Monday, 23 November 2015

A live snooker euphoria

The friends of this blog know that I am utterly, totally and hopelessly in love with snooker but also the fact that up until a few hours ago I was still untouched by the magic of seeing professional snooker players in action LIVE.

The spell has been broken as I was given the chance "to taste" how Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stuart Bingham play, in front of me (and some other 1800 people) at the Circus Arena from Bucharest, Romania.

If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook (if not, you should), then you might already be acquainted with the story in pictures, but here is the one put into words. My own words, soft and extremely obnoxious on how my first LIVE snooker experience was.

Although it was an exhibition match played on the best of 9 rule, things were pretty serious for me. I took my job very seriously when I wrote down the scoreline, or when I waited in line for an autograph from Ronnie (while trembling like a silly high school girl).

But let's begin this properly. I arrived at the venue on a weather that seemed inspired by the made-in-UK guys who were about to perform for us. It was raining, but the people who organised the event let us in quickly and I was seated quite soon in an area which I believe was very fortunate.

People started gathering, minus the ones who had VIP tickets because they didn't care for all the noise and crowd since they already had special seats. They were the last one to arrive. Very nice!

I was sitting in the back - the cheapest tickets won't buy you a front seat - but I was happy with my position and also happy by default - I was about to see live snooker.

All of the sudden I see Monique Limbos with a gigantic backpack entering the arena and heading backstage. She arrived at the venue and was going to get everything in place in order to take those amazing shots.

I can’t help thinking that she looks so tiny, yet so strong and determined. I like how professional she is and how she manages to almost pass unseen for an untrained eye. I think many of us have much to learn from her.

The MC is the Romanian EuroSport commentator Marius Ancuta and he tries to get his feet wet for his first LIVE appearance. Tonight's match is being broadcasted apparently. He looks very nervous, which makes me smile. It seems I am not the only one.

The people are taking their seats and things get moving. This is it. Monique gest her huge camera ready.

Ladys' first - Michaela Tabb which may I add she's more beautiful in reality then at the telly - is followed by Stuart Bingham and Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Needless to say that the audience is on its feet, feverishly clapping their hands, while on a closer look at detect goose bumps on my hands. This is real!

The match starts and the first two frames go Bingham's way, but Ronnie catches up with a top break of 118 to make the scoreline go 2-2.

Although I adore the public enthusiasms I would very much like to not hear them applaud after each shot. It's not the proper way and the players, although probably unbothered since this is an exhibition match, do tend to lose their focus at noises.

A few laughers here and there when Ronnie stretches out on the table and lifts one of his legs almost hitting Michaela with it, or when a fly keeps on messing with Bingham's strategy.

One thing that hits me from the first moments of the match is: how the balls seem bigger than on the telly and how the players seem smaller. It’s so insane!

I can't see the balls' trajectory very well (especially since I have a mammoth-head person sitting in front of me), but I do see how well the players' control the balls. This is something that I haven't spotted on televised snooker - the balls' behaviour especially when they brush the cushion and land in the pocket. Amazing stuff!

After a 10-minutes break the players return, Bingham hitting a 67 to take control of the match for a few minutes, until Ronnie's runs of 70 and 72 win him the match at 5-3. However, because everything happened so fast the guys agree to play two more frames. 

You can clearly see that with nothing at stake this is purely an entertaining match, but it does carry a lot of great and genuine shots, that's for sure.

The public is on its feet as the MC gives his thanks to the organization party and to the three snooker titans (Tabby included) for saying yes to the Romanian invite.

O'Sullivan re-states his intention of playing in January's Masters championship and assures the Romanian fans that he will be back here if invited and that he can't wait for the first edition of the European Championship, that will be held here next year (not much information on that one, I'm afraid).

People are still applauding frenetically, as the three musketeers leave the arena to go and entertain the VIP guests. 
Monique vanishes into thick air and so does the MC. The only ones left to breath are the colourful snooker balls … they are yet to be collected from the table and carefully packed for another future game.

I, for one get lost in the rain while remembering each detail of my first live snooker experience. It wasn't to be a "real one" but I am sure it will come in no time. For now, this is more that I could have hoped for because who gets to see O'Sullivan and Bingham as his/her first ever professional snooker match?! And refereed by Michaela Tabb? 

I wouldn't trade this for anything! Not even for a VIP session after the match - for me snooker has nothing to do with a private meeting, although I do understand its purpose and I do like the idea.

I feel privileged and extremely happy because I got to see live snooker played by genuine professional players in a venue packed with people who were absorbing each shot.

In the end I would just like to give my thanks to Alexandra for helping me get a better "seat" as I was waiting in line to get my book signed by Ronnie and all of you from Twitter and Facebook who shared your thoughts and comments with me – I felt like you were there with me … honestly!
Here’s for the next snooker encounter!

P.S. As I said on Twitter the pictures are not very good so SB take notice! You have a real opponent for #CrapPhoto of the Year award :-))

Monday, 16 November 2015

Robertson becomes Champion of Champions

Neil Robertson has become the new Champion of Champion after beating Mark Allen by 10-5 in the final played in Coventry, at Ricoh Arena.

This puts an end to the trophy drought that Robertson has experienced since winning the Wuxi Classic back in 2014, although the Champion of Champions is not a ranking tournament, but nonetheless is a very prestigious event specially designed for la crème de la crème. 

The final battle between Robertson and Allen started on a balanced note, the Aussie taking a scrappy opener, to which Allen responded with a perfectly cued 103 break to make the scoreline go one apiece. 

But things changed dramatically during the next frames, as Robertson fired in breaks of 43, 53, 114 and 69 to go all the way to 4-1 up. These were worrying times for the Pistol.

Still, a few mistakes during frame 6 proved quite costly for "The Thunder from Downunder" as Allen managed to win his second frame of the match.

What followed next was a classical snooker duel, which Neil prevailed with a top break of 54 to re-establish his 3-frames dominance.

Allen fought back with a 60 break, but the first session was going to be closed by Robbo's 74 break which guaranteed him a comfortable lead of 6-3.

As referee Paul Collier announced the start of the second, and last, session, Robertson hurried up and hit in runs of 60 and 40 to go 8-3 up and make us think twice if this final was ever going to see a mid-session interval.

But Allen answered our questions in style, the pride of Northern Ireland using breaks of 25, 22 and 112 to pull back two consecutive frames.

The next frame proved to be quite a nerve-raking one, as it lasted no less than 52 minutes and it was indeed a poor display of snooker mostly due to its importance and gravity.

In the end though, Robertson grabbed the bull by its horns and added a more fluent frame to his collection to end the final at 10-5.

In the interview the followed after the final, Allen openly admitted that he was "nervous from beginning to end" and "never really settled down", blaming himself for the outcome of the match and stating his disappointment with his way of playing against a "former world champion and a former world number one."

A genuinely delighted Robertson said that he "enjoyed the tournament from start to finish" and he considers this to be quite a "challenging" event because unlike the Masters where you automatically qualify just by being in Top 16, for this one you have to actually win tournaments.

Neil shared the glory with his adorable boy who was allowed to stay up late just in case his daddy wins the tournament. Guess it all turned out pretty well in the end ;-)

Next stop on the snooker map is of course the long-waited UK Championship which will kick off on November 24th in York. Can't wait for this one!

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