Tradition on Crucible Eve dictates that we revisit this Top 10 list of players who never won the World Snooker Championship.
First written way back in 2014 and suitably updated each year, it always tends to draw a mixed reaction from our beloved fans of the sport.
There have been many great players who have graced the Crucible stage but who ultimately could never quite manage to become snooker’s ultimate champion….yet, at least.
This list isn’t as clear-cut as simply choosing the player with the most ranking titles or the one with the greatest ability, instead trying to encompass a variety of factors while also accommodating for different eras in a balanced way.
In reality, competitors from decades ago might struggle to feature in the higher echelons of the sport these days, but that’s beside the point as they could only beat, or lose to in this case, the opponents that were in front of them in their given generation.
So who gets the honour, or dishonour if you insist, of placing inside the top 10 list of players who never won the World Snooker Championship?
Top 10 Players Who Never Won the World Snooker Championship
10 – Barry Hawkins
Barry Hawkins entered the list twelve months ago when he knocked Doug Mountjoy out of the top ten. It’s amazing to think how far Hawkins’ career has come. The “Hawk” always had the talent but he rarely replicated that on the main stage until well into the second half of his career. Indeed, the Englishman lost in the first round at the Crucible in his first five attempts between 2006 and 2010. However, in 2012 Hawkins took advantage of a weakened field to capture his maiden ranking event title at the Australian Open, thus setting into motion a remarkable transformation in fortune for the now 39 year-old. In that season’s World Championship, Hawkins produced the snooker of his career to reach the final, where he put up a commendable challenge in defeat to the unstoppable Ronnie O’Sullivan. In four out of the last five editions in Sheffield, Hawkins has reached the semi-finals, proving that his 2013 run was no fluke. Although he’s never lifted any of the triple crown trophies, Hawkins has become a regular fixture inside the top eight of the world rankings. This campaign hasn’t been a particularly strong one but his recent Crucible record means that Hawkins will still be considered a credible dark horse.
Crucible Record: Final – 2013, Semi-Final – 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018
9 – Stephen Maguire
There are many players on this list who could conceivably still etch their name onto the famous World Championship trophy. The second person on here is one such player, albeit time does appear to be running out for the Scotsman. Stephen Maguire burst onto the scene in 2004 by winning the European Open before completely dismantling the UK Championship field to collect his one and only major. This led Ronnie O’Sullivan to suggest at the time that Maguire could dominate the sport for the next decade. Ironically, though, a series of high-profile defeats to the ‘Rocket’ would set Maguire back and his potential has arguably been unfulfilled. Maguire once claimed that he wanted to win in Sheffield before his 30th birthday. Now aged 38, that date has long since passed for the gritty Glaswegian. Compared to Hawkins, Maguire has just two semi-final appearances to his name and some may query why he’s higher on the list of players who have never won a World Snooker Championship, which is understandable. While Hawkins has arguably punched above his weight, Maguire’s failure to make the most of his ability is what has been so frustrating throughout his career. One sudden spark could still change that, but with six first round exits in his last eight appearances, the signs don’t look promising.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2007, 2012.
8 – James Wattana
The boom in China may never have happened if it wasn’t for James Wattana. Although he hails from Thailand, his success during his first decade on the Main Tour in the early 1990s spread interest across Asia and provided the early signals that snooker could go global. Wattana won the 1988 World Amateur Championship and, in his next seven years as a pro, featured in eight ranking event finals, winning three of them. His best chance of capturing the holy grail came in 1997 when he was narrowly defeated by Stephen Hendry in the last four. Wattana’s career fell away badly, coinciding with the turn of the millennium and a wave of fresh talent coming onto the scene. The 49 year-old has still been plugging away thanks to an invitational tour card without much success. Wattana’s legacy within the sport remains strong, though, highlighted by the fact that Thai players continue to compete strongly on the Main Tour. In 2019, countryman Thepchaiya Un-Nooh qualified for the World Championship for the second time.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 1993, 1997
7 – Paul Hunter
We will never know the level of success that Paul Alan Hunter could have enjoyed in this sport, for five days short of his 28th birthday the affable Englishman suffered the final blow following his painful battle with cancer. Known as the ‘Beckham of the Baize’ for his striking good looks, boyish charm, and charisma on and off the table, Hunter was a key component in an era largely dominated by the big four – Hendry, O’Sullivan, Higgins, and Williams. Between 1998 and 2004, Hunter claimed a hat-trick of dramatic Masters crowns, three ranking event titles, and reached the 2003 World Championship semi-final. That he lost that match 17-16 to Ken Doherty having led 15-9 going into the last session seemed largely irrelevant at the time, given his magnanimity in defeat and the seemingly long future he had in the game to redeem himself.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2003
6 – Ali Carter
While Ali Carter has been a great player for many years, some will argue that there are others, such as maybe Maguire, Hunter, or Stephen Lee, who deserve to be either on the list or higher up it ahead of the Englishman. That said, it’s difficult to argue with the record of a player who has reached two finals in Sheffield. Carter’s career is one of highs and lows, both on the baize and away from it. The 38 year-old has been as high as number two in the world rankings but probably hasn’t garnered enough silverware to be considered alongside the greats or nearly greats. If it wasn’t for Ronnie O’Sullivan in 2008 and 2012, Carter could be a one or even two-time champion of the world. The “Captain” is rarely shy of voicing his opinions and brashly admitted that he wanted to draw O’Sullivan after emerging from the Judgement Day qualifiers on Wednesday. The pair generated headlines last year when a shoulder barge didn’t distract Carter from upsetting the “Rocket” in a fiery second round clash. Carter didn’t get his wish, instead on course to face the dangerous and improving Jack Lisowski in the last 32.
Crucible Record: Final – 2008, 2012, Semi-Final – 2010
5 – Eddie Charlton
‘Steady Eddie’ drops down a place to fifth in the list of players who never won a World Snooker Championship. Charlton’s placing causes discussion each year on social media but his record is enviable and it’s difficult to compare eras. Charlton’s success mostly came when snooker was just beginning its rise into mainstream media. The game was not open to as many players then and it is questionable as to how well somebody of Charlton’s ability could have managed in today’s age, against an abundance of formidable foes full of attacking prowess. Yet, one can only beat who is put in front of them and Charlton’s consistency in the World Championship speaks for itself. He reached the semi-finals on nine occasions, contesting the final in 1968, 1973, and 1975. While it took 61 frames to decide the latter, when he narrowly lost to Ray Reardon 31-30, the Australian’s greatest success actually came in the single-frame Pot Black tournament, which he prevailed in three times.
World Championship Record: Final – 1968, 1973, 1975, Semi-final – 1971, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982
4 – Judd Trump
Judd Trump rises up a place and into the top four this year. Trump is still just 29 but has already threatened at the Crucible on multiple occasions. The Bristol potter had been held in high regard since his early teens but it wasn’t until the 2011 China Open that he truly burst onto the scene. A few short weeks after his success in Beijing, the Englishman was faring as headline news across the sporting stratosphere as his own unique brand of “naughty snooker” brought him to the final of the World Championship. He narrowly lost to Scotland’s John Higgins but would go on to capture the UK Championship the following December and subsequently became the world number one less than a year after that. Between then and up until relatively recently, Trump duly suffered from several bouts of inconsistency. He had countered periods of lull with significant spells of success but there was rarely a sense that he had everything under control. How things can change. This season, with his brother now working alongside him to keep his focus in check, Trump has looked a different animal. He thrashed Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the Masters to add a second Triple Crown tally to his collection and he heads into this year’s World Championship as one of the fancied favourites. This feels like an opportunity for the “Ace” to remove himself from the pack and stand out as a truly great champion. Can he deliver?
Crucible Record: Final – 2011, Semi-Final – 2013, 2015
3 – Matthew Stevens
Some people may forget just how good Matthew Stevens was in the World Championship. The Welshman had and still has a wealth of talent but for whatever reason could not translate this into sustained success. Now 41, Stevens’ best years are probably behind him but providing some consolation at least is that two of his biggest victories came in the majors – the 2000 Masters and 2003 UK Championship. That he couldn’t add a World Championship was down to a combination of unusually inspired play from his opponents and his own inability to get the job done. He came closest in 2000 and 2005 when he held large leads over countryman Mark Williams and qualifier Shaun Murphy respectively, only to surrender on both occasions 18-16. Stevens still has a few years left in his career to make one more big effort but it seems unlikely at this stage that he’s ever going to escape from this group of bridesmaids.
Crucible Record: Final – 2000, 2005, Semi-Final – 2001, 2002, 2004, 2012
2 – Ding Junhui
Ding Junhui stays in second and will probably remain in this position for some time given the erratic nature of his form. With 13 ranking event titles in total as well as a victory in the 2011 Masters, Ding is quite obviously the real deal and it’s quite amazing that his potential is yet to be fulfilled. With the weight of expectation from tens of millions of Chinese fans on his shoulders, Ding’s frequent struggles with pressure have been understandable but by capturing three trophies in his homeland during the 2013/14 campaign he seemed to have released an aura of invincibility. A nightmare couple of seasons after brought reality back into the equation, not least when he was forced to attend Ponds Forge to qualify in 2016 after dropping out of the top 16 in the world rankings. But qualify with ease he did, duly embarking on his best ever run at the Crucible, reaching the final before being narrowly defeated 18-14 in a wonderful showdown with Mark Selby. Ding has just turned 32, which in snooker terms is still quite young. However, the player at number one on this list will testify that time doesn’t always yield the predicted accolades.
Crucible Record: Final – 2016, Semi-Final – 2011, 2017
1 – Jimmy White
There was only ever going to be one name in the top spot. Burdened with being attributed the best player who never won the World Snooker Championship is Jimmy White, the People’s Champion. Not many are unaware of the story of the “Whirlwind”, one of the most popular British sportsmen of all time. White’s career has been a glorious one. He was the world amateur champion in 1980 before proceeding to collect ten ranking event titles and countless invitationals including the Masters on home turf in London. However, his legacy will forever be tainted with his record at the Crucible. Six finals, six defeats. That he contested this many – five in a row between 1990 and 1994 – is a testament to how good a player he was, but a mixture of bad fortune and poor preparation led to him never adding the holy grail to his glittering collection of accolades. Some hurt more than others. He was the favourite to beat John Parrott in 1991 but never recovered from losing the opening seven frames and the following year he was 14-8 up on regular rival Stephen Hendry, only to lose the next ten frames in a row. Perhaps most agonising was his last chance in 1994 when, on his birthday, he missed a routine black off the spot in the decider at 17-17 to allow Hendry, the bane of his career for a fourth time, in for another crushing defeat. White, forever gracious, joked in the immediate aftermath that the Scot was “beginning to annoy me.” Always adored by his legion of fans, White, at almost 57, still believes in his ability but he was defeated in the qualifiers this year and has failed to make it back to snooker’s mecca in every edition since 2006.
Crucible Record: Final – 1984, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, Semi-Final – 1982, 1987, 1988, 1995
The 2019 World Snooker Championship gets under way on Saturday, April 20th.
Click here for the full draw (Times: CET)