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article imageSnooker and Tennis — Looking forward to Sheffield and Wimbledon

By Alexander Baron     Jan 30, 2012 in Sports
Between April and July, Britain will be hosting two of the biggest events in world sport: the Wimbledon Championships and the World Professional Snooker Championship.
Although Wimbledon is technically not a world championship, it is the only one of the grand slam titles now fought out on grass, and as the home of world tennis, it is the most prestigious title in the sport.
Although snooker was invented in Imperial India, like tennis it has impeccably British roots, though unlike tennis it has been dominated by British players until the present day. To date, only two players from outside the British Isles have ever won its biggest title: Canadian Cliff Thorburn in 1980, and thirty years later when Australian Neil Robertson beat Graeme Dott in the final.
The World Professional Snooker Championship has been held at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield since 1977, when Thorburn was runner up.
So who is likely to win it this year? At the time of writing, the top three players are all British, with the current world champion, John Higgins, in 3rd place.
In 4th place though is China's Ding Junhui, who has now relocated to Sheffield. Although he was born on April Fool's Day, he is the one who is laughing - all the way to the bank.
The most successful Asian player ever, last season he took home £307,275 in World Snooker Tour prize money. If he wins, we will see a snooker explosion in China. Behind him in 5th place is Neil Robertson who turned professional as long ago as 1998. As well as the 2010 winner, he has just won the BGC Masters.
Outside the top ten there are plenty of players to watch; currently ranked 64 and with only £11,226 in World Snooker Tour prize money last year is another Chinese player, Xiao Guodong. He is one to watch, if not this year, then next. The population of China is 20 times that of Britain, and as snooker has taken the country by storm, it is a racing certainty that if a Chinese player doesn't win the title in the next year or two, one will very soon.
The World Professional Snooker Championship is sponsored by Betfred, and will take place at the home of snooker between April 21 and May 7.
Tickets are already on sale. For details, hotel bookings, etc, see the official World Snooker website.
Wimbledon proper begins on June 25 with the Ladies Singles Final on July 7 and the Men's the following day. All British eyes will be on Andrew Murray, who last week made the semi-finals in the Australian Open after losing 7-5 in the final set to Novak Djokovic in a gruelling match that lasted nearly five hours. He was said to have been disappointed, but having been runner up for the past two years, another semi-final is nothing to be ashamed of.
Although there hasn't been a British Men's Champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won three titles in the 1930s, there has been some home success. Most notable was the Ladies Championship win by Virginia Wade in 1977, Wimbledon Centenary year. In 1984, Annabel Croft won not only the Wimbledon Girls but the Australian Girls title, but sadly, this was a filly that couldn't quite make the grade in the senior stakes. And Andy Murray's brother Jamie, who plays doubles, won the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles in 2007 partnering Jelena Janković.
The Pride of Dunblane picks up yet another title; Andrew Murray exhibits his trophy after winning th...
The Pride of Dunblane picks up yet another title; Andrew Murray exhibits his trophy after winning the Japan Open in October 2011.
Christopher Johnson
The Men's Championship this year will see most attention focused on the top seeds. Although Roger Federer once stood head and shoulders above all the others, he has now been joined by Rafael Nadal, but both men had better be looking over their shoulders for Murray, and especially Djokovic after his successful defence of his Australian Open title against Nadal yesterday in another gruelling 5 set match that lasted nearly 6 hours.
The Ladies Championship is if not exactly a lottery then far more open than the Men's. Having slipped out of the top ten, former world number one and four times Wimbledon Ladies Champion Serena Williams will be one to watch, especially as she was forced to pull out of the Australian Open with an ankle injury.
Finally regarding Wimbledon, if you are planning to go but haven't already got a ticket, you've probably left it too late. Visit the official website for details, but do not for Heaven sake buy tickets either over the Internet or on the black market. Rightly or wrongly, the powers-that-be have decided there should be no resale of tickets, and in recent years Draconian measures have been enacted to quash any trading in them. If like some people have done in the past you pay several hundred pounds for a ticket to one of the important matches you could end up making somebody else very happy, and being turned away at the gate. All the important matches will in any case be broadcast by the BBC, and if you watch them on a wide screened TV, you will have a better seat than anyone on court, plus you won't get wet because it always rains at Wimbledon.
There is of course another, very big sporting event taking place in Britain this year, the Olympics. For details, visit the official website.
Finally, for those who would like to participate in an event (or several) that does not involve any strenuous exercise, training or qualification, the 16th Mind Sports Olympiad is being held in London from August 18-27.
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