Saturday 16th January 2010
I played snooker throughout the whole of my teens and was a keen follower of the sport at the time. But I’d lost track of the game in the last 20 years.
I’d studied in Sheffield and lived in London, but for some reason, even though I loved Snooker in the 1980s, I never considered going to watch a match live at either the Crucible or the Conference Centre. Football aside, Darts was my main sport now. So the fact Barry Hearn had now taken the reigns at Snooker’s HQ, it was time to book tickets for the Masters at Wembley Arena. While I’m at it, it made sense to book a whole day covering both Semi-Finals.
Unfortunately, we arrived minutes after the first match had begun. Having to wait outside the hall, we followed the game on a small TV. We were then allowed in just before the break for the third frame. Unlike the atmosphere at the Darts, you could hear a pin drop and it was so difficult to keep quiet whilst looking for our seats. Armed with our earphones, we were able to follow the commentary from Dennis Taylor and Ken Doherty.
The opening Semi-Final was between Ronnie O’Sullivan (No. 1) and Mark Williams (No. 15). Both players were superb throughout the match, going at it blow for blow. Just when you had thought, Williams had done enough, Ronnie would force his way back into the match. It was fitting in the end, that it would go to the last frame. The Rocket eventually coming out on top 6-5 and through to tomorrow’s final.
It would have been great if the matches were reversed. Having two super quick players up first meant that even though it went to the maximum 11 frames, it finished in no time at all and we had over 3 hours to kill before the second Semi-Final. So after a bite to eat, a drink, one mate going home and even more waiting, the next match was about to begin.
Up next was a match up between Stephen McGuire (No. 3) and Mark Selby (No. 6). A slow start to the game made me think that the decision by one of my mates to go home early made some sense. The other mate just moved around the arena. I think I counted 5 different areas he sat in throughout the day. The main thing that kept the game entertaining was the commentary, but that was also proving a problem too. The ex-pro’s kept cracking jokes and thus making the audience laugh. Even though the referee called silence a number of times, it was like we were being told off for something outside our control. Eventually, the match recovered and got going after the interval, with Mark Selby going through to the final after a 6-3 win.
Not sure what impact Barry Hearn will make on the Sport, but it definitely needs a push in the right direction. At Boxing you hear “Let’s get ready to rumble” and at Darts you hear “It’s time to meet the players” before they are introduced with loud music blaring into the arena. For the first time, Snooker introduced its own “Let’s get the boys on the baize” with a musical introduction. However, unlike Boxing where a punch is thrown immediately, or in Darts where a 180 is possible, what you get with Snooker is a safety shot off the break. So the excitement of the intros is lost.
All in all though it was a fantastic day out. I loved it and may make it a yearly obsession!