Snooker: UK Championship
Saturday December 1
Barbican Centre, York
BBC One 1pm
Since Ronnie O’Sullivan announced at the beginning of the month that he would not be returning to the table this season, the big question Barry Hearn will surely be asking is this: can snooker afford to lose the Rocket?
The head of World Snooker does, however, hold the Ace in the pack in the shape of new world number one Judd Trump. The Bristolian, according to 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, is ready to step into the vacant cockpit and become the new people’s champion.
“He’s flamboyant and quick and people love to watch him play,” Doherty told the BBC recently, after Trump had taken the number-one spot in the same week O’Sullivan announced his season-long exile. He did so by reaching the final of the International Championship in Chengdu, China – recovering from 5-4 down to Neil Robertson before going on to win 10-8.
Trump is also the current UK Championship holder, having beaten Mark Allen in the final last year. In defence of his title, he will have help replacing that O’Sullivan-shaped hole from another former champion who will definitely be returning to the table – Steve Davis.
The 55-year-old Nugget even put in a 141 break in the qualifiers on his way to confirming his place at the Barbican, though he was upstaged by 21-year-old Jack Lisowski, who made a 147 in the third round of his own successful qualifying campaign.
Also joining the Barbican party will be Belgian wonderboy Luca Brecel, who became the youngest ever Crucible debutant in April. Between them, and particularly given the form of Lisowski’s practice partner Trump, there is plenty to suggest the Rocket won’t be missed – too much.