After a couple of quizzes and a look at the highs and lows from the last twelve months, the annual countdown continues with the Player of the Year.
There were a lot of memorable moments throughout 2018 that were generated by a number of players up and down the rankings.
Realistically, though, there are only a few names who can be in the Player of the Year conversation.
He’s a man of his word…
As promised, Mark Williams has arrived for his press conference as world champion – naked! 😳#bbcsnooker pic.twitter.com/yEF9h2MqMF
— BBC Snooker (@BBCSnooker) May 7, 2018
First up an obvious choice, with the world champion inevitably getting at the very least a deserved mention.
This year’s Crucible champ will get more than just that as, not only did Mark Williams claim a third world crown, he achieved the feat a remarkable 15 years after his previous Sheffield success.
In April 2017, Williams failed to qualify for that year’s World Championship and the retirement chimes beckoned.
Just over a year later, the Welshman was fulfilling an unusual wager that had him promise to bare all should he lift the blue riband trophy aloft again.
The 43 year-old, who also won the German Masters in February, has been on a non-stop celebration trail of his glory ever since but was still able to somehow emerge with the World Open title in the summer.
Rising back to the number two position in the world rankings, Williams has the opportunity in the coming months to regain the top spot for the first time in eight years.
While Williams maintains the rankings mean nothing to him, it’s still an amazing achievement to be back in the mix at the very highest echelons of the sport.
Next up in the discussion for Player of the Year is Mark Allen, who is undoubtedly experiencing the best period of his career to date.
Of course, his upsurge in fortunes began at the very outset of 2018, when he reigned at the Alexandra Palace to claim a maiden Masters title.
Since then, the Northern Irishman has risen up the rankings to the cusp of breaking into the top five for the first time.
What makes that arguably even more impressive is the fact that it was as recently as April that Allen’s membership in the elite top 16 was under threat.
In fact, the 32 year-old was in danger at that time of becoming the first reigning Masters champion forced to qualify for the Crucible.
Allen avoided that fate with a sufficient run in the China Open, though, which was followed by a quarter-final appearance in Sheffield.
Yet, it was his exploits towards the end of the year that have guaranteed his inclusion in this debate.
Allen picked up a fourth ranking title with a barnstorming display at the International Championship that saw the “Pistol” fire in 14 century breaks en route to the £175,000 top prize.
A month later Allen was in contention to claim two more pieces of silverware, triumphing in the Scottish Open just a week after suffering disappointment in the final of the UK Championship in York.
Victory for Allen in that showdown at the Barbican Centre with Ronnie O’Sullivan might have just swung the Player of the Year in his favour.
As it was, the “Rocket” defended the title to notch up a record-breaking seventh UK Championship success – an astounding 25 years after his first.
In addition to that, the glory brought O’Sullivan’s Triple Crown tally to 19, surpassing Stephen Hendry’s long-held majors record.
But it wasn’t just this accomplishment that deserves mentioning as 2018 was another spell in general in which O’Sullivan dominated the sport.
In the eleven events he took part in, the 43 year-old reached the final on six occasions and walked away with the winner’s cheque five times.
O’Sullivan’s four other triumphs all came in tournaments boasting elite fields – the World Grand Prix and Players Championship from the one-year list, as well as the high-quality Champion of Champions and Shanghai Masters invitational line-ups.
The five-time world champion is nearing the thousand centuries milestone and in 2018 won 87% of the matches he played.
Like Williams, O’Sullivan is in the hunt to usurp Mark Selby at the summit of the world rankings and not many would be able to argue that he’d not deserve to be there.
There’s a tendency among snooker people to, whether a fan of him or not, take O’Sullivan for granted.
He can make the game look ridiculously easy and, even when he’s not playing at his best, he finds a way to add to his trophy haul – and then some.
Williams and Allen pushed him close this year but there can only be one winner and the 2018 SnookerHQ Player of the Year is the genius Ronnie O’Sullivan.
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