Snooker News

A Memorable World Championship

It’s the morning after the 17 days before.

The 2016 Betfred World Championship has come to an end, with Mark Selby deservedly being crowned the king of the Crucible for the second time in three years. 

K-029An entertaining final between two of the game’s very elite was a fitting conclusion to a thrilling fortnight – month in fact, if you include the qualifiers at Ponds Forge as well.

Ding Junhui, of course, was one of the 16 names who emerged from the three-round preliminaries in Sheffield and it was a tournament in which several of the lower ranked competitors shone through.

Yet, after all was said and done, and the last ball was potted, it was indeed the world no.1 who emerged victorious with trophy in hand.

Winning was the only equation that led to Selby retaining his position at the top of the rankings – a spot he has now impressively held at the end of each of the last five campaigns.

The ‘Jester’ boasts seven ranking event titles, including two Worlds and a UK, not to forget the additional three Masters crowns he has donned to boot.

The 32 year-old is forging quite a career for himself and all the naysayers he unfortunately attracts can only be pointed to his ever-growing success and the legacy that he is constructing.

Selby can frequently win in style but, maybe more importantly, he can also do so when he is struggling to discover his A-game, a trait that separates the not so good, the good and the very best in the business.

And Selby is certainly among the ultimate elite in the sport at the moment.

This World Championship will rightly belong to Selby, with his name etched on the trophy again, but there is plenty more to remember the 2016 edition by.

Ding’s run to the final included seven victories and a record-breaking last four encounter which saw him compile seven centuries.

The 29 year-old finally broke the hoodoo that was surrounding him at the venue and, while he didn’t quite go all the way on this occasion, he has given both himself and a nation full of budding Chinese cueists the hope and inspiration necessary for a new wave of talent to come through.

Arguably the biggest fairy tale of all, though, was Alan McManus’ journey to the semi-finals, where he put up a marvelous fight in defeat to Ding.

At 45, the Scot became the oldest man to reach that stage in more than three decades, and achieved the feat 23 years after his last appearance in the last four.

Other qualifiers like Kyren Wilson, who pocketed £10,000 for making the highest break of the tournament, a superb 143 total clearance, Sam Baird and Anthony McGill provided stories in support of the main acts.

Barry Hawkins’ 13-12 victory over favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16, and his subsequent comeback to almost deny Marco Fu in the quarter-finals, were dramatic in equal measure.

This year also had quite a lot of controversy to add an extra flavour of spice to proceedings.

The tables, particularly during the first week and especially table one, were at times diabolical and will have many players bemoaning their luck to have been outfoxed in such a seemingly unfair manner.

O’Sullivan caught the limelight as usual when he failed to turn up for his obligatory press conference following his first round defeat of David Gilbert, while later in the tournament Fu created headlines of his own by appearing to fail to call a foul on himself – an act he insisted he was oblivious to upon his loss to Selby in the semi-final.

Even the commentators got in on the act, with John Virgo having to apologise for being heard slipping the F-word into a slight at having to work through a tediously long session.

During said session, Selby and Fu broke the record for the longest duration of frame ever at the Crucible.

A word too on the referees, who for the most part continue to provide an excellent service that largely goes unheralded.

How many times did Paul Collier simply say “sure” to the umpteen requests from Ding to clean the white ball in the final? A true pro.

2016 was also a year to say goodbye, to the career of Steve Davis for which mere superlatives won’t do him justice.

BBC’s feature on Monday highlighting his best bits and an emotional sporting voyage that has come to an end, professionally at least, was as emotional as it gets.

Davis won six world titles in the 1980s, to be surpassed by Stephen Hendry’s record seven at the Crucible in 1990s.

How many might Mark Selby amass? Surely more than the two that he currently possesses.

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