Features and Interviews

2014 Highs and Lows – Part Two

As 2014 draws to a close in the next few days, it’s time to reflect on what has been another entertaining year full of drama both on and off the table.

There have been many stories over the last 12 months worthy of recalling, from title triumphs to near misses, comebacks to setbacks, but a few have stood out a little more than others.

Yesterday, we looked at some of the lower points of the year but today’s outlook is more positive as we take into account the best stories from 2014.

2014 – The Highs

Mark Selby Becomes World Champion

Nobody can deny that Mark Selby deserved to lift the World Championship trophy for the first time last May.

Selby triumphs at the Crucible - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Selby triumphs at the Crucible – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The ‘Jester’ beat then world no.1 Neil Robertson in a titanic semi-final 17-15 before coming from 10-5 down to Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final to overcome the defending champion 18-14.

That Selby was able to prevent O’Sullivan from a hat-trick of successive Sheffield titles in a year in which the ‘Rocket’ has won every other event held on British soil is further testament to what a great achievement his was.

With his triumph at the Crucible the 31 year-old temporarily regained the number one spot as the rankings changed to a money-earned list and he also became only the ninth player to complete the career Triple Crown – following his previous victories in the UK Championship and Masters.

Selby’s 2014/15 campaign has been understandably quieter so far as he attempts to deal with the razzmatazz that comes with being a world champion, not to mention becoming a father for the first time in November.

Yet, having now tasted glory on snooker’s biggest stage, it would be hard to bet against him repeating the trick again over the coming few years such is his consistently high level of performance overall.

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Ricky Walden

There have been a lot of classic encounters in 2014, many of them having gone to the wire, but there was one devastating destruction job that will arguably live longer in the memory.

In the Masters last eight way back in January, Ronnie O’Sullivan dismantled the challenge of Ricky Walden in less than an hour, winning 6-0 and accumulating a record 556 unanswered points in the process.

The Chigwell cueist was always going to start the tie as favourite but nobody would have expected such a dominating performance that included runs of 79, 88, 72, 134, 77 and 56.

That said, nobody should be all that surprised either because the man has shown on countless occasions before what he is capable of, and indeed on countless other occasions in 2014 thereafter.

In truth, when the five-time world champion produces that level of quality there is nobody in the world who can live with him.

It’s simply unbeatable, and a joy to behold.

Robertson’s Ton of Tons

In January, the 2013/14 campaign was already halfway through and it was becoming apparent that there was a distinct possibility Neil Robertson could amass 100 centuries in a single season, such was his incredible rate of scoring.

Robertson ended with 103 centuries in the end - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Robertson ended with 103 centuries in the end – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The Australian easily eclipsed the previous record of 61 held by Judd Trump in the first month of the year and then firmly set his sights on reaching the century milestone.

At times, this appeared to be a distraction as some of Robertson’s displays appeared to hinge too heavily on his break-building ambitions.

Yet, after reaching the final of the China Open in April, the 32 year-old began the World Championship in Sheffield with 93 centuries to his credit and his desired number within touching distance.

It didn’t take long for him to get to 99 but twice dramatically faltered on the final ball in his second round clash with Mark Allen.

Thankfully for Robertson, he managed to emerge past the Northern Irishman and was given another best-of-25 encounter to finally accomplish the feat.

It was almost fitting then that his record-breaking moment came against Trump in the quarter-final, the player whose record he beat, and on the biggest centre stage of all, sparking jubilant scenes of celebration.

The achievement may be repeated some day, and possibly even eclipsed, but Robertson will always be the first.

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Judd Trump

While the World Championship final was dramatic in a grueling, most important match of the year, sense, two other finals provided us with even greater quality to add to the theatrics.

Both involved English rivals Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump.

The first came in November’s Champion of Champions finale, a tournament that has in only two years become one of the most enjoyable on the calendar.

Trump’s resurgence following his Australian Open success continued as he saw off top ranked Mark Selby and Neil Robertson to reach the final, where he faced the defending champion.

From the opening frame, where O’Sullivan compiled a 137 century break, the contest was played out in terrifically entertaining fashion with high breaks and fast frames in abundance.

In fact, there were six centuries and a further ten breaks over 50 between them as O’Sullivan’s reign in Coventry continued with a 10-7 victory.

Five weeks later and the pair competed in another showdown, this time at the Barbican Centre in York for the final of the UK Championship.

While the breaks weren’t quite as free-flowing as in their previous clash, the drama and tension was tenfold as Trump fought back from 9-4 down, seemingly on the brink of defeat, to force an unlikely decider.

O’Sullivan, though, held his nerve with a break of 51 to eventually see off his young rival and claim a fifth UK crown.

Nobody would be disappointed to see further duels as the second half of the season commences with the Masters in a couple of weeks in London.

Ding’s High Five

With victory over Robertson in the China Open final in April, Ding Junhui matched Stephen Hendry’s 23 year-old record of five ranking event successes in a single season.

Ding briefly became Asia's first world no.1 this year also - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Ding briefly became Asia’s first world no.1 this year also – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Ding had already won three on the bounce in 2013 when he lifted the Shanghai Masters, Indian Open and International Championship trophies before adding the German Masters and Beijing crowns this year.

The 27 year-old also reached the final of the Welsh Open but was downed comfortably by a ruthless O’Sullivan, who compiled the first of his two 147 maximum breaks this year.

Both Ding and O’Sullivan have demonstrated, though, how a player can indeed dominate in this era despite previous reports to the contrary stating that it couldn’t be done.

Ding’s magnificent effort was tainted slightly when he again failed to produce the goods at the World Championship, exiting in the first round to lowly ranked qualifier Michael Wasley.

Yet, there’s still time for all of that to come good and, with 11 ranking events, Ding is now already sixth on the all-time winners list.

Morris Climbs Rankings

Now into the second season of his two-year card, Ireland’s David Morris is nearing the world’s top 50.

With no points to defend from now until the end of this campaign, the Kilkenny cueist will maybe have his sights on surpassing Ken Doherty as the Irish number two in the money list.

For snooker in Ireland, the importance of this cannot be underestimated.

For far too long now have Doherty and fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien been flying the flag for the country on the Main Tour alone.

Morris is up to a high of 54 in the world rankings - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Morris is up to a high of 54 in the world rankings – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Stalwarts like Joe Delaney and Michael Judge fell off the circuit a number of years ago and young hopefuls like Vincent Muldoon and David Hogan ultimately failed to replace them.

It had looked as though Morris might have been heading down a similar path when he too was sent back to the amateur doldrums in 2012 but returned via Q-School after a year’s absence rejuvenated.

Earlier this month, Morris, who had been struggling with a bad back during the summer, celebrated his 26th birthday in style by knocking world champion Mark Selby out of the UK Championship en route to a second last 16 appearance in a row at the Barbican.

With 19 year-old Josh Boileau reaching both the finals of the European and World Under-21 Championships in 2014 as well, there’s renewed hope for some long overdue Irish success in the pro ranks in the coming years.

What are some of your 2014 highlights? Comment below! 

4 replies »

  1. Thanks, David, for both of your great articles.

    To extend your list of lows I would add the poor coverage of snooker by Eurosport. I cannot watch BBC from Belarus and I have no much free time to change my ip or do other tricks to watch it. So, Eurosport often does not cover first round matches, they do not show long format matches in full, they do not have digests. Why is not possible to create a special programme (something like Ronnie’s show) to update fans on the snooker and everything connected with tournaments, best shots, safety, interview with players? If we take football, then there are plenty of such programmes.
    Secondly, we still cannot watch all tables at the tournaments where there are, for example, 16 players at the same time.
    Snooker lacks great characters like Ronnie and this is the major pity. At one time there may be Ding playing great snooker, at another time Neil, Judd or Shaun Murphy. Frankly speaking I have low interest to tournaments staged outside Europe because of the lack of high quality snooker. The first round matches remind me of the Belorussian football championship. It is the same boring thing and the quality of play leaves much to be desired. There are too many snooker players on the tour. They should get rid of half of them. Perhaps it makes sense to make something like in biathlon where there are two tournaments. Those who are skilful enough could join the main tour. In biathlon they tried to stage events in Korea and USA, but it was mainly a failure. The same can be applied to snooker tournaments staged in China. Who watch them? Can they publish official ratings of all events? Snooker cannot be popular throughout the world. There is no need to try to prove it. It goes without saying.
    I think snooker needs big changes to obtain great popularity among the fans. It is a very interesting and gripping sport, but unfortunately it is not that popular like other sports.

    To extend your list of highs I would add Ali Carter. He is back with us. I wish him good health and keep on playing snooker. We shall always support him.
    Another high for the snooker is its enthusiasts who update us on all snooker affairs better than many official social media. The only positive social media is the Worldsnooker. They are doing great job. I would like to thank you all.

    Taking this opportunity, I would like to wish you all Happy New Year and all the best in the coming year. Enjoy your life, be kind to each other, do not forget your parents and try to look on the brighter side of things. Watch, read, discuss, comment and write on snooker.

    Like

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