Another year of snooker is over and Ronnie O’Sullivan has lifted the World Championship trophy for the fifth time, the second time in a row. Yet, when he’s away, snooker goes on as normal and it is world number one Mark Selby that swept the floor at World Snooker’s annual award ceremony.
The “Jester From Leicester” has had an astonishing season. Last night, Selby won the accolades of Fans Player of the Year, Snooker Writers Player of the Year and World Snooker Player of the Year; justified, as Selby came ever so close to sealing the Triple Crown. In both the UK Championship and the Masters, Selby dominated his opponents in finals to win 10-6 and put him well on his way to becoming World Champion. Before entering the final tournament of the year, Selby had also claimed two European titles and just missed out on claiming the China Open title. Everything was going right.
Unfortunately for him, “The Rocket” had to make a comeback. Fresh from his year of contemplation and downtime, O’Sullivan had none of the concerns that were rattling around Selby’s head. “Burnout” became a popular buzzword during matches and the following interviews as some sort of reason as to why the top seeds failed so miserably. The snooker calendar has been fattened up hugely in recent years and the professionals have a heck of a lot more travelling to do, notably to China. But to compare the exhaustion felt in snooker to the hectic ATP schedule in tennis, a much more active sport with far more travelling, is nonsense.
If “burnout” was a problem this year, it’s not going to get any easier for them. World Snooker have pushed ahead with controversial plans to force all seeds to start from the very first round of each tournament. A spokesperson for the organisation claimed: “It’s going to be fascinating to see how the leading players fare under the new system, and who can rise to the challenge. It’s a great opportunity for the new generation to qualify for venues and make their mark.” The jury’s out on how well the lower-ranked professionals will deal with facing the seeds so early and how many of them will actually attend, but change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
The 2013/14 season gets off to an inauspicious start with qualifying for the Wuxi Classic set to take place in Gloucester’s Capital Venue. Ricky Walden, semi-finalist at this year’s Worlds, beat Stuart Bingham 10-4 to take the Wuxi title in 2012 but there’s absolutely no telling who could win it this time around. Ronnie O’Sullivan claimed there aren’t enough characters like him left in the sport and he could be right, but there’s no denying there’s huge depth in talent in the professional ranks.
The 2013 world champion made his presence felt at the awards ceremony, winning the Performance of the Year award for winning the world title after just one competitive match earlier in the season. Still, the night wasn’t just to celebrate him, nor was it just to recognise Mark Selby’s stellar season. It’s the minor moments; professional debutant Ian Burns won Rookie of the Year for climbing to 68th in the world. Jimmy Robertson won the Magic Moment of the Year prize for his clearance of 57 in 130 seconds at the Betfair Shoot-Out.
So many moments go unremembered when you focus on the winners and the stars. It’s going to be even harder for the youngsters to make a name for themselves when they constantly have to face the best in their field, but it’ll also toughen them up. It looks like 2013/14 is going to be another exciting season!