2013 was another action-packed year on the baize.
There were many highs, lows and all that comes in between as comebacks, victories, defeats and scandals dominated the snooker headlines.
Such is the enormity of the calendar these days that there is barely a respite throughout the entire 12 months.
Indeed, this Christmas or winter break is one of the longest spells off for the players – and it’s only a few weeks.
What that has guaranteed is a barrage of continuous tournaments, producing endless champions and attached storylines.
Here are just a few of the highs and lows as we say prepare to say slán to yet another year.
Ronnie took the best part of a year off from the sport between winning his fourth world title in May 2012 and returning to add to his collection at the Crucible in April.
The ‘Rocket’ was barely troubled throughout the 17 days, claiming his fifth crown almost at a canter.
His achievement will rightfully go down as one of the best ever in snooker’s illustrious history.
Many have expressed anger at his BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year Awards snub, and it is indeed shocking that he wasn’t in the top 10 shortlisted to win the annual top prize.
That accolade has become markedly tainted in recent years, and doesn’t carry nearly as much credibility as it once did, but still, Ronnie’s inclusion would have been good publicity for the sport in this area of the world.
Regardless, those within snooker know how incredible his achievement was and, love or loathe him, his return this season on a more regular basis has been a distinctive boost.
Irrespective of form, the 38 year-old will deservedly be favourite to continue his dominance in Sheffield in 2014.
Another player making his return to the professional scene after a year out was Ireland’s David Morris – although under vastly different circumstances.
The Kilkenny cueist was on the circuit for six years between 2006 and 2012 but lost his card when he dropped outside of the top 64 in the world rankings.
His first stint was marred with disappointment and regret, having started promisingly his consistency and confidence faltered.
Nobody back on home soil felt that this accurately reflected his true potential and Morris has impressively proved them all right during his second spell so far.
After a year battling it back on the Irish amateur scene, where he won one ranking event, Morris emerged through Q-School and immediately set upon making his mark more permanent.
Aided by the new flat draw format adopted into most tournaments this season, Morris reached the quarter-finals of the Wuxi Classic, the last 16 at the UK Championship and is already into the top 64 in the provisional money-earned world rankings list that will be used from next season on.
As things stand, the only was is up for the 25 year-old.
Take Ronnie O’Sullivan out of the picture and Ding Junhui was the undoubted star of 2013.
With four ranking event triumphs, the Chinese Sensation has finally become the consistent performer that had been the bane of his displays in the past.
Ding collected the PTC Grand Finals in Galway in March, compiling a 147 in the last eight and coming from 3-0 down to pip Neil Robertson to glory in the final.
However, his most notable success came in a stunning two-month span in which he added ranking titles number seven, eight and nine to his tally.
Ding was already established as a top player, but now he is considered as potentially the one who could dominate in an era where nobody felt that was even possible.
Ding is joint seventh in the all-time ranking event winners list, has compiled the fifth most centuries, is a Masters champion and idolised as a sporting icon in a country that boasts more than one billion people as its population.
Ding is only 26 years of age.
The only blip on his CV is his record at the big one, but perhaps he will be set to remedy that in 2014.
And the Rest
There was a lot to celebrate in 2013, not least the introduction of several new tournaments that added a lot to the calendar.
In particular, the inaugural Champion of Champions in Coventry was heralded as a major success by all involved.
The format was fresh and exciting and it is pleasant to have an event for the elite that isn’t the Masters.
There’s nothing wrong with staging a few tournaments here and there for the best – it’s what the punters want and it’s only fair that the cream of the crop are rewarded for their success.
This old story of making it fairer for everyone at every juncture is a load a rubbish.
Yes, give as many people as possible as many opportunities as possible to join the ladder and subsequently climb it.
But, ultimately, then it’s up to them to succeed and if they fail, well tough. This is professional sport.
The Indian Open was also a decent addition that benefited greatly from a historic run to the final for home hero Aditya Mehta, while the Netherlands hosted a snooker tournament again with a well-supported European Tour event in Rotterdam.
There were two other world champions after O’Sullivan, with a brace of Davis names being etched on world trophies.
Mark Davis continued his remarkable streak by winning a third 6-Reds World Championship while Steve Davis won the World Seniors for the first time.
And not to forget world no.1 Neil Robertson, who had another superb year at the top, winning three ranking events, runner-up in two more, and was an absolute demon in the century making department.
This one’s obvious. There weren’t all that many bad things in 2013 but the one major one was a stinker of seismic proportions.
Lee, a five-time ranking event winner, was handed a 12-year ban for influencing the outcome of seven matches in 2008 and 2009.
The Englishman will appeal the verdict, with a hearing scheduled for late January, but nobody genuinely believes that there is any chance of the decision being overturned.
It was a damaging story for the sport, with it making headline news across all media platforms.
Snooker finds it difficult to get into the newspapers and reels when there is something positive to report, yet they are all over it when there’s a scandal.
People love a scandal, and Stephen Lee served it up on a plate.
Somewhat amazingly, no British player has won a ranking event in the 2013/14 season so far.
Ding has three, Robertson has two and Marco Fu one, while in addition to that there have only been two finalists – John Higgins in the Wuxi Classic and Mark Selby at the recent UKs in York.
Is this to spell the beginning of the end for high-level snooker in the Britland?
In short, no. But it is unlikely that any English, Scottish or Welsh player will enjoy as much dominance as the likes of Davis, Hendry or Williams did in the past.
The foreign onslaught is coming, indeed it has already arrived, and heading the charge are Robbo and Ding.
Bye Bye Legends?
This would more be a case for this article next year but 2013 could be the beginning of the end for legends Steve Davis and Jimmy White.
The pair has been flirting with the paramount top 64 cut-off line in the world rankings for the last few months and will require a strong performance in the second half of this campaign to avoid becoming amateurs for the first time in 35-odd years.
As with all things, time will tell.
All that’s left now is to look forward to another enthralling year on the baize in 2014.
Happy New Year everyone!
thanks David for a great article. A very good summary of the snooker year. I would also like to mention the high & lows of snooker coverage in 2013. Unfortunately snooker is not a global sport yet. To follow it, you need to know English at an upper intermediate level, to know what blogs to read, and to use Twitter. All main snooker web sites are rubbish. Russian-speaking fans may only watch Eurosport, nothing to read in Russian about snooker. Not enough cameras at the early stages and the matches are not recorded as a result. There are area restrictions to some tournaments.
But the great thing is that there are people, like you David and a few others who help us enjoy snooker, and keep good web sites running.
I wish you success in all your deeds, take care and have a peacefull 2014.
Many thanks, Sergei. Keep the comments coming, they are much appreciated.
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An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague who has been conducting a
little homework on this. And he actually bought me breakfast due to the fact
that I found it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this….
Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your