Tuesday, 13 December 2011

We're all winners

Judd Trump wasn't the only winner at this year's UK Championship.

With an abundance of new tournaments on the circuit nowadays played over only a couple of days, it means when the major ranking tournaments come around, you really do appreciate them.

That was definitely the case last week as we were treated to nine days of quality snooker, with all the top players giving it their all to land vital ranking points.

It will always be Trump's name left on the trophy but in a week where there was so much to talk about, there were plenty more success stories.

OnCue looks back at the winners of this week's UK Championship...
  • Mark Allen. Northern Ireland's number one didn't start the week on the best note but finished it in great style. After choosing to slate snooker supremo Barry Hearn in public, he soon turned his critics into supporters. First, he opted to take on Facebook. With a barrage of abuse being hurled at him on the social networking site, instead of burying his head in the sand he came out to defend, explain  and reationalise his comments. This won a lot of praise. Then, he flourished on the table, reaching his first ever ranking event final and proving just how far his game has developed. He's obviously learnt a thing or two from his mentor Terry Griffiths. His safety player was up there with the best of them and his positional play was also vastly improved. He can go out of this tournament confident he can now compete for major honours.
  • Marco Fu. The Hong Kong cueman picked one of the sport's biggest stages to find a return to form. At the back end of last season and the start of this, he couldn't buy a win. He showed what a classy player he is though with impressive wins against Stuart Bingham and Mark Selby. Before this tournament he was struggling to hold on to his top 32 status. It looks like he could be moving in the other direction again.
  • Ricky Walden. A shock semi-finalist and a week where he really put himself on the map with an overdue run at a BBC tournament. Wins against Stephen Lee, Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams earned him many plaudits and have put him right back in contention for a quick return to the top 16. He'll be one to avoid in the qualifiers for the remainder of the season.
  • Stephen Maguire. Only a run to the quarter-final for the Scot but it was great to hear fans talking about him in a positive light again. Maguire has often been criticised this season for bad gamesmanship and an explosive temperament. It's a shame because when he's on form he's an excellent player to watch. A second round win against defending champion John Higgins and winning the highest break prize marked a good week
  • Barry Hearn. Although not overly popular when devised, snooker's top man can look back at a very successful UK Championship format change. There will always be people who don't like change but, on the whole, reverting to best-of-11-frame matches went down well. I'm sceptical this is what drove record ticket sales but even so, it went much better than expected. Matches still provided great levels of entertainment and a large proportion of people who slammed the alterations came out realising they weren't too bad. Barry again showed he knows what he's doing.
  • Stephen Hendry. The real success story in the commentary box. Life after playing looks bright for the seven-time world champion. His punditry showed real understanding of the modern game. Instead of criticising players' mistakes, he explained shot selections and picked his words about players carefully. He went down a storm.
  • The Trump family. It wasn't only Judd celebrating when he lifted the trophy. The whole Trump clan where at the Barbican to see the win. Especially for his father, this is reward for a lot of hard work driving round the country during his amateur days. It must have felt all the more worth it at the end of this tournament.
  • York. It was an overdue return to this great snooker city and it certainly brought in the cash. The local economy ended the nine-day tournament £1 million richer, according to a local newspaper report. The venue was much better than in Telford and it generated a great trade for local businesses.
  • Ken Doherty's book publisher. This piece of literature was mentioned time and time again on the BBC coverage. I'm sure sales for this will go through the roof with Christmas just around the corner.
  • Snooker's Twitter community. Mark Williams signed up to the social networking site during the tournament and has added great value. Not afraid to speak his mind and bring inter-player banter to the public, he's been a massive hit.

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