UK Snooker Championship: John Parrott on the main contenders

UK Championship

Venue:
Barbican Centre, York
Date:
Sat 3 Dec - Sun 11 Dec
Kick-off:
1100, 1400 & 1900 GMT Sat & Sun; 1230 & 1900 Mon-Fri
Coverage:
Live on BBC One & Two, Red Button and Online. Latest scores on BBC Sport website
John Higgins

The UK Championship, snooker's second biggest tournament after the World Championship, returns to the Barbican Centre in York this weekend after a five-year sojourn in Telford.

The event features nine former winners including defending champion John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan, plus Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, who both came through qualifying, and last year's shock World Championship finalist Judd Trump.

So which of the main contenders will prevail this year? BBC Sport snooker pundit and 1991 world champion John Parrott gives his thoughts.

JOHN HIGGINS

Parrott's view: "If John defends the title, it will be his fourth success in the event. He has a fabulous game that suits the longer format of the tournament.

"His strength is that he always plays the right shot. He's very difficult to trap so if you play safe against him, he will have an answer for everything. Then when he gets in amongst the balls, he scores heavily.

"He is the complete all-round match-player and probably the best the game has ever seen. It will be very tough to beat him."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Rory McLeod: "First round matches are never easy for the defending champion, but I expect Higgins to come through this one without too much trouble."

Did you know? Higgins appeared on Celebrity Mastermind where he demonstrated an impressive knowledge of the TV soap Dallas.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Beat Mark Williams 10-9 in an epic final.

MARK SELBY

Parrott's view: "He's one of the favourites for the tournament. Yes, he has yet to win the UK or World Championship but he's consistent and that's why he's world number one. He's always there at the business end of tournaments and it takes someone playing very well to knock him out.

"Since he first joined the tour, he is certainly the most improved player in terms of his technical ability. He should really win a big tournament but then again, you don't always get what you deserve don't you?"

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Ryan Day: "It's a tricky opener but overall I expect Selby to have the edge as he's a better tactical player."

Did you know? A keen darts player, Selby has beaten legend Eric Bristow in an exhibition.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 9-7 to Stephen Maguire in the last 16.

MARK WILLIAMS

Parrott's view: "He is one of my favourite players to watch because he plays in a different manner to everyone else. He has a wonderful relaxed attitude towards the game. I would have paid a fortune to have his temperament when I played.

"Mark must be proud of the way he's turned his career around. He was the best player for a while but then he lost it, dropped way down the rankings and was forced onto the qualifying circuit. But now he's fought his way back and last season played excellent all the way through."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Joe Jogia: "Joe has been around the tour for a long time now and has had some good results, but I expect Mark to get though this one without too much trouble."

Did you know? Williams has been known to have a taste for fast cars but these days he prefers motorbikes and playing five-a-side football.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 10-9 to John Higgins in final, after leaing 9-5.

NEIL ROBERTSON

Parrott's view: "Neil is starting to look like the Neil Robertson that won the World Championship in 2010. He showed how good he was to win that tournament but dropped out of form after that.

"When I watched him play recently, he looked to have found a rhythm and was playing well and I found myself thinking that he's starting to play like we know he can. In a very competitive sport, he looks like somebody who you wouldn't be surprised to see add the UK title to his collection."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Tom Ford: "This will be close because Tom is a very capable player who is exceptionally good at qualifying but hasn't quite done himself justice in the main arena."

Did you know? He's a big Chelsea fan and loves listening to Metallica, Timbaland and Guns N' Roses.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 9-7 to Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals.

JUDD TRUMP

Parrott's view: "It'll be interesting to see how he gets on in York because this is his first big event with long frames since he reached the World Championship final in May. You could probably say he missed an opportunity to win the title because I believe Higgins wasn't at his best.

"Judd has got bundles of talent, all the enthusiasm you need to succeed and he obviously practises hard. Reaching the World final would have boosted his confidence massively as he will now know that he's got the talent to reach the later stages of a tournament and beat the top players."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Dominic Dale: "Dominic can be dangerous. If he plays to his best, he can beat anybody, but you have to fancy Judd in this one."

Did you know? At the age of 14, Trump became the youngest player to make a competitive maximum 147 break, beating O'Sullivan's record from 1991.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 9-7 to Mark Joyce in the last 16.

RONNIE O'SULLIVAN

Parrott's view: "In the past, I think it's fair to say he's not done himself justice in the longer frame format tournaments because he didn't want to be there.

"But he has been playing in all these PTC (Players Tour Championship) and smaller events and looks pretty sharp, so maybe he'll turn up and decide he likes the new format with the shorter frames [best of 11, rather than best of 17, until the semis] in the early rounds.

"I don't know which Ronnie is going to turn up and I don't think the crowd know but that's what puts bums on seats. If he turns up and plays at his best, he's a majestic sight and I think he'll go very close."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Steve Davis: "Ronnie is playing at an exceptionally high standard. Steve is not. A lot will depend on Ronnie's form."

Did you know? The Rocket is a keen runner and has been known to clock up 50 miles a week when time allows. He can run six-minute miles and has a sub-36 minute 10K personal best.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Crashed out in the first round, losing 9-6 to Stuart Bingham.

STEVE DAVIS

Parrott's view: "Steve has done remarkably well to get through qualifying. He has reassessed what he is doing and is putting a bit more effort in. He is practising a lot more than he was and he's giving the game his full attention so all credit to him.

"The trouble is, you have got to pot every ball that you get a chance on and you can't afford to miss anything daft at this level. If he does, he'll be in trouble but Steve knows that. Anything can happen in snooker and Steve will be practising hard to ensure he has every chance."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Ronnie O'Sullivan: "Unfortunately, it's going to be a bit like holding a tiger by the tail in playing Ronnie but you never know."

Did you know? Steve is an accomplished chess player and a former president of the British Chess Federation.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Did not qualify.

STEPHEN HENDRY

Parrott's view: "Stephen has had a good qualifying result to get through. It would have been a shock to the system to have to go and back and play in the qualifiers after the success he has had. I know it's a big shock because I went through it when I went off the main tour. He's done well and it'll be nice for him to be back playing on the main stage.

"By his own admission, he has been very inconsistent. You will have a match where he will play really good and you think 'oh, he's not too far off playing really well' and then he will just throw a poor game in. It's fascinating to watch."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Steven Maguire: "This is a terrific first-round match. Maguire is one of the biggest under-achievers in the game while Hendry's form has been indifferent. It's too close to call."

Did you know? He enjoys playing poker with rivals Mark Williams and Steve Davis and is a fan of comedy shows Blackadder and Seinfeld.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 9-6 to Mark Williams in the last 16.

DING JUNHUI

Parrott's view: "Ding is another player who you could argue has been a little bit disappointing in the longer tournaments. He won the event for the second time two years ago, but he's failed to challenge since.

"At the last World Championships, it was the first time ever that I think he has played really well in the longer format of the game. He has struggled for form in the last couple of seasons so maybe he is finally coming back to where he was. He is certainly capable of having a good run so the top guys should be weary."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Mark Davis: "Mark is just outside the world's top 16 so should put up a fight, but I expect Ding to get through this one and go pretty deep in the tournament."

Did you know? Ding is a huge fan of Jackie Chan movies and loves his football. He supports Manchester United.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 9-8 to Mark Allen in a closely-fought last 16 encounter.

SHAUN MURPHY

Parrott's view: "Shaun still remains one of the best cueists among all the players. His natural cue-ball control and the lack of effort he puts in to get to the ball to do what he wants it to do is incredible.

"When he won the World Championship in 2005 he just turned up and knocked everything in. He has played some good stuff since then but the only thing that has stopped him winning more is that it's an exceptionally competitive era and there are better players around."

Parrott's prediction for first-round match against Li Yan: "I've not heard of Li so I can't comment on his form but you would expect Shaun to get in his groove quickly and move through the tournament."

Did you know? Murphy is a fanatical golfer and plays to a single figure handicap. He's also pretty handy on the tennis court, too.

How did he fare in the 2010 UK Championship? Lost 9-8 to Mark Williams in the semi-finals.

John Parrott was speaking to BBC Sport's Lawrence Barretto

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