20.5.07

SEASON REVIEW

Now the season is over, it's high time we tipped our hats to those players and performances that stood out.

Here, then, are my awards for the campaign just gone. I should point out that I'm too mean to actually present any actual awards, but see if you agree with my choices.


PLAYER OF THE SEASON - Neil Robertson
No one player domnated the snooker year but the Aussie left-hander was the only person to win two ranking events and is now firmly established as one of the game's very best.

He captured the Grand Prix title last October and the Welsh Open in February. He's now a member of the top eight and despite his defeat to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the second round of the World Championship, enjoyed by far his most successful season since turning pro.


MATCH OF THE SEASON - Peter Ebdon v John Higgins, UK Championship semi-finals
We saw some excellent snooker at the Crucible and elsewhere during the campaign but, for me, Ebdon's 9-7 victory over Higgins at York was the perfect example of how good this sport is when played to the highest standard.

Both players were on top form, with Ebdon just finishing the stronger to win 9-7 before going on to land the title.


BREAKTHROUGH OF THE SEASON - Jamie Cope
Mark Allen impressed at the Crucible, as did Judd Trump in qualifying, but Cope's two ranking event final appearances provided more than a mere glimpse of his great potential.

Runner-up to Neil Robertson in the Grand Prix and Graeme Dott in the China Open, it won't be long before Cope wins something, such is his obvious talent and self belief.


PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON - Ronnie O'Sullivan in the Masters final
O'Sullivan's extraordinary demolition of Ding Jun Hui was a bravura display of potting and break building from the most talented player in the game's history.

It was relentless or, as Steve Davis put it, 'unplayable.' Sadly for Ronnie, it wasn't a performance he was subsequently able to repeat in teh rest of the season.


ACHIEVEMENT OF THE SEASON - Andrew Higginson reaching the Welsh Open final
In season previous to the one just gone, Higginson was on the game's secondary tour and nothing he had done in 11 years as a professional suggested he would ever be anything more than a journeyman.

That all changed at Newport where he beat Marco Fu, John Higgins, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire to reach the final. He came back from 6-2 down to lead Neil Robertson 8-6 before losing 9-8 and also made a televised 147 in the quarter-finals.

Higginson did all of this with great humility and served up one of the most heart warming stories professional snooker has ever seen.


SCANDAL OF THE SEASON - The Masters 'cover up'
Trailing Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-3 in their Masters final, Ding Jun Hui shook hands to concede. I saw it, you saw it, everyone at Wembley saw it. The match should have been stopped there and then.

Ronnie - whose own York walkout was so controversial - having talked Ding round into carrying on, World Snooker officials stated that the Chinese potting star had believed the final was a best of 17. They would say - and many would agree - that they are charged with looking after the players and the image of the game in general, but I don't believe the sport's governing body should be saying things that are palpably untrue.


HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON - Semi-final Saturday at the Crucible
Both World Championship semi-finals provided excitement, drama and snooker of an extremely high standard as John Higgins recovered from 14-10 down to beat Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby rallied from 16-14 adrift to edge Shaun Murphy 17-16.

This was top drawer snooker at its best in the arena that has become the spiritual home of the sport. It proved what a thrilling game snooker can be when it really matters.


LOW POINT OF THE SEASON - The death of Paul Hunter
Paul was only 27 when he died of cancer last October, leaving behind his wife, Lindsey, and baby daughter, Evie Rose.

There wasn't anyone in the sport who wasn't deeply saddened by his passing.


QUOTE OF THE SEASON - 'I want to be the Billy the Kid of snooker' - Ronnie O'Sullivan
He said this at last October's Grand Prix and, no, I've still got no idea what he meant.


BREAK OF THE SEASON - Stephen Hendry's 127 at the Malta Cup
It wasn't especially memorable as a break but, for what it represented, Hendry's 127 in the first round against Robert Milkins must take this prize.

This is because it was his 700th career century, a quite remarkable statisitic bearing in mind nobody else has even got to 500.


SPECIAL MERIT
The following deserve mentions:
- John Higgins for winning the world title
- Mark Selby for his run to, and fightback in, the final
- Steve Davis for ensuring a top 16 place at the age of 50
- Ding Jun Hui for becoming only the secoind teenager to win three ranking titles
- Graeme Dott for shutting his doubters up for good by winning the China Open
- Kurt Maflin for winning the world amateur title and finishing top of the PIOS rankings

3 comments:

andy said...

Hello,

I like this "highs" and "lows" post.

Yes Robertson's 2 ranking event victories, really fantastic stuff and beat some great players on the way... It's difficult to argue against Robertson as "Player of the Season".

There was some great matches as well but the Higgins Ebdon one was a great match. I would also put the 2 World semi-final matches up there too, or even Selby coming back to beat Lee in the World Championships.

I was amazed to see Higginson reach the final of the Welsh. Even more amazed to see he nearly won it. And a great max that made my jaw drop.

Yes, we've already talked about the "Masters cover up", and I was astonished to see the WSA release such a blatant lie.

As a fellow Leeds man, I was really sorry to hear about the death of Paul Hunter. I thought he was a great crowd puller, character and player. Who knows if he would have won the World Championship had he have lived, but it's nice to think he would have. I remember seeing him for the first time at a tournament in Selby, he was only about 10 years old, but he monopolised the spectators. He was the first pro player I saw line up the object ball from behind before playing a pot, I method Stevens now uses all the time. He'll be missed by all I'm sure.

"Break of the Season", I seem to remember Ding getting a 60ish break against someone that was a match winner this season, it reminded me of Higgins' break against White back in the 80s. That for me was an amazing break, and the youngest ever player to get a max on TV and at the Masters as well. Fantastic stuff.

I'm looking forward to the start of the 2007/2008 season. Isn't the Betfred Premier League first though...?

Andy

Colin Borland said...

When we look back at it, 2006/07 should go down as one of the better seasons since the turn of the century.

As you point out, we had some spectacular individual displays, exciting rising stars confirming they're no one-hit wonders, and a few established players getting back to near their best.

I'm also looking forward to picking up where we left off 2007/08. It's just a shame that, again, the tournament calendar will be so sparse.

Perhaps next year we could have a new award: "Player who filled up the endless weeks between tournaments in the most interesting or lucrative way".

andy said...

Hi Dave,

Has Ronnie O'Sullivan had his hearing over the UK/Hendry walkout? Could you please post the outcome on your blog, ...I'd love to hear what's happened as I'm sure would many other fans.

Thanks!

Andy