Which one was the biggest surprise for you?
After his Welsh Open success, Jordan Brown has gone down as one of snooker’s greatest shock winners in the sport’s entire history.
The Northern Irishman was ranked as a world number 81 and boasted pre-tournament betting odds of a whopping 750/1 before his exploits at the Celtic Manor.
In most rounds – especially from the quarter-finals onward – Brown was a significant underdog but ended up defying most predictions to overcome all with a string of memorable performances.
One bonus from the Antrim Ferrari’s success was qualification through to this week’s prestigious Players Championship.
The 33 year-old takes on John Higgins later on Wednesday in the last 16 at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
It’ll be fascinating to see whether or not he’ll be able to use this breakthrough as a stepping stone for further glory in the future.
There have, of course, been other shock winners in snooker’s past, so let’s delve back at a few of the biggest and note how those players evolved from their unexpected tournament wins.
Snooker’s Shock Winners
Note: For this list, only first-time ranking event winners are considered.
Joe Johnson – 1986 World Snooker Championship
Terry Griffiths may have won the title as a qualifier seven years earlier, but there have been few, if any, World Championship shocks as big as Joe Johnson’s victory in 1986.
Looking back, it seems a bit strange to think that a top-16 player emerging with the trophy constitutes a shock.
These days, with the abundance of talent in the higher echelons, there is no way anybody would be too surprised if someone in that bracket ended up with their name on the silverware.
Johnson was ranked 16th in the world but the chasm between him and the dominant world number one Steve Davis was enormous, underlined by his pre-tournament odds of 150/1.
Johnson remained a steady competitor for a few years after his success and amazed many by reaching the following year’s final in Sheffield, where Davis ultimately got his revenge.
Although he never won another ranking title, other notable career victories include the 1987 Scottish Masters invitational and, more recently, the 2019 Seniors Masters.
Dave Harold – 1993 Asian Open
At number 93 in the world rankings, Dave Harold is the lowest-ranked player to ever win a ranking event.
Only two years after turning professional, the Stoke potter triumphed in the 1993 Asian Open in Bangkok.
Aside from a standout last-16 victory against world champion Stephen Hendry, Harold’s run to the final was relatively kind.
He duly took advantage and comfortably saw off Darren Morgan in the final with a comprehensive 9-3 scoreline.
Although he was eventually ranked for a few seasons inside the top 16, Harold reached only two more ranking event finals and was never regarded as one of the top contenders on the circuit.
Dominic Dale – 1997 Grand Prix
A professional for five years, Dominic Dale had never even reached a quarter-final of a ranking event prior to entering the 1997 Grand Prix.
One of the big four BBC events at the time, the Grand Prix was up there in terms of prestige and Dale, at number 54 in the world, was a ranked outsider.
However, the Spaceman counted Harold, Steve Davis, and Jimmy White among his victims as he made an unlikely run to the final, where he met soon-to-be world champion John Higgins.
Higgins was an enormous favourite, but Dale won three out of the last four frames to clinch a 9-6 success over the Scot.
Ten years later, Dale completed another unexpected triumph when he prevailed in the 2007 Shanghai Masters for a second ranking crown, while he also won the 2014 Snooker Shoot Out.
Never ranked inside the top 16 and with no appearances in the Masters, Dale is widely regarded as the best player to have never featured in the elite bracket.
Chris Small – 2002 LG Cup
Five years later and the Grand Prix had been rebranded as the LG Cup, but once again there was an unlikely champion.
Another 150/1 outsider, Chris Small defied a serious spinal condition that would derail his entire career only a short time later.
The Scot had been in the semi-finals of the same event four years earlier, but there was very little to suggest that the world number 29 was about to join the illustrious group of ranking event winners.
In Preston at the Guild Hall, Small recorded successive 5-1 defeats of Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan which acted as the confidence boosters that laid the foundations for what was to come.
Jimmy Michie was easily dispatched in the semi-finals before Small completed a 9-5 beating of compatriot Alan McManus in the final.
The success helped him break into the top 16, but just two years later Small sadly announced his premature retirement as a result of his back problem.
Shaun Murphy – 2005 World Snooker Championship
It would be easy to skip over Shaun Murphy’s Cinderella act at the 2005 World Championship given the career he has carved out for himself since.
But at the time, nobody had the Magician in the hat as a likely contender in that year’s race.
Murphy, a qualifier, was ranked 48th in the world and had only recently reached a ranking event semi-final for the first time.
The then 22 year-old went on a remarkable run that was founded on attacking snooker and standout victories against Higgins, Davis, Peter Ebdon, and Matthew Stevens in the final.
Of all the people on this list, Murphy has gone on to prove himself the most – winning eight more ranking titles, including the 2008 UK Championship, in addition to the prestigious Masters in 2015 and the Champion of Champions in 2017.
Ricky Walden – 2008 Shanghai Masters
Ricky Walden had been the world under-21 amateur champion, but in the seven years after that 2001 triumph he hadn’t done much on the Main Tour.
Perhaps crucially, though, in the months before his appearance at the 2008 Shanghai Masters, Walden bagged himself a trophy with victory in what was the inaugural staging of what we now know as the Six Red World Championship, and then another at the Belgian Open pro-am in Duffel.
The Englishman must have got that winning feeling, because in Shanghai everything clicked at the right moment.
After qualifying for the main draw, Walden beat Hendry, Neil Robertson, Davis, Mark Selby, and O’Sullivan to claim an unlikely tournament win.
Since then, Walden has been up and down the ranking pecking order but has tasted ranking event success on two more occasions – at the 2012 Wuxi Classic and again in China two years later at the International Championship.
Kyren Wilson – 2015 Shanghai Masters
Back to Shanghai and Kyren Wilson’s triumph in 2015 wasn’t actually too dissimilar to Walden’s several years before.
In what was the last tournament other than the World Championship to not incorporate a flat draw, Wilson came through three matches of qualifying before negotiating an additional wildcard round to reach the last 32.
From there, the Englishman counted Joe Perry, Ding Junhui, and Mark Allen among his conquests before a gripping 10-9 clincher against Judd Trump in the final – a player who he would of course later forge a fierce rivalry with.
Wilson, who hadn’t done much prior to that to suggest that this kind of level was imminent, has been a regular force at the top of the game since.
The Kettering cueist has contested ten ranking event finals, winning four in total, and was also a runner-up in the 2018 Masters.
Wilson is currently ranked as the world number five and many tip him as a future world champion.
Anthony Hamilton – 2017 German Masters
If you take his entire career into account, Anthony Hamilton boasting one of snooker’s ranking titles wouldn’t really put him in the bracket of shock winners.
But it was the timing that was strange, and unlike the majority of others on this list who were young, Hamilton’s victory occurred when he was in his mid-forties.
In fact, at 46 Hamilton is the third-oldest ranking event winner of all time behind only Ray Reardon and Doug Mountjoy.
More than a decade earlier, Hamilton was a regular in the top 16 of the world rankings and had featured in two previous finals – losing both he probably should have won.
Many regarded the Sheriff as the best player to have never won something of this status, which made his 2017 German Masters romp so romantically sweet.
Hamilton didn’t have it easy, beating Marks Williams and Selby before close defeats of Barry Hawkins and Stuart Bingham to reach the final.
A subsequent 9-6 victory against Ali Carter finally saw him complete his dream of claiming silverware.
Hamilton has been steady on the tour since, but age and several health issues are placing his tour survival at risk this season.
Jimmy Robertson – 2018 European Masters
A bit like Brown’s victory last week, there was almost a sense that Jimmy Robertson’s European Masters glory was written somewhere in the snooker stars.
Robertson’s first four matches ended 4-3 in favour of the Englishman, and he backed that up with a 4-2 triumph against Mark Allen to reach a ranking-event semi-final for the first time in his career.
An unusual event in which the marquee names were all eliminated early, Robertson took full advantage by overcoming Mark King in the last four before a 9-6 triumph against Joe Perry in the final.
Since then, Robertson has failed to build on that promise with only one more appearance in a quarter-final to his name.
But at 34 he still has time on his side and he’ll always be remembered as one of snooker’s biggest shock winners.
Honourable mentions: Doug Mountjoy – 1988 UK Championship, Bob Chaperon – 1990 British Open, Tony Jones – 1991 European Open, Graeme Dott – 2006 World Championship, Mark King – 2016 Northern Ireland Open.
Featured photo credit: WST