Saturday, 24 December 2011

Look Back on Snooker 2011 - A Fabulous Year

2011 in the snooker calender is a fabulous year. We witnessed the rise of a new star, a brand new reform in the game with new tournaments, history-making and many other things.

All Asian Final

The year opened with two Asian heroes making history together in the Masters. They were China's Ding Junhui and Hong Kong's Marco Fu playing in the final, the first final to feature two Asian players. The remarkable final was won by Ding Junhui, beaten Fu 10-4 to become the first Asian to win the Masters title after his defeat to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the event final in 2007.

We welcome the new non-ranking event in the calendar two weeks after the Masters - The Snooker Shoot-out. The event in Blackpool featured Top 64 players gained a commercial success that enjoyed by many of the snooker fans. The title is scored by Nigel Bond. The best finish for Top 16 player was by Ronnie O'Sullivan, reaching semi-final but still it was a delightful new event.

German Masters in the Berlin enjoyed spectacular success when it was introduced this year. The final between Mark Williams and Mark Selby of the 5-day ranking tournament was played in front of a full house of 2500 fans. The whole tournament received positive feedback despite the last-minute absence of Ronnie O'Sullivan. Williams captured his 18th ranking title by sawing off Selby 9-7 in the stunning final.

Welsh Open title was defended by John Higgins after winning the All-Scottish Final against Stephen Maguire by 9-6. Stephen Hendry made his tenth maximum break to tie the record created by Ronnie O'Sullivan last September on World Open for having tenth maximum. Higgins won an invitation title Hainan Classic before China Open.

Shaun Murphy who topped the order of merit in the PTC series successfully marked his name on the trophy of the first-ever-PTC Grand Finals held in Dublin, Ireland. Championship League which is the qualifying event of Premier League was won by Matthew Stevens to earn a place in Premier League.

A Star Is Born

We then witnessed the rise of a snooker new star - Judd Trump. The new snooker sensation succeeded in China Open to win his first ranking title by defeating Mark Selby in the thrilling final 10-8. Trump continued his footstep at the Crucible for World Championship. He stunned the defending world champion Neil Robertson, Martin Gould, Graeme Dott and Ding Junhui to reach the biggest ranking final of the year.

7-time World Champion Stephen Hendry was on the edge to be knocked out of Top 16 after his defeat to Mark Selby in the second round. Luckily Ding Junhui helped Hendry to secure his place by beating Stuart Bingham in last 16 and Ding went on to reach the semis before losing to Judd Trump.

3-time-World Champion Higgins faced the challenge from Trump in the final, having trailed 7-10, 9-12 behind but managed to beat Trump 18-15 to win his fourth world title. This proved the complete return of Higgins after the six-month ban before UK Championship in December. The Wizard Wishaw made it hat trick to win three ranking titles to end this fabulous 2010/2011 season.

The New Season

Q School in May right after World Championship produced 12 winners to allow them earning tour places in the 2011/2012 season. The season is then officially kicked off with PTC1 in Sheffield. The disappointing performances from The Rocket (losing first round matches in five consecutive events until World Championship) in the last season hurt the fans badly. But seemed the new season awoke Ronnie's interests in snooker again - He won PTC1 with a strong and positive attitude.

July was the busiest month in the new season. The Asian tour began with Wuxi Classic in China which won by Mark Selby beating his team mate of the upcoming return of World Cup, Ali Carter in the final. Some of the boys then went to Thailand for World Cup to play in respects of their countries - China which led by Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo earned this honour.

Australian Goldfields Open, a new ranking tournament that replaced Shanghai Masters in September to become the first ranking event of the season. First ranking event of the season always have surprise winners, this was not an exception. Stuart Bingham defeated Mark Williams in the final by 9-8 from 5-8 behind to snatch his first ranking title in his career. This act also helped Bingham to get into Top 16 for the first time.

The players did not rest much in the summer. The victories of three PTCs in August were shared by Judd Trump, Ben Wollaston and Mark Selby. The Rocket Ronnie O'Sullivan made his eleventh maximum break to surpass the record owned by himself and Hendry on PTC4 in Germany.

Shanghai Masters Final Controversy

Second ranking tournament of the new season Shanghai Masters came in September. Mark Selby grasped his second ranking title after Welsh Open back in 2008 by beating Mark Williams in the decider of controversial final from 7-9 down. 'The Pink Incident' was widely discussed but it did not change the fact that Selby climbed to world number one after his victory.

Stephen Hendry was officially dropped out of elite Top 16 in the first time of 23 years after his first round defeat to Robert Milkins in Shanghai Masters.

Shaun Murphy won the first ever professional snooker event in South America, Brazil Masters that came off right after Shanghai Masters. Ronnie O'Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump dominated the PTCs in local and European countries afterwards, each won two PTCs. Andrew Higginson, Michael Holt and Tom Ford were the remaining PTC winners, Holt set up a record of 14 consecutive wins in the PTCs.

Martin Gould edged out defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan in the final of Power Snooker. On the other hand, O'Sullivan continued to dominate the Premier League by winning his tenth title of the invitation event. Darren Morgan beaten Steve Davis on the World Seniors Championship to win the title.

The 147 made by Mike Dunn on German Masters Qualifiers set off the bloom of maximum breaks. David Gray and Ricky Walden each made one in the PTC10; Ding Junhui and Matthew Stevens did so in the PTC12. Ding set a record for the shortest duration between two consecutive 147s as he made another one in PTC11 three days later. Jamie Cope followed Ding to knock the 85th official maximum break in the same event.

Mark Allen Incident

UK Championship at Barbican Centre in York was the last major ranking tournament of 2011. With the reduction in the format, it led to the discontent of Mark Allen. This act by Allen was about to cause Allen a disciplinary hearing but Allen proved his best to Barry Hearn. The Pistol reached his first ever ranking final after beating Ricky Walden in the semis to play Judd Trump in the final.

Trump had a 9-5 advantage over Allen but The Pistol brought out his best to trail 8-9 with three centuries. His comeback did not threaten Trump's success. Eventually Trump clinched his second ranking title of the year, UK Championship with 10-8 win.

O'Sullivan's lost to Judd Trump in the second round of UK Championship marked the race of Top 16 at the second cut-off point before Masters. Mark Davis lost in the important battle against Anthony Hamilton in the quarter-finals of PTC11 (If Davis has won the match, he would knock Ronnie out of Top 16).

But Ronnie is not yet safe to be stayed in the Top 16: If Ricky Walden wins the upcoming PTC12 in Munich in January, Walden will knock Ronnie out and enters the top 16 once again.

The fierce competition of the game continues in 2012. I wish all my friends and readers Merry Christmas and all the best of the New Year!

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!


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