It’s time for the annual highs and lows review on SnookerHQ, and there are many talking points over the course of 2022 in snooker to recall.
On Tuesday, we’ll take a look at a few of the worst bits from the 2022 calendar year, but today let’s focus on some of the high talking points that have engrossed snooker supporters during that period.
Ronnie O’Sullivan equals record
After all the waiting and all the hype, there wasn’t actually that much drama involved as Ronnie O’Sullivan secured a record-equalling World Championship title at the Crucible Theatre.
But despite comprehensively winning all five of his matches in Sheffield this year, the Rocket’s landmark triumph was still as encapsulating as any of his previous on the famous stage.
O’Sullivan beat old foe John Higgins in the last four before overcoming one of his more recent rivals in the title decider, Judd Trump.
After sealing his 18-13 success, an emotional O’Sullivan buried his head in Trump’s shoulder as he became overwhelmed by what he had just achieved.
Was it awkward? Maybe a little. But it was a rare moment where the world number one let go and expressed his true dedication – and a passion he’s usually not willing to let people see – for the game.
By joining Stephen Hendry on seven Crucible titles, O’Sullivan has seemingly ended the Greatest-of-all-Time debate.
The Englishman is in possession of almost all the major records the sport has to offer, and he’s far from finishing yet.
Hong Kong welcomes record fans
Several months later, O’Sullivan travelled to Hong Kong to compete and triumph in a rejuvenated invitational tournament that broke a different kind of milestone.
It wasn’t so much his victory that proved to be memorable, rather the venue in which the event was played in.
The Coliseum was so enormous that the 3,000 or so fans who were in for the early matches of the Hong Kong Masters could only sparsely fill the available space.
For the final, a record audience of 9,000 people were welcomed for what proved to be a grandstand title decider between O’Sullivan and home hero Marco Fu.
- CLICK HERE: Hong Kong Masters triumph for Ronnie O’Sullivan
Fu had delighted the spectators for his semi-final clash with John Higgins by compiling a spinetingling 147 break in the deciding frame to rapturous applause.
The former world number five couldn’t quite complete the job in the final, losing 6-4 to O’Sullivan, but history was made in terms of how a snooker tournament can be presented.
Revamped UK Championship format
For the most part, snooker has successfully grown for the last dozen years – the Barry Hearn era as it’s come to be known.
Hearn and his people got many things right in that time as it attempted to lift the sport out of the dregs.
But one tournament that many people felt was poorly handled during that period was the UK Championship.
By shortening the format and introducing a flat draw, it diminished its prestige so much that, in the eyes of many, the UK Championship had fallen behind several other tournaments in terms of importance.
For the 2022 edition, a tiered qualifying process was reintroduced to mirror the format in operation for the World Championship, and it was a resounding success.
- CLICK HERE: Quiz – snooker event winners in 2022
The preliminary rounds were packed full of intriguing story lines, while the limiting of just 32 players to the venue stages added a renewed sense of grandeur.
The Barbican Centre in York looked terrific – a befitting stage for the game’s second-oldest ranking tournament.
It was a final showdown in keeping with the occasion too, with Mark Allen conjuring a stunning fight back to deny resurgent three-time champion Ding Junhui.
First-time snooker champions
As with any year, the stories were as much about the success of the underdog as they were about the favourites.
The likes of O’Sullivan, Allen, Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, and Mark Selby all secured pieces of silverware throughout the twelve months of action.
But there were a lot of fairy tale stories too, with arguably the most impressive transpiring at the European Masters in February.
Young Chinese competitor Fan Zhengyi had already beaten notable names to reach the title decider, but few gave him any chance against O’Sullivan.
Ranked at number 80 in the world, the 21 year-old caused a sensation by edging his esteemed opponent 10-9 to land the £80,000 top prize.
About a month earlier, Hossein Vafaei became the first Iranian player to win a ranking title with glory in the Snooker Shoot Out.
And a month after Fan’s breakthrough, a player at the opposite end of his career finally fulfilled his dream with Robert Milkins lasting the distance at the Gibraltar Open.
Gary Wilson completed the set of first-time champions earlier this month by defeating Joe O’Connor in an unexpected Scottish Open final in Edinburgh.
A mention as well for young Thai Mink Nutcharut, who played a pivotal role in partnering Robertson to glory in the World Mixed Doubles.
Part Two is on Tuesday, when we’ll remember some of the low points from 2022 in snooker.
Featured photo credit: WST