14.10.13

MEN OF THE CENTURY

Neil Robertson has thus far made 28 centuries this season. With so much snooker still to come he is well on course to break Judd Trump’s record of 61, set last season.

Stephen Hendry was the first player to make more than 50 in a single campaign. Ronnie O’Sullivan was the second.

When O’Sullivan did this he only played in eight events, so it made the feat particularly notable.

However, even though there are now more tournaments, centuries remain a sign of a player in form and Robertson has had far more than anyone else this season.

His run of recent scoring has been remarkable, notching up ten century breaks in just three matches (his qualifier for the International Championship and two matches at the Ruhr Open).

Four of these came in his 4-0 defeat of Ahmed Saif in Germany. Consider the acres of newspaper space given first to Stephen Lee’s ban and then Ronnie O’Sullivan’s autobiography. I didn’t read a word about Robertson’s display.

He even made one in an exhibition frame against Aditya Mehta to launch the Indian Open in Delhi.

The first recorded instance of a player making three successive centuries came in 1988. Unsurprisingly, Steve Davis was the man responsible.

Doug Mountjoy repeated the feat in that year’s UK Championship final against Hendry, who six years later made seven centuries in the UK final against Ken Doherty.

O’Sullivan once made five in winning a best of nine against Ali Carter at the Northern Ireland Trophy, including a 147.

John Higgins made four in succession against O’Sullivan in the 2005 Grand Prix final at Preston.

The 2003 British Open final between Hendry and O’Sullivan featured five centuries, as did a match at the 2009 Masters between Robertson and Stephen Maguire.

O’Sullivan and Mark Selby have each made six centuries in a match at the Crucible.

Professional snooker – thanks to Hendry’s influence – gradually became based around break-building: getting the reds open early and heavy scoring.

Improved conditions help this, with thinner cloths and lighter balls making it easier. This of course doesn’t mean it is easy.

There haven’t been many ranking events of late won by players not making a century. In fact, when Mark Williams won the 1996 British Open – his first ranking title – with a highest break of 76 it was suggested it might be some sort of fluke. Clearly it wasn’t.

A century is a demonstration of great skill and is to be admired. But one of snooker’s strengths is that when the standard dips, the interest does not.

Some of the best frames have been full of mistakes because the unexpected is what fascinates. This is why players such as Davis, Willie Thorne and Ken Doherty are associated with key balls they have missed.

A right old scrap on the colours is, to many, just as enjoyable as a flawless century break.

If Robertson has a good run at this week’s Indian Open then he can be expected to add to his tally of tons.

It’s hard to keep good form going indefinitely. Trump had made 40 centuries by Christmas last season but added ‘only’ 21 more.

But with so much snooker now on the calendar, it raises the prospect of whether a player could possibly make a century of centuries in a single season.

It sounds unlikely but not impossible. A few years ago it would have seemed a preposterous notion.

4 comments:

JC105 said...

David this very interesting blog seems to be dying, as the number of comments placed has dropped drastically. Any idea what's going on?

Dave H said...

Wrong. Readership is up, comments are down because of a change to Blogger which means you now have to sign in, which seems to have got rid of anonymous trolling (so all good as far as I'm concerned).

JC105 said...

Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying. Cheers.

Rob Hogan said...

Wrong. He said it "seems to be dying", and he's right.

You come across as very dismissive of your audience sometimes. It's quite off putting.