The players of the season
Judd won the 2018 Northern Ireland Open, the 2019 Masters, the 2019 World Grand Prix and the 2019 World Championship this season. By becoming World Champion, he became only the 11th player to achieve the Triple crown, and, if it wasnt enough, he broke a record in the World Championship Final by becoming the first player to have seven centuries in a World Championship final. This is by far his best season ever, and it’s all because a much welcome change of attitude: working harder than ever in practice, less partying and showing off and, in competition, playing a more measured game, still very attacking, but supported by very strong safety skills.
Ronnie had a record-breaking season, winning five tournaments: the 2018 Shanghai Masters, the 2018 Champion od Champions, the 2018 UK Championship, the 2019 Players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship. In the process, he broke a good number of records: he became the first player to have won the UK Championship 7 times (Steve Davis has 6), and by doing so he also became the first player to have won 19 Triple Crown events (Stephen Hendry has 18). He made it to two more finals, at the 2018 Northern Ireland Open and at the 2019 Masters, losing both times to Judd Trump. He passed the symbolic bar of 1000 centuries, the 1000th one, a 134 being scored in the last and winning frame of the Players Championship 2019. By winning the Tour Championship 2019 he equalled Stephen Hendry tally of 36 ranking titles and returned to World n°1, despite a reduced schedule. Plus … well, of course, there was a 147, his 15th, at the English Open 2018. Working with Eurosport ahead of the World Championship he called this season in a series of mini interviews. It’s a real shame that it all ended in a disappointing first round exit in Sheffield caused by ill-health.
Neil Robertson won three events, the 2018 Riga Masters, the 2019 Welsh Open and the 2019 China Open. He was also runner-up three times, at the 2018 International Championship (losing to Mark Allen), the 2019 Players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship (losing to Ronnie O’Sullivan in both). It was quite a remarkable turnaround for Neil who, at the start of 2018, missed the Masters because he was out of the top 16 and is now n°4 in the rankings. Off the table issues – video games addiction, family issues – had caused his level to dip, but he overcame his addiction, now actively trying to help others who might be caught in it, and living a happy family life – compounded by the birth of a baby girl – gave him the impetus he needed and rekindled his appetite for competition and winning.
Most improved player
David had lost his tour card at the end of the 2010/11 season and managed to requalify immediately through the Q-school. He struggled badly. Eight years later, he’s in the top 16, finishing the season at n°12 in the rankings. He has played in two finals this season: the 2018 World Open where he was beaten in a deciding frame by the reigning World Champion, Mark Williams, and the 2019 German Masters where he lost by 9-7 to Kyren Wilson. He reached the top 16 for the first time, starting as a seed at the World Championship. Having never won a match at the Crucible, he reached the semi-finals, losing by 17-16 to John Higgins. He was unlucky to get a kick whilst in the balls in the deciding frame. Hard work pays off. David also made a 147 this season, the 147th 147 actually, at the Championship League Snooker … in front of his opponent and the referee. And, maybe best of all, David remains a very humble, unassuming guy, who has conquered the heart of many fans!
Rookies of the season
Joe, aged 23, managed to reach the last 32 five times in his maiden season as a pro, and reached the semi finals at the 2019 Welsh Open. Having started at the very bottom, he climbed to n°75 in the rankings. During the season he beat his fair share of top 16 players: John Higgins (2x), Ding Junhui and Kyren Wilson.
Luo, only 19 years old, managed to win his first round match in 8 out of the 16 tournaments he played. He reached the quarter finals at the 2018 English Open, losing by 5-3 to Ronnie O’Sullivan, but having beaten Neil Robertson and Anthony McGill en route. Luo managed to qualify for the Crucible in his first season, beating Marco Fu, Robbie Williams and Tom Ford to get there. Starting at the bottom, he finished the season ranked n°81.
Match of the season
That has to be the 2019 Tour Championship semi-final between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump for me. Having been heavily defeated – 10-4 – by Judd in the 2019 Masters Final, Ronnie trailed 6-2 and 8-5 and was never in front in the match before winning by 10-9 in a dramatic deciding frame. That match had everything, great snooker, flukes, unexpected fouls, twists and turns. It was probably the closest and hardest fought match of the season, and a great come-back.
The 2019 World Championship Final was very high quality, but because Judd Trump was able to build such a big lead in the second session, it lacked that element of tension and drama that the above match provided aplenty.
Ronnie mixing with the crowd after his 2018 UK Championship victory. This was an unexpected, unplanned, spontaneous, joyful celebration with the fans from someone who has so often looked down on himself even in victory.
The final moments of the 1000th century, with the crowd on its feet, involved and cheering on every shot. Ronnie going in-off on the last black, Neil Robertson in stiches and the camaraderie …
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh winning the 2019 Shoot Out with an awesome break and lost for words with joy after winning his first title. I strongly object to the Shoot Out ranking status, but Theppy was awesome and it meant so much to him. It was quite endearing.
Giving Leo Scullion the honour to referee the 2019 World Championship Final. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. Leo is a great referee, a simple, humble and lovely man who takes immense pride in his duties as referee. He’s respected and he’s loved by his peers, and by the fans. We almost lost him to cancer, and here he is, standing at the Crucible, to take care of the final.
He did a great job. Of course! That was never in doubt!