5 – 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 even 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 41 year-old has been as high as number two in the world rankings, but he probably hasn’t garnered enough silverware to be considered alongside the greats or even nearly-greats.
Nonetheless, 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 that kind of dogged mentality has served him well in the past.
With his best years probably behind him, it seems unlikely that he’ll threaten for snooker’s most prestigious crown again. Carter takes on Jack Lisowski in the first round this year, a player he beat at the same hurdle in 2019, with a potential clash against Neil Robertson in the last 16.
Crucible Record: Final – 2008, 2012, Semi-Final – 2010
4 – Eddie Charlton
‘Steady Eddie’ is fourth in the list of players who never won a World Championship. Charlton’s placing causes discussion each year on social media, but his record is undoubtedly 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 at that time, and it is questionable 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.
Charlton also has the unique recognition of moving up in the official world rankings list even after he had died, which, you know, deserves a few extra points.
World Championship Record: Final – 1968, 1973, 1975, Semi-final – 1971, 1972, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1982
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 43, Stevens’ best years are probably behind him, but providing some consolation is the fact 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 possibly still has some time 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.
In 2021, Stevens suffered a disappointing loss in qualifying to Chris Wakelin.
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 14 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 enormous 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 that brought reality back into the equation, not least when he was forced to attend Ponds Forge to qualify for the World Championship 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 by reaching the final before being narrowly defeated 18-14 in a wonderful showdown with Mark Selby. In recent years, the Chinese number one’s main problem has continued to be with consistency, although funnily enough it’s his consistent habit of reaching quarter-finals that’s held him back from the business end of events this term.
Ding is 34 years old, 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, and it confuses me how anybody can have this list finishing in any other fashion. Burdened with being attributed the best player who never won the World 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 by 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 59, still believes in his ability, but he was defeated in the qualifiers again this year – to Hendry, just to rub it in – and he 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 2021 World Snooker Championship gets under way on Saturday, April 17.
Featured photo credit: WST
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