This is turning into one of the strangest World Championships ever.
The formbook has not so much been thrown out of the window as Fed-Ex’d to Pluto. Big names have tumbled and some old stagers have come to life.
Mark Selby was the latest top player to be beaten yesterday, 13-10 by Barry Hawkins.
Selby was bad beyond belief. Hawkins didn’t play particularly well either but credit to him for getting the job done.
The consensus seems to be that Selby was burnt out by playing so much snooker.
I’m naturally suspicious of consensuses. They are designed to prohibit any contrary view, regardless of its merit.
Judd Trump, who played terrific stuff last night to defeat Marco Fu 13-7, was of the opinion that players like Selby and Neil Robertson had paid the price for playing too many tournaments.
But the players lower down who are doing well have if anything played even more snooker and are match fit as a result.
Anyway, coming into the World Championship Trump had played 92 matches this season and Selby 91.
That said, a long campaign of snooker will sap mental reserves. In tennis and golf, top players tend to pick and choose events, concentrating on the majors. There’s nothing to stop snooker players doing the same. The new prize money ranking list will make this easier – if they win a big event they can dodge a couple of smaller ones.
Lower down the rankings players will have to enter pretty much everything to protect their positions.
But the increase in snooker has certainly helped the likes of Mark Davis (40), Mark King (39), Robert Milkins (37), Stuart Bingham (36) and Barry Hawkins (34).
It’s stretching things a tad to dub them snooker’s version of Dad’s Army but they are now all playing the best snooker of their careers – well into their careers.
Davis, Milkins and Hawkins all belong to OnQ Promotions, whose director of coaching is Terry Griffiths, the 1979 world champion and a Yoda figure within the game due to his mentoring skills.
All three have thanked Griffiths for his help. I think he has made two big differences in their games.
One is just giving them confidence and support. The other is in shot selection. If you look and Milkins and Hawkins, their safety is excellent. They don’t go for rash balls and they don’t lose discipline.
As for Trump, I was struck by how well he spoke afterwards. He knows he can win the thing, he also knows it’s up to him rather than fretting about who he plays and how they play.
At 23, tiredness is less likely to affect him. He’s seen many of his rivals fall by the wayside but the path isn’t completely clear yet: Ronnie O’Sullivan, fresher than anyone, is leading 5-3 overnight against Ali Carter.