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What to Look Out For At The UK Snooker ChampionshipMonday, December 5th, 2011
This weekend has seen the start of the UK Snooker Championship and the new format, which has received mixed reviews, should lead to some exciting snooker. Will world number one Mark Selby live up to his ranking and win outright?
The outright winner market looks to be fairly open this year. Mark Selby has the number one ranking and has been in decent form so far in 2011. However, he isn’t head and shoulders above the rest of the field. His first game on Saturday saw him put in an impressive performance, dominating Ryan Day from Wales. The challenges facing the “jester from Leicester” will certainly get tougher over the next few days. What is for certain is that nobody in the field is going to be more motivated than Selby. He is the only member of the world’s top six who doesn’t have either a world or UK title to his name and this has lead to some criticism of his top spot.
One other that might push Selby close is John Higgens. Last year’s winner has been critical of the reduced number of frames this year, which see matches before the semi-final stage being decided over the best of 11 rather than 17. Higgens also finds himself in the bottom half of the draw, away from Selby, but with a few other big guns in Trump, O’Sullivan and Robertson. If he can make it past these three, he could be a good bet to line up a second straight title and a fourth win overall. Higgens doesn’t make many mistakes and is notoriously difficult to get into trouble, so if someone is to knock him out, they will have to be playing very well indeed. His tough 6-5 first round clash against Rory McCloud will at the very least have blown away any cobwebs and helped him to avoid becoming complacent.
One who hasn’t yet played his first match is Mark Williams. Williams always looks like a good bet in the big tournaments, simply because he never seems to suffer from nerves and always looks relaxed. His opening game is against journeyman pro Joe Jogia who shouldn’t have enough firepower to pose any serious sort of threat. In fact Williams has probably the easiest route through to at least the quarter finals of any of the major contenders this year. Williams also has experience on his side. He has been to the final four times and come away holding the trophy on two of those occasions, so he is hardly stepping into unknown territory. The last of those was last year’s final against Higgens which looked to be all but over as he lead 9-5 before eventually going down by a single frame.
Of course, a surprise in a major chamionship is always a possibility and there are a few interesting-looking outsiders this year as well. However, between Higgens, Selby and Williams there is a lot of big game experience and quality which makes any of them good candidates to be this year’s winner at the end of the week.