Tradition at SnookerHQ dictates that, just before the World Championship begins, we revisit this list of unlucky losers.
First written way back in 2014 and updated each year, this list of top 10 players who have never won the World Snooker Championship always tends to strike debate among fans.
There have been many great players at the Crucible Theatre who ultimately could never quite manage to become snooker’s ultimate champion…yet, at least.
This list isn’t as easy as simply choosing the player with the most ranking titles or the one with the greatest ability, but instead attempts 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.
As the 2020 World Championship was only eight months ago, not too much has changed, and it’s reflected in the fact that the list stays precisely the same on this occasion with no changes to the line-up or the order.
Still, who gets the honour, or dishonour if you insist, of placing inside the top 10 list of snooker players who have never won the World Championship?
Top 10 Players to Never Win the World Snooker Championship
10 – Barry Hawkins
Barry Hawkins entered the list a few years ago when he knocked Doug Mountjoy out of the top ten. There are always others trying to break into this exclusive group but for now the Englishman holds firm.
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 41 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 an unstoppable Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Hawkins subsequently reached the semi-finals another four times in five years, 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 among the higher echelons of the rankings.
After a couple of poor campaigns Hawkins hit form in the second half of this season, and his enviable Crucible record means that he will rightly still be considered as a credible dark horse.
Crucible Record: Final – 2013, Semi-Final – 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018
9 – 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 he 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 soon after, coinciding with the turn of the millennium and a wave of fresh talent coming onto the scene. The 51 year-old was still plugging away in more recent times thanks to an invitational tour card, without much success.
Even so, Wattana’s legacy within the sport remains strong, highlighted by the fact that Thai players continue to compete strongly on the Main Tour. That said, for the first time since 2016 there will be no player representing Thailand in this year’s main draw.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 1993, 1997
8 – Mark Allen
After Judd Trump’s exit from this list following his success in the 2019 World Championship, Mark Allen finally entered the fold. Many probably felt that Allen should have already been included in past editions, but the Northern Irishman was finally recognised in 2020.
One of the main reasons Allen never made the top 10 in the past was because his overall record at the Crucible is so disappointing. After reaching the quarter-finals three times in his first five starts in Sheffield, the 35 year-old has been back at that stage only once in the last eight years.
It’s a poor showing for a player of Allen’s stature, and he’ll be hoping to set the record straight in the tournament this year. A former Masters champion, Allen has dropped down the rankings list this season after a quiet spell – albeit he did win the invitational Champion of Champions.
The former world amateur champion was widely tipped as a future Crucible king, and there’s still time for him to achieve that ultimate goal.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2009
7 – Stephen Maguire
Like a couple of names written about already, there are many players on this list who could conceivably still etch their name onto the famous World Championship trophy. The fourth person on here is one such player, albeit time does appear to be running out for the Scot.
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 Triple Crown title. 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 40, 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 snooker players who have never won a World 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 he finds himself in a difficult quarter of the draw in 2021 alongside Ding Junhui, Stuart Bingham, and defending champion – that man again – O’Sullivan.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2007, 2012.
6 – 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.
Other lists like this have Hunter higher up – there was a similar column on Eurosport last year in which Desmond Kane placed Hunter in third. For me, that’s too high and romanticises his potential a little bit, as we simply can’t be certain that he would have consistently stayed at the top of the game or not. However, from the brief spell of snooker we did enjoy from him, it’s obvious that Hunter had something very special about him.
Crucible Record: Semi-Final – 2003
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