Friday, 30 December 2011

Review of the year: 2011 (part 2)

The end of 2011 is almost here and with it comes the return of the review of the year.

As 2011 rolled into a new season, OnCue rounds up the biggest talking points from another six busy months on the baize.

July

A busy summer month gave Stuart Bingham his day in the sun.

After 16 years as a professional, Ballrun capped all his years of effort by winning his first ranking event. He won the last four frames to beat Mark Williams on a dramatic decider and achieve his greatest moment in the game.

This came all at a time when a feud off the table with Mark Allen threatened to derail his title charge.

He was part of a war of words with the Northern Irishman with bad feelings spanning right back to last year's UK Championship. He had the last laugh though, beating him in the quarter-final and going on to lift the trophy.

This was genuine great win for a good guy on the professional circuit.

Elsewhere, China were back proving their emergence in the game with victory at the World Cup. Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo paired up to win the team event.

I think I speak for many when I say the return of the World Cup adds great variety to the calendar.

August

A big month for snooker fans across the globe as World Snooker began its live streaming facility ready for the Shanghai Masters qualifiers. With a greater thirst for snooker, it's only right fans can watch the game more regularly. This move was greeted with cheer.

There was more action off the table as well supremo Barry Hearn giving top players a stern warning after many of them had refused invitation to the Brazilian Masters. This sparked debate over the new crowded calendar with opinion left divided and questions left unanswered as the game continues to evolve.

On the table there were PTC wins for Judd Trump who was continuing his rich vein of form, Ben Woollaston who was showing why he's long threatened to make an impact and Mark Selby who was continuing to close in on the world number one slot.

Who can forget Ronnie's record breaking 147 against Adam Duffy too?

Sad news of Len Ganley's death was a definite lowlight of the month. This great referee was one of the sport's great characters, proved as the tributes flooded in.

September

Selby did indeed clinch top spot in the world rankings this month following a controversial win over Williams in the Shanghai Masters final.

The Jester from Leicester recovered from 9-7 down to win 10-9 and condemn the Welshman to yet another defeat from the jaws of victory - and again it was not without drama.

Selby escaped a snooker and was judged to hit red instead of pink by referee Eirian Williams to the disgust of the two-time world champion. This was a turning point, and ultimately cost Williams the title.

Selby wasn't complaining and instead was rewarded for a year of great consistency.

Following last month's Brazilian Masters debate, the tournament was played and Shaun Murphy emerged the winner. While the Magician won plaudits for his continued commitment to all tournaments, the event itself invited criticism for expensive ticket prices and a secluded venue.

Back in the UK, Andrew Higginson won PTC5 with victory against John Higgins in the final. Another new recruit to the winner's enclosure and a player no-one begrudged a win.

October

This month was dominated by grumblings of discontent from top players about the PTC series.

It appeared the novelty of playing regularly was wearing off and the imperfections of the events were being talked about widely. Ronnie O'Sullivan and Stephen Maguire were leading the crusade with talk of "buying ranking points" and "going back to the cubicles" all high on the agenda.

Plenty of valid points were raised with top stars moaning they were losing money to compete in the PTCs. As good as regular snooker is for the fans, it's clear the structure needs looking at ready for next season.

That said, 2011 was all about grabbing the opportunity to play. No-one was doing that more in October than Neil Robertson who won events in Poland and Northern Ireland to spark talk he may even be playing better than he did when he won the world title.

O'Sullivan was also back collecting silverware at the event held in Gloucester as his battle to retain his top 16 spot cranked up a notch.


November

This month will be remembered for one of the greatest matches of the entire season.

Trump secured his second PTC victory of the season, and in some style. He beat O'Sullivan 4-3 in an enthralling final in Antwerp, capturing the imagination of everyone.

It was attacking snooker at its very best and was broadcast out to the worldwide public live on Eurosport. A great advert for the game.

This wasn't the Rockets only defeat in a final as he was also beaten by Martin Gould in the return of Power Snooker. The Pinner Potter is a popular figure with the fans and his first professional win was greeted with congratulations across the board. This couldn't be said about the tournament as a whole though.

It wasn't all disappointment for Ronnie though. He enjoyed some success this month winning a record 10th Premier League title, this time repelling Ding in the final. The master of the shot clock was back.

There was plenty to talk about in the qualifiers too. Stephen Hendry was back in the cubicles as he was forced to win a match to make the UK Championship venue and Mike Dunn scored an impressive 147 in the German Masters which would see the start of a flurry of maximum breaks.

To wrap up the month, Michael Holt won PTC10 showing signs he may be ready to go into 2012 with an assault on the top 16.

December

When one of the true majors of the snooker calendar comes along, it tends to overshadow everything else.

In a month where Tom Ford won PTC11, it was was obviously Trump's UK Championship win that won the day.

It was perhaps fitting in a year where Judd was most people's pick for player of the year that he ended it with the biggest title of his career. Over the course of the tournament, he wasn't firing on all cylinders but he saved the best until last with a virtuoso dispaly to beat Mark Allen 10-8 in the final.

Allen showed he had come of age with a trip to his first ranking final but he was in the headlines as much for what he did off the table choosing the tournament to call for Hearn to resign.

1 comment: