At 8pm yesterday (Monday) evening, the Twitter account of the World Snooker Tour informed us that there would be “no access for fans at this week’s Coral Tour Championship”.
At 11am this morning (Tuesday), World Snooker Tour issued a further tweet: “WST and ITV Sport have taken the decision to postpone this week’s Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus.” No one was remotely surprised.
I am no expert on the subject of viral respiratory tract infections, so I will not be discussing COVID-19 here. No, instead, I will write a little bit about the 2019-2020 snooker season, which I have enjoyed immensely, and about which I have written in this space extensively over the past nine months, at the rate of one blog per major tournament, sometimes more than one.
On Sunday, in Gibraltar, in the Rock’s entirely empty-of-spectators Europa Point Sports Complex, reigning World Champion and world No1 Judd Trump made history by winning his sixth ranking tournament of the 2019-2020 season – a record – eclipsing the previous best, five in a season, achieved in the past by Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui.
Not only were spectators absent in Gibraltar, but referees and other officials were hard to find, too – so much so, indeed, that in some matches players had to ref each other. Nonetheless, Trump was in stunning form, scoring nine century breaks, taking his season’s tally to 96. The ton has been achieved in a season only once before, by Neil Robertson, and, as Trump flew home, he was confident of becoming snooker’s second ever ton-up kid.
He is not now. Only two more 2019-2020 tournaments have been scheduled post-Gibraltar – the Coral Tour Championship, cancelled today, and the World Championship, the season finale, the jewel in snooker’s crown.
Will it take place? At the time of writing – but things change quickly at the moment – there has been no announcement. However, since Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday evening, “You should avoid pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues,” one can only expect that there will be. After all, the World Championship is staged at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. Note the word ‘theatre’. Besides, if a tournament is not allowed to go ahead in Llandudno, how can one be permitted to take place in Sheffield? But we shall see.
So… if the 2019-2020 season has petered out without our being able to celebrate its climax – for, despite Trump’s brilliant play in Gibraltar, its Europa Point Sports Complex is hardly Sheffield’s Crucible – then I for one salute it. Trump has been magnificent, but so has Neil Robertson, who won two ranking tournaments plus the Champion of Champions invitational, and Shaun Murphy, who also won two ranking tournaments. Yan Bingtao also shone – as, briefly, did Ding Junhui and, lest we forget, equally intermittently, Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Here’s to 2020-2021, whatever happens or doesn’t happen in Sheffield next month.