SNOOKER specialist George Weyham (@GWSnookerTips) reviews the recent Shanghai Masters picking out three things to look out for in the sport going forward.
1) Barry Hawkins ready to break his triple crown duck
Ronnie O'Sullivan claimed a third Shanghai Masters event of his career on Sunday beating Barry Hawkins 11-9 in a topsy-turvy battle. It was won in his first tournament of the season – something that's becoming the ‘norm' with O'Sullivan, needing no tournament practise.
I was impressed all week with the now Shanghai specialist. Rocket sometimes can be seen as lacking fight and toughness but boy did he show an ample amount here, especially against Kyren Wilson and in the final versus ‘The Hawk’.
I shouldn't have ever doubted him – he looks as good as ever.
But enough about the winner. The moral winner this week was the brilliant Barry Hawkins.
The Kent man is pure class. He defeated world champion Mark Williams in the quarter-finals, then his performance in the semi-final to defeat home favourite Ding Junhui 10-9 was sensational. He trailed 3-1 then led 7-4 until Ding won the next five on the spin to lead by two with three to play. Hawkins dug deep and scored 288 unanswered points (breaks of 101, 60 and 67) to clinch victory and guarantee himself £100,000 in the process. He really is tougher than nails.
His scoring all week was terrific too. In four matches, he compiled seven centuries, and 13 further breaks over 50. He's an extremely underrated, savage break builder.
I watched Barry start out his career at the Norbreck Castle in Blackpool for World Championship qualifiers, way back in the mid 90s. His cue action hasn't differed, nor has his temperament – it's one of the best in the game.
For me, it's only a matter of time, for when he wins a big major. I'm delighted to have tipped him (along with Ronnie) for the UK Championship in December at 33/1. He'll go off a 20/1 poke if he sustains his form, something very likely with Hawkins, as consistency-wise, he's in the top four in the world.
The only thing that worries me with Barry is his win ratio in ranking events. It's pretty poor (just three wins) for someone so incredibly good. Still, this year alone, he's made two ranking finals and now this big invitational final.
Fellow left-hander Mark Allen won a first triple crown event in January at the Masters. I won't be at all surprised if Hawkins follows suit this season.
2) It's virtually impossible to win three tournaments on the spin
From 17th March 1990 to his defeat by Jimmy White on 13th January 1991, Stephen Hendry won five successive titles and 36 consecutive matches in ranking tournaments. A record that still stands and will stand for a lot longer.
John Higgins was the last to win three tournaments consecutively.
It's hard enough to win two in a row with the standard so high nowadays. Kyren Wilson, after winning the Paul Hunter Classic and 6 Red World Championship before this, failed to make it number three in Shanghai. Sixteen matches won in a row – what an effort!
Wilson got through three matches before finally running out of gas against O'Sullivan 10-6 in the semi-final. He mentioned on Twitter it was a ‘poor, tired performance'. He deserves a good break, after travelling thousands of miles.
But onwards he goes in less than a week, back to the Far East, this time in Guangzhao for the China Championship.
Wilson, like Hawkins, is one of the most reliable players on tour, has a perfect temperament, and the heart of a lion on the green baize. He never knows when he's beaten. It was a step too far in Shanghai but ‘The Warrior’ will come again. And for many years.
A last point on Wilson, it won't be long until the bookies stop putting him in the outright markets for any event at 20/1 – 25/1. Soon, it will be more like 16/1 per event, because he can compete with and beat anyone. For me, a world champion in waiting.
3) Judd Trump’s vulnerability continues
There was a lot of pre-season debate on Twitter regarding Kyren Wilson and Judd Trump – which player will win a World Championship first?
For me, it was Wilson and I'll stand by that until I'm blue in the face.
I think Wilson is capable of multiple Worlds. Trump will do well to win one…
At the end of his career, if Judd hasn't won a world title, he might go down as one of the best not to. He's got probably more talent in his one finger than Wilson has altogether, but the contrast between the two as I write, is a chasm.
Wilson is as dedicated as they come. I know a player on the tour who practises with him regularly, and he says you have to tear him off the table – he just wants to play and play, and get better. Clearly he loves the game, loves a battle and won't stop this determined streak.
That’s a stark contrast to Trump, who I know goes on a lot of lads holidays during the season. He was in New York whilst the 6 Reds World Championship was on, on his jollies.
He's a regular attendee to Las Vegas. I'm not being a grumpy old spoilsport and saying he can't go on holidays. But there's a time and a place.
This is a guy who obviously can and knows he can beat anyone on his day. He's an incredible snooker player. But against the top players with little practise? He'll be silly to think he can.
I can't imagine he put much graft in for Shanghai. I just question his dedication a little. It won't be long, (unless he gets his act together) until Wilson (and maybe others) are bypassing Trump regularly in events.
Trump has won at least one event in each of the past eight seasons. It's extremely early days, but it wouldn't surprise me if he scores a blank this season. In 2017, he made five ranking finals. This year, he's not made one. Is he resting on his laurels?
Oh and by the way, in Shanghai, Wilson beat Trump 6-2. I'd fancy the same outcome if they met in the next event too.