The snooker World Championships have gripped me this year for the first time in a long time, and not solely because of Ronnie.
|Judd Trump must attempt to engage Ronnie in a new rivalry|
Any sport that has enjoyed large-scale success in the past has done so because of competition. The nature of a supreme rivalry. Football has had Holland v Germany, Real Madrid v Barcelona, Keane v Vieira etc. Boxing had Ali v Frazier. Tennis had Rafa v Federer. Snooker had O'Sullivan v Higgins, but has lacked some presence more recently.
We can all agree that Ronnie is excellent to watch; a real craftsman. But interest wanes when there is no suitable challenger to the throne. All that could be about to change again though.
Selby proved Ronnie is mortal last year, with a textboox Ebdon-ising of the Rocket in the final. Selby asserted his own gritty style on the match, and O'Sullivan was vanquished, like a vampire exposed to the sun.
This year, the pretenders seem to mean business. While there have been few close games, this is due in part to the performances of the favourites. Neil Roberton and Judd Trump for example have shown their capabilities, as has Shaun Murphy. Anthony McGill's introduction gives hope that there is a new generation as well looking to move things on.
But it is up to the likes of Judd and Neil to really make Ronnie work for his titles now. These two are no longer young guns, but seasoned players. It is their responsibility to see that if Ronnie is to win another world title, he will have earned it.