Features and Interviews

Classic UK Finals in the Last Decade

In just over a fortnight the 2015 UK champion will be crowned at the Barbican Centre in York.

UK Trophy

The UK Championship trophy – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The second biggest ranking event of the campaign gets under way on Tuesday with 128 competitors lining up in chase of major glory.

The UK Championship is, of course, one of the marquee trio of tournaments broadcast live on BBC and its coverage begins from the outset of the second round next Saturday.

There has been much speculation in recent days over the future of snooker’s seemingly sacred relationship with the Beeb, with the latter set to introduce further cuts to its budget in the coming years.

It could ultimately mean a reduction in the coverage that the broadcaster provides but that really amounts to mere hearsay at this point.

It would obviously be a huge shame, though, if this were to materialise as the BBC has brought umpteen classic moments to many a million viewers at home and abroad down through the years.

Quite a number of those have featured in UK Championship encounters, especially some of the memorable finals that have lasted late into a cold, December Sunday evening.

The UK Championship began way back in 1977 with Irishman Patsy Fagan getting his hands on the trophy but let’s take a look back at a few of the more recent final flourishes in the last decade that captured the imagination.

2005 – Ding Junhui 10-6 Steve Davis

The final of ten years ago pitted two competitors at the complete opposite ends of their careers.

At 48, Steve Davis surprised everyone by reaching his first UK Championship final since 1990.

Ding Germany

Ding won a second UK title in 2009 – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

It was a remarkable run which included victories over a young Mark Allen, defending champion Stephen Maguire, and the players who were set to finish that season as the worlds no.1 and 2 – Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty.

Davis hadn’t always received an abundance of affection when he romped to a record six titles in the 1980s, but now the fans were egging on the ‘Nugget’ for one last hurrah on the big stage.

Unfortunately for Davis, he came up against a boy who was just a toddler when he last tasted success in the UK Championship in 1987.

Much has changed since but at that time Ding possessed a fearless attitude and a ruthless game.

The 18 year-old proved that his China Open victory as a wildcard months earlier was no fluke, and he quelled any idea of romance to confidently land his first UK title.

Davis, meanwhile, would have another last hurrah at the Crucible four years later.

2010 – John Higgins 10-9 Mark Williams

2010 was a big year for snooker for a number of reasons.

First, it was the year that Barry Hearn took over the realms of the sport and began to enact the changes that have concluded with the relatively successful circuit we enjoy today.

Williams Higgins 2011

Higgins also beat Williams in the semi-finals of the World Championship that season – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

A second significant issue of that period was the John Higgins scandal that saw the Scotsman receive a six-month suspension for failing to bring suspicious match-fixing activity involving him and his then manager to the governing body.

By the time the UK Championship had started Higgins had just returned from his ban – and with a vengeance.

He immediately won the first European Tour event that he entered and was narrowly defeated in the final of the next one as well.

It appeared as though Higgins was a man on a mission to prove his doubters, of which there were many, categorically wrong.

Still, when he faced old foe Mark Williams in the final he was coming up against a Welshman enjoying his own resurgence.

And it looked all over when Williams forged ahead, establishing a seemingly insurmountable 9-5 lead.

Yet if we’ve learned one thing it’s never to write off the ‘Wizard of Wishaw’.

After winning two frames on the spin it looked as though it really was over when Williams got beyond the snookers required stage in frame 17.

Higgins duly manufactured the penalty points needed and cleared the table to steal the frame, subsequently forced a decider, and compiled a 66 break to snatch it at the death.

It was a reminder of Higgins’ class on the baize and he was to go on and win his fourth World Championship later that season as well.

For Williams, it was the first of what was to be many high-profile collapses in the next year.

2011 – Judd Trump 10-8 Mark Allen

This showdown involved two of the sport’s brightest young talents of that time.

Then just 22 and 25 respectively, Trump had been riding a wave of confidence after his ‘naughty’ brand of snooker earned him success in the China Open and a runner-up spot at the Crucible.

Trump Allen 2011 UK

Trump and Allen before the final session – photo courtesy of Monique LImbos.

Allen was embarking on his maiden final appearance, finally getting the unwanted tag of being a beaten semi-finalist off his back.

Attacking snooker was predicted and that is exactly what came to fruition as the pair entertained in a swashbuckling, exhilarating showpiece.

In 18 frames of snooker, there were 15 breaks above 50, of which five were centuries.

That included incredible runs of 141, 139, 129 and 125 from Allen but that still didn’t prove to be enough for the Northern Irishman.

Allen was 3-1 up at the first mid-session interval but then lost the next seven frames to find himself on the brink of defeat as Trump moved through the gears with relentless ease.

Allen wowed the crowd with three terrific tons and a 95 to get back to within one but could not force the decider.

Trump coolly compiled a 91 to seal the 10-8 triumph and his first major title.

A nailbiting climax was all that this clash lacked but, even so, it stands as arguably the best final of the last decade – certainly the highest scoring.

2014 – Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 Judd Trump

Three years later and Trump was back in the final still searching for his second success in a major.

Ronnie O'Sullivan UK 14

Ronnie won in 2014 but is swapping his cue for a microphone this year – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

His opponent was a star seeking his 15th, and with it a quintuple of Triple Crowns.

The pair had locked horns only a month previously in another final, the Champion of Champions in Coventry in which O’Sullivan gained the upper hand in an entertaining affair.

Their UK final was to be even better and, like Trump’s previous match with Allen, one to boast a succession of sizeable contributions.

But unlike Higgins’ toppling of Williams, this match will be most remembered for the comeback that never was.

Leading 9-4 it looked like O’Sullivan was easing to victory despite having not displayed his best snooker throughout.

Yet, Trump responded by rattling off a furious sequence of five frames in a row, including consecutive centuries of 120 and 127, in just over an hour to equalise at 9-9.

Trump was not to outdo Higgins on this occasion, though, as O’Sullivan hung on with a break of 51 in the decider to finally clinch it.

The ‘Rocket’ wont be returning in 2015 to defend his title and that of course is a shame as his presence in any tournament makes it more interesting.

However, there’s still a supremely high-quality field assembling in York and who’s to say that there wont be another unforgettable final to write about this year.

Click here to view the full UK Championship draw.

 

 

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