A look back over the seventeen days in Sheffield at The World Snooker Championship.
The world snooker championship began on the 16th of April, played for the 40th consecutive year at the Crucible Theatre, in Sheffield. 32 of the best players in the world entered the event in round one. All hoping that they could end the competition by being crowned world champion.
Last year saw a surprise winner in the form of Stuart Bingham, who claimed the title for the first time in his career. Lifting the prestigious trophy is the pinnacle of the sport, every snooker player would have dreamed of that moment. Which players dream was about to become reality in 2016?
Round one produced a number of shocks, seven seeded players were knocked out of the competition. Stephen Maguire lost to fellow Scot Alan Mcmanus, a defeat which would see Maguire lose his place in the top 16. Highly fancied Neil Robertson also fell at the first hurdle. The talented Aussie losing out 10-6 to Englishman Michael Holt.
Former world champion Shaun Murphy was another big name casualty in the opening round. He lost in a close encounter with Scotsman Anthony Mcgill. Last year’s world champion Stuart Bingham failed to defend his title, losing his first match against Alistair Carter, in a final frame decider.
Some of the favourites for the title who did make it through to the second round included: John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, and Mark Selby. All four of these players came through their opening encounter with relative ease, and would fancy their chances of claiming the world title.
Kyren Wilson is a name to look out for in the future. He defeated the experienced Joe Perry in the opening round. Two more qualifiers booked their place in round two. Sam Baird won his first ever game at the Crucible, defeating Welshman Michael White. Former UK Open and Masters winner Ding Junhui looked impressive in his first round victory.
The remaining four players to make it past round one were all seeded players. Each of them could be considered dangerous outsiders to become the next world champion. These included; Hong Kong’s hero Marco Fu, former two times world champion Mark Williams, former world finalist Barry Hawkins, and the immensely talented Northern Irishman Mark Allen.
Alan Mcmanus turned-back the years as he overcame Ali Carter. Mcmanus was playing some of the best snooker of his career, at the age of 45. Another experienced Scottish player, John Higgins, also made it through to the quarter finals.
On paper the tie of the second round was Judd Trump against Ding Junhui. Both players have the talent to be at the very top of the game for the next decade. It would be Ding Junhui who would come out victorious on this occasion, winning 13-10. Marco Fu was the second Asian player to book his place in the quarter finals.
There were differing emotions for two former world champions. Mark Williams came through his game with little trouble, defeating Michael Holt 13-8. The shock result came in the game between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hawkins. With O’Sullivan losing out in a final frame decider. The favourite for the title was out of the competition.
World number one Mark Selby came through a difficult encounter with inexperienced Sam Baird. Selby would eventually win 13-11. Kyren Wilson enhanced his growing reputation by making it through to the quarter finals with a 13-9 win over Mark Allen.
It was a battle between fellow Scots and good friends John Higgins and Alan Mcmanus, for a place in the semi finals. It was a closely fought encounter throughout. With Higgins looking like he had the upper-hand. Mcmanus fought back to win, 13-11. At the start of the competition, not many people would have predicted Mcmanus to reach the last four.
Ding Junhui looked impressive as he demolished Mark Williams, 13-3. Ding had fallen out of the world’s top 16, so he had to qualify for this competition. He was playing some of the best snooker of his career at the Crucible. Could he go on to be the first Asian player to win the world championship?
Barry Hawkins efforts to defeat Ronnie O’Sullivan looked to have taken a lot out of him, as he got off to a terrible start in his quarter final game against Marco Fu. He fought back, but it proved to be too little too late. Marco Fu came away victorious, and booked his place in the semi finals.
Kyren Wilson started his match against former world champion Mark Selby as the underdog. Many experts predicted a close game, as Wilson was on top form in his previous two games. Selby wasn’t playing to his usual high standards, however he usually finds a way to win. He did this yet again to claim his place in the last four.
It was the first time ever in Crucible history that two Asian players had made it into the semi finals. Both Ding Junhui and Marco Fu were looking to become the first Asian world champion. In their way stood Alan Mcmanus and Mark Selby.
Ding Junhui looked impressive in his semi final tie. The hopes of a nation rested firmly on Ding’s shoulders. He handled the pressure admirably. Mcmanus put up a good fight, but it wasn’t enough to stop Ding reaching his first final at the Crucible. Mcmanus bowed out of the competition gracefully. What an achievement it was for the 45 year old to reach the semi finals of the world championships! For Ding, the journey would continue. The biggest game of his career awaited him.
The second semi final saw Marco Fu compete against the formidable Mark Selby. Neither player played to their full potential, and it was a close game throughout. Selby did what he does so often. Grinding out a victory even when he isn’t producing his best snooker. The final score was 17-15. Marco Fu had played brilliantly throughout the competition, however his run had come to an end. Selby had somehow made it through to his third final at the Crucible, by playing below-par for the majority of the competition. He would now face Ding Junhui in the final.
The final saw Ding Junhui, who was looking to win his first world title, against Mark Selby, who was looking to become a double world champion. Many snooker experts had Ding as the favourite going into the game. Selby was the world number one, although he hadn’t been in top form so far in the competition. Whereas Ding Junhui had been magnificent on his way to the final.
Selby had the perfect start, winning the first six frames. Ding Junhui looked nervous, his form over the previous four matches looked to have deserted him. Ding then snatched the seventh frame. The relief was evident on the face of the Chinese player. He was now in the game. The first session ended 6-2 to Selby.
Ding fought his way back into the match by playing some outstanding snooker, this was the Ding Junhui that we had all expected to see. He closed to gap to 8-7. Selby claimed the final two frames of the second session, to lead 10-7.
Ding began the third session strongly, by winning the first two frames. Every time he got to within one frame of levelling the game, Selby would put his foot on the accelerator and increase his lead. At the conclusion of the third session, Selby had a three frame lead – 14-11.
Ding would need to win the final session 7-3 or better, if he was to realise his dream of becoming world champion. It was a tough task, made tougher as Selby won the first two frames, to extend his lead to 16-11. He was now just two frames away from claiming his second world title.
The title was now within touching distance for Mark Selby. Although Ding never gave in, winning the next three frames. The fightback had come too late. Selby rattled off the next two frames to win the match 18-14. The man from Leicester became the thirteenth man in snooker history to win the world championship title on more than one occasion.