Snooker 2016 Review: An unpredictable yet exciting year on the tables

Snooker 2016 Review: An unpredictable yet exciting year on the tables

The sport continued to produce numerous shocks at almost every event on the calendar.

Chris Lincoln

Snooker enjoyed an excellent year in the limelight, as the tour grew with added investment from Barry Hearn and a number of surprise results and tournament victors grasped the headlines across the sport.

Not only did the titles flit between various individuals, but there was controversy along the way as numerous top names including Shaun Murphy and Mark Williams complained about the state of the tables at major competitions, whilst Ronnie O'Sullivan continued to delve in and out of love with the game.

Yet the year belonged to the amateurs as a record number took part in ranking competitions, whilst Mark Selby picked up the greatest prize of all as the number one became World Champion in May.

Selby points to his wife after potting the winning ball (photo: Getty Images)
Selby points to his wife after potting the winning ball (photo: Getty Images)

The Rocket showed the way, though a handful of youngsters were proving their talent

It was to be O'Sullivan who started the calendar year in style, sending a message to the rest of the sport with a 10-1 demolition of Barry Hawkins in the final of the Masters. The Rocket was to also take the crown of Welsh Open Champion several weeks later, but a couple of new names were to mark their territory with some inspired performances in between.

Belgian starlet Luca Brecel and English youngster Kyren Wilson both advanced to the last four of the German Masters. The former made it to the final but was edged out by Martin Gould who took his first major tournament title. Brecel was to carry that form into a new event known as the snooker Shoot-Out. With players battling against the clock, Brecel used his speed and nous to make it to the final before being defeated by Finland's Robin Hull.

Selby peaks to win the World Championship

As Winter turned to Spring, the big names began to find their feet in the build up to the World Championship. Selby and Judd Trump won a Players Tour Championship tournament each, before Shaun Murphy defeated reigning World Champion Stuart Bingham in a thrilling 10-9 final at the World Grand Prix.

Mark Allen was victorious in the Players Championship Final, before Trump won the China Open in the final competitions before the season finale. Ricky Walden was the beaten finalist on both occasions, but eyebrows were raised by outsiders Alfie Burden and Noppon Saengkham who made it to the final eight in China despite rankings of 89 and 95.

As the World's finest descended on the Crucible for the World Championship, favourites fell at every hurdle with holder Bingham defeated as early as the opening round. Yet Selby was showing undoubted quality throughout and he was to defeat Ding Junhui in a thrilling final to end the 2015/16 season as World number one for the fifth consecutive campaign.

The fairytale months as a new season begins

After a pre-season of six weeks, some players chose to extend their leave further into the new season. This opened the door for players to advance further than they would expect in the opening competitions of 2016/17, as amateur Darren Morgan made it to the semi-finals of the Riga Open. Neil Robertson was to win in Poland before the surprises continued at the Indian Open. Another amateur in David Lilley advanced to the last eight, whilst veteran and World number 61 Nigel Bond progressed a step further. Yet Scotland's Anthony McGill was to shock the sport as he won his first major title to follow in the footsteps of Gould earlier in the year.

The fairytale story came at the end of July as World number 30 Ali Carter won the World Open. The success grabbed the headlines not just because of Carter's lowly ranking but because of his numerous fights against illness to defy the odds and compete in the sport he loves, capturing the hearts of everyone as his unrivalled spirit and determination took him to an emotional victory.

The spirit of the sport continued to flow at the Paul Hunter Classic, named after another snooker great who previously battled but was ultimately defeated by illness. Mark Selby was to win the popular event, defeating surprise finalist Tom Ford in the final.

Ali Carter celebrates an emotional victory (photo: Getty Images)
Ali Carter celebrates an emotional victory (photo: Getty Images)

Far Eastern players take control

Ding Junhui was to find his feet as the days grew shorter, becoming the only player in 2016 to win two consecutive tournaments. His major success came on home turf in the Shanghai Masters when he took revenge on Selby with a 10-6 win. The rivalry was to continue five weeks later as Selby responded with a glamorous 10-1 win against his Chinese counterpart at the International Championship.

Squeezed in between those two events were two epic competitions at the European Masters and English Open. Trump and O'Sullivan played out a thrilling final at the former as Trump ran out the winner in a deciding frame from 17. The English Open opitimised the year with a number of shock results. World number 69 Chris Wakelin and 104 Anthony Hamilton both made the final eight, before China's Liang Wenbo continued to fly the Far East flag with his first major title of his career. The third player to do so in 2016.

Unpredictable end to a remarkable year

As the cold winter months descended, World number 31 Mark King was to follow in the footsteps of Gould, McGill and Wenbo. King recovered from 5-1 down against Barry Hawkins to win his first major event after two decades of trying at the Northern Ireland Open.

Mark Selby returned to form to win the prestigious UK Championship in a high quality final against O'Sullivan. The 17 frames witnessed six centuries and ten half century breaks between the pair of snooker legends.

Yet there was still time for another surprise as Hong Kong's Marco Fu won the final event of 2016 at the Scottish Open. The Asian competitors continued to look strong as World number 57 Yu Delu reached the semi-finals, but veteran John Higgins will be buoyed by his recent form after reaching the final and winning two invitational events just a month previous.

An incredible year ended with Selby at the top of the pile but he certainly did not run away with the World number one spot. With eight ranking events still to play this season, 2017 is already set up for another remarkable year for the sport of snooker.