At the commencement of the World Snooker Championship, the 32 eligible players all seemed to be aiming to win the most credible and prestigious award in the sport. Yet, with the tournament now in full flow, and with the quarter-finals ongoing, it seems these stages may provide a more accurate insight into which players ultimately boast the credentials to attain the title, and win the final trophy available in the season. Amongst these quarter-finalists is the world number one Mark Selby who, as reigning champion, may naturally be considered as the favourite to retain his title. Yet, with original pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump ultimately exiting the tournament after his tie with Rory McLeod, it may suggest the event has multiple proficient players capable of winning any tie, setting the precedent for an intriguing finale to the competition, and the season itself.
The World Championship seems to often be referred to by the plaudits as the most significant tournament on the tour, both in terms of prestige and prize money, and as such the motivation to claim the trophy may be increased. This, coupled with the vast capabilities of the players competing, may elevate this suggestion further; the top sixteen ranked players on the tour qualify automatically which, whilst also encouraging other competitors to strive to replicate these players achievements in order to enter the elite, it may also suggest there might be opportunities for participants to challenge themselves versus the most accomplished opponents, enhancing their repertoires.
Participating in qualifying was two-time World Champion Mark Williams who, after ending the China Open as runner-up, ultimately had to confirm his eligibility for this tournament. Yet, victory for Stuart Carrington in his final qualifying match meant he advanced rather than Williams, suggesting the desire for players to compete at the Crucible had been elevated, along with their performances. This suggestion may be emphasised due to multiple players advancing at the expense of seeded players, with Rory McLeod’s victory versus former world number one Judd Trump the most notable example. Considering the former’s ranking at 54th he may have been deemed the underdog, yet he seemed to take this billing in his stride, utilising the pressure on Trump to his advantage as he recorded a 10-8 victory. This may have occurred due to McLeod’s goal surrounding personal glory, as he aimed to become the oldest player to reach the last 16 since Steve Davis in 2010; his success may prove his longevity, and the proficiency of his play style.
Whilst McLeod may naturally amass the plaudits for his early round victory, ultimately the focus for fans and players alike may be on the ongoing latter stages, where eight competitors remain. Amongst these is Mark Selby, reigning champion, and also victor in 2014, suggesting he boasts the credentials to perform consistently, and may be able to adapt his play style to ultimately emerge victorious versus a wide array of players. Yet, other players’ experience may be pivotal in enhancing their quest for glory, most notably Ronnie O’Sullivan, aiming for his sixth Crucible victory, enabling him to enter the top five of most successful snooker champions. Whilst these two may be most likely to win the tournament, the other quarter-finalists have all attained a ranking title, and as such may also warrant the billing of favourite.
Ultimately, it seems all eight remaining players possess similar capabilities and experience, and as such it may be consistency proving the difference. With the tournament referred to as the most prestigious on tour, this competitiveness may have been expected, with players aiming to achieve glory on a personal level, such as O’Sullivan, aiming to enter the top five bracket, whilst challenging themselves versus superior opponents. In addition, with the contest broadcast on freeview TV channels, the sport may become more accessible to the public; whilst short-term this may result in a young batch of players striving to compete at the pinnacle, any influx of interest may ultimately enable snooker to continue to evolve as a sport, and constantly renovate their tournaments, allowing a wider array of players of various abilities to achieve.
How may this tournament continue to improve in order to reemphasise its position as a prestigious and reputable competition?