception to this however is former world champion Peter Ebdon who currently lying in 17th place must beat Graeme Dott in his opening match to add 2,400 points to his tally and maintain his long unbroken record as a top 16 player. If he were able to do this then he would move above Jamie Cope and Liang Wenbo, even if they were to defeat their higher ranked opponents at the Crucible to reach the last 16.

An early win for Peter would also move him above Mark King and Marco Fu, though as fellow top 16 players they also have the opportunity to make significant gains this week and would make certain of their status with a win.

In reality though while Mark and Marco are probably too close to that magical number 16 for comfort, I would be surprised to see either fall out of the top bracket, even if they were to lose their opening matches at the Crucible. This is because both Liang Wenbo and Jamie Cope would require runs to the quarter-finals to leapfrog them and whilst not out of the question, particularly in Jamie’s case, cannot be taken for granted.

The other man currently outside the top 16 on the provisional list who could potentially make big gains is Joe Perry, though he would need to reach at least the quarter-finals to stand any chance of hanging on to a top 16 place. To do so he would potentially have to find his way past Jamie Cope at the last 16 stage so perhaps that match could take on even greater significance.

The Top 32

More straightforward however is the race for the top 32 which in all likelihood will come down to the question of whether Stuart Pettman can defeat Ding Junhui to move up into snooker’s second tier for the first time in his career at the expense of Andrew Higginson.

If he cannot then the top 32 will remain as it currently is unless either Marcus Campbell or Tom Ford can cause a surprise and make it to the quarter-finals for the first time. Martin Gould and Fergal O’Brien are also mathematically in contention but would need to still be around for the one-table set-up to give Higginson a few sleepless nights.

The Top 64

The top 64 will remain as it currently is unless Chinese youngster Zhang Anda can cause a sensation and send seven-times world champion Stephen Hendry home at the first hurdle this year. If he can then he will break into the top 64 at the expense of Welshman Paul Davies, though he will nevertheless remain on the tour via the one-year list.


So while many things could still happen, where would I put my money if I were to take a bet on how the top 16 situation will be resolved following this tournament?

Personally I do feel that Peter Ebdon will win his opening round match against Graeme Dott and that if he did, this would secure his position inside the top 16 for another year and leave Jamie Cope and Liang Wenbo to battle it out for the remaining top 16 place. The Chinese number two would be the heavy favourite has he currently has more points than Jamie but with Ronnie O’Sullivan first up at the Crucible will find it hard to add to his tally. In my predictions I have backed Jamie to cause an upset against Ali and if he were to do so then it could be very bad news for Liang…