25 years after claiming his first and only snooker crown in the world, Ken Doherty firmly believes that the melting pot’s rich traditions must not wither under the unprecedented pressure for change.
he 17-day tournament is increasingly isolated amid an uninterrupted calendar of short-form events, and another former winner, Neil Robertson, is among those who have questioned its continued format, deriding it as “dated and frumpy”.
But for Dubliner Doherty, whose quest to reach the famous venue for a 20th time aged 52 was dashed by last week’s qualifying loss to Rory McLeod, it is precisely those grueling conditions that define the eventual world champion.
“It’s a very difficult tournament to win,” said Doherty. “You need both strong determination and talent, you need composure and confidence and it’s not surprising that many players seem to fail.
“It’s about having mental toughness. It’s the adrenaline and excitement that keeps you going, because it’s a 17-day marathon with more or less constant pressure, even off the table.
“I love the format and I love the tradition. When a place is so over you, it creates so much pressure. You get a sense of history and nostalgia for the place that you don’t get anywhere else.”
A stellar season, including three ranked titles plus the Masters, makes Robertson the obvious favorite for the tournament, but he’s just one of several leading players this year to be weighed down with question marks.
For all his talent, Robertson has not returned to the World Finals since his lone win in 2010 and Doherty warned: “I think Neil is the favorite with his style of play but he also came with great expectations last year.
“You have to question him because he admitted he doesn’t like it. I think it could be a big year for Ronnie (O’Sullivan) to win his seventh and there’s a case for both Chinese players (Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong) to go very deep.”
Reaching two more World Finals following his 1997 success, Doherty admitted mixed feelings as he retains strong memories of both his Crucible rise and the other moments he believes could enrich his legacy.
“Every year those memories come back as I’ve potted the last few balls and what a wonderful feeling it was to get my hands on that trophy, something I’ve dreamed of since I was eight years old.” added Doherty.
“It would have been nice to win it again. I lost the final the following year and in 2003 and they are the ones who got away.
“I look back on my career and I think I could have won more but there are so many good players who never got their hands on the trophy so while I feel disappointed in a way I feel blessed too.”
O’Sullivan is set to begin his campaign for a record-breaking seventh crown on opening day, which will also include defending champion Mark Selby, who is returning after openly acknowledging his mental health concerns.
The four-time winner has reached just one ranking semi-final this season at December’s World Grand Prix and despite his top seeding, Selby will not enjoy his usual status as one of the tournament’s most likely winners.
“I hope Mark can defend the trophy strongly,” added Doherty. “When Mark is at his best he is very strong and has shown himself to be very strong over the long format.
“Mark has the game and temperament to win as many titles as O’Sullivan, but this year has been a very difficult year for him and obviously his mental health concerns must take precedence.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/snooker/you-need-strong-resolve-as-well-as-talent-ken-doherty-on-what-it-takes-to-win-world-title-25-years-on-from-crucible-glory-41541052.html “You need both strong determination and talent” – Ken Doherty on what it takes to win the world title, 25 years after Crucible fame