As 2018 draws to a close, we can continue our reflection on what has been another enthralling snooker year.
There have been many talking points over the course of the last twelve months both on and off the table.
On Monday, we took a look at a few of the low points but today let’s celebrate some of the more memorable moments from 2018.
Ronnie’s Triple Crown Record
How many more years can this all-time great last at the very top of this sport?
Ronnie O’Sullivan shows no signs of a let up in his standard and, 25 years after his first Triple Crown success, the Englishman triumphed in the UK Championship for a record seventh time to round off another snooker year in which the “Rocket” soared.
O’Sullivan celebrated his glory in York with exuberance as it took him above Stephen Hendry on the all-time Triple Crown tally with 19 titles from the sport’s three majors.
In contesting only eleven tournaments throughout the year, O’Sullivan reached six finals and walked away with the silverware a fantastic five times.
The Englishman’s continuous achievements since turning professional in 1992 and his corresponding omission from the BBC Sport’s Personality of the Year shortlist is appalling.
Worryingly for all of his challengers, O’Sullivan seems like he’s a long way off from retirement, ensuring his final Triple Crown figure could be well into the twenties by the time he’s finished.
Cue Butt Naked
One of the very best World Championship finals ever brought the two other fabled members from the “Class of 1992” together.
After a remarkable resurgence that saw the Welshman win a brace of ranking titles earlier in the campaign, Mark Williams fought his way into the title decider at the Crucible for the first time in 15 years.
His opponent John Higgins was hoping to eradicate the failure of twelve months previously in Sheffield when he fell short to then unstoppable force Mark Selby.
It was to be disappointment again for the Scot who, despite demonstrating his trademark battling qualities to stay in the hunt, was just outlasted by Williams following a thrilling 18-16 battle.
The latter, adding to his prior world crowns from 2000 and 2003, had promised to get naked if he managed to secure the unlikely career turnaround and emerge victorious again in the sport’s blue riband championship.
Williams kept his word and duly performed his post-final press conference in the buff, much to the amusement of tabloids all around the world, and the 43 year-old has been keeping everyone entertained with his seemingly endless celebration of that success in the months since.
— Shamoon Hafez (@ShamoonHafez) May 7, 2018
The Firing Pistol
In a lot of other years, Mark Allen would probably be regarded as the player of the year but it’s difficult to compete with the exploits of O’Sullivan and Williams.
The Northern Irishman’s own accomplishments are not to be dismissed, though, and 2018 represented the best spell in Allen’s career to date.
The 32 year-old began the snooker year by finally fulfilling his potential on the major stage with victory claimed in the prestigious Masters invitational in London.
En route to capturing the Paul Hunter Trophy at the Alexandra Palace, Allen thrashed O’Sullivan to register his intent and it was the five-time world champion who Allen again faced for UK Championship glory in December.
On this occasion, Allen was second best but just a week later he collected the Scottish Open trophy that, along with November’s International Championship success, helped make 2018 one to remember.
Allen is on the cusp of a place in the top five of the world rankings for the first time and, with a newly acquired winning habit, could be a more consistent threat in the bigger events from now on.
World Seniors Tour
The World Seniors Tour was officially launched in 2017 but it was during this year that it really began to take off.
In Steve Davis, Cliff Thorburn, and Ken Doherty, three of the four tournaments that were staged produced some of the sport’s legends as champions.
It was primarily for this reason that promoter Jason Francis originally initiated his Legends exhibitions tour – to give the public an opportunity to celebrate some of the stars of yesteryear.
However, it was perhaps in the World Seniors Championship where the greater purpose of the World Seniors Tour, now officially sanctioned, bore fruition.
Outsider Aaron Canavan from Jersey emerged from the field to claim the coveted crown, adhering to the World Seniors Tour motto “dare to dream”.
The World Seniors Tour has given amateurs over the age of 40 a chance to thrive in a competitive environment and it looks like it’s only going to grow with six events in total planned for the 2018/19 campaign as well as a host of qualifying competitions all the way from North America to China.
We’re pretty used to seeing the name Robertson etched onto a trophy in snooker.
In fact, such has been Neil Robertson’s amazing consistency in the last decade that you’d have to go all the way back to 2005 to find the last snooker year that the Australian didn’t raise silverware aloft.
Yet, although the 2010 world champion prolonged his streak this year following his triumph in the Riga Masters, it’s namesake Jimmy Robertson’s unlikely success that will perhaps be remembered more.
The Englishman, who had only once before reached the quarter-final stage of a ranking event, went on a scarcely believable run in the European Masters in Belgium that concluded with his name entering the history books.
Robertson only just qualified for Lommel with a late 4-3 victory over Andy Lee that climaxed on the final pink ball but the best was to come.
The first three rounds at the venue against Zhang Yong, Zhou Yuelong, and Anthony McGill all went to a decider with the 32 year-old incredibly winning each of them on the final black.
Seemingly destined to emerge with a maiden ranking title, Robertson subsequently overcame proven winners Mark Allen, Mark King, and Joe Perry for one of the most memorable weeks of snooker for a player ever.
On Thursday, we’ll continue the review of the snooker year with another quiz.