Reflecting on the decade: the year 2019

2019 belonged to Judd Trump!

Quite incredibly, Judd won six events in 2019, five of them ranking:

  • the 2019 Masters
  • the 2019 Grand Prix
  • the 2019 World Championship
  • the 2019 International Championship
  • the 2019 World Open
  • the 2019 Northern Ireland Open

and he was runner-up at the 2019 Champion of Champions for good measure.

That’s an extraordinary achievement. Over the last year and a bit, Judd played a much more measured game. He’s still  very attacking, but his safety game has improved massively and, above all, he’s much more ready than he was in the past to use it. His attitude is much better and Judd credited his family and in particular his brother Jack for his  improvement and success .

‘My dad is the biggest snooker fan in the world, he watches every single game so just to do it for him and my mum. ‘For the sacrifices they made for me to be able to play every week, travelling across the country, working two jobs, it put it into perspective for me.’


Jack Trump has also been singled out as a huge part of his brother’s success after he basically became employed by Judd last year. The brothers live and travel together with Jack providing help, advice and company to his sibling around the world as he prepares for tournaments. Judd explained the arrangement to the BBC after winning the Masters in January: ‘Jack will set the balls up and I will not have any input, I will let him get on with it. He is making me work on things I would not have done myself. ‘I wanted to pot balls all day, but he will put safety and long pots up too. I will do as I am told and he is getting the best out of me.’

After lifting the World Championship trophy less than four months after that Masters triumph, Judd believes it is obvious to see what an impact jack has had on his game. ‘It speaks for itself, with my brother’s help I’ve won the Masters and the World Championship since he moved up so it just goes to show the part he’s played in it,’ said Judd. ‘Obviously my parents have been a massive influence on me my whole career, taking me around everywhere and putting me in this position. To be able to win it for them and them see it is incredible.’

The World Championship provided two unexpected semi-finalists in David Gilbert and Gary Wilson. Both of them were awesome but eventually lost to players with more experience on the biggest stage of all.

The man Judd Trump beat in the final is John Higgins who, at nearly 44, was playing in this third consecutive World Final. Granted, he lost all three but it still is a very remarkable achievement. Judd produced an incredible standard of snooker in that final: he had seven centuries, a new record in World Final. John himself had four centuries.

Neil Robertson had an excellent year as well: he won two ranking events – the 2019 Welsh Open and the 2019 China Open – and one invitational event, the Champion of Champions.  He also made it to two more ranking finals, at the 2019 players Championship and the 2019 Tour Championship

The man who beat Neil in those two finals is Ronnie. 

In the last frame of the Players Championship, he made a century … his 1000th. By winning the Tour Championship he equalled Stephen Hendry’s tally of 36 ranking events and regained the n°1 spot in the rankings for the first time in nearly 10 years!

Ronnie also won the 2019 Shanghai Masters, now an invitational event, winning this event for the fourth time in total, and three in a row.

In addition, Ronnie was runner-up twice, at the 2019 Masters and the 2019 Northern Ireland Open, losing to Judd Trump both times.

The story and pictures of the 2019 Players Championship

The story and pictures of the 2019 Tour Championship.

The story and pictures of the 2019 Shanghai Masters

Objectively, it wasn’t a bad year for Ronnie, but there were some very painful defeats too. The most prominent one came at the 2019 World Championship, where he lost in the last 32 to James Cahill, an amateur (*). Another disappointing result came at the 2019 World Open, where Dominic Dale beat him in the first round. Dominic had never beaten Ronnie in their 27 years of “common” career.

(*) James Cahill was technically an amateur at the 2019 World Championship, but he had been a professional before, fot four seasons, and had been working with Chris Henry during the last year.

Finally, Ding Junhui deserves a mention for winning the 2019 UK Championship. For the last two seasons Ding had looked dispirited and demotivated. He credited his new coach, Django Fung, for rediscovering his love for snooker and helping him getting the most of his practice sessions.

Regarging non main tour events….

Jimmy White won the Seniors World Championship at the Crucible 


and Mink (Nucharut Wongharuthai) became the first woman to make a 147


Reflecting on the decade: the year 2018

THE story of 2018 was without a shadow of a doubt Mark Williams winning the World Championship for the third time, fifteen years after the second. In between he had dropped out of the top 16 (more than once) ,failed to qualify for the Crucible only the previous year, contemplated retirement … before coming back to the elite bracket with the help of Sightright.

Earlier in the season he had won the 2018 German Masters and the 2017 Northern Irelan Open … his first ranking title since the 2011 German Masters.

To say that “Willo” didn’t really believe it would be possible for him to win at the Crucible again is an understatement. Actually he had promised to do his press conference naked if did… and he was true to his word. The only thing that prevented him to go for the full monty was the sponsor presenting him with … a sponsored towel!

Here is the promise

And the fulfilling of it…

That final was unbelievable from start to finish.

Mark then embarked into a season long celebration…

There were other remarkable achievements that year as well:

  • Mark Allen won the 2018 Masters, beating Kyren Wilson in the final. Kyren was so bitterly disappointed that he couldn’t hold back his tears at the end. Later in the year, Mark won the 2018 International Championship and the 2018 Scottish Open.
  • Steve Davis accepted to replace Stephen Hendry in the Seniors Irish Masters in Goffs, and went on to win the event! (story and pictures here)
  • Aaron Canavan, an amateur player from Jersey who has never been a professional and rarely played outside the Channel Islands won the 2018 Seniors World Championship. (story and pictures here)
  • Cliff Thorburn, aged 70, won the 2018 Seniors Masters at the Crucible theatre. (story and pictures here)
  • Jimmy Robertson won his first ranking title, the 2018 European Masters, in Lommel, Belgium. He beat Joe Perry in the final.

2018 was also a terrific year for Ronnie. He won no less than five titles that year, four of them ranking events. He also set up some new records. He became the first player to defend the Shanghai Masters title. He also defended his UK Championship crown. In doing so he became the first player to have won it seven times, beating Steve Davis record of 6 and he also became the first player to have won 19 Triple Crowns, one better than Stephen Hendry 18. 

Ronnie though had another disappointing World Championship, losing in the seconFollowing Mark Williams victory at the world Championship 2018, Ronnie decided to join Sightright.

The story and pictures of the World Grand Prix 2018

The story and pictures of the Players Championship 2018

The story and pictures of the Shanghai Masters 2018

The story and pictures of the Champion of Champions 2018

The story and pictures of the UK Championship 2018

Reflecting on the decade: the year 2017


2017 will be remembered as the year when Mark Selby defended the World Title, winning at the Crucible for the third time in four years. Right before the World Championship, he had won the China Open again. The 2017 World Championship was actually his fifth event win of the 2016/17 season. He truly had been the dominant player that season.

Then over the summer, something happened that derailed Mark’s dominance: he hurt his foot, at home, by dropping a big piece of glass on it and breaking his big toe. Everyone expected him to pick up where he had left it, once healed, but it didn’t happen. Mark won another title in 2017, the International Championship in China, but he didn’t get past the QF in any other ranking event later that year.

As it happened, he has won two more big titles in China since, but it’s only in October this year that he lifted a trophy on home soil again. Mark admitted that, coming back, he had struggled for confidence, and that the support of his close friend Bobby Lee is what had allowed him to get better results in China. Bobby’s friendship and presence had eased the pressure when there.

The highlight of the year for me came at the 2017 German Masters, when Anthony Hamilton aged 46, won his first ranking title, with his parents in the audience. 

Anthony is a terrific break-builder, and well respected by fellow pros. How he hasn’t won more is a mystery. That said he has been plagued by neck and back problems since a number of years, and he’s been tempted to retire many times over the last ten years. It was so bad. His win at the 2017 German Masters was his first professional event win since… 1995. That year he had won the Australian Open and the Australian Masters – both non ranking – beating Chris Small in the final both times.

Anthony’s parents aren’t big snooker fans, and Anthony had only just persuaded them to visit Berlin and, maybe, watch a bit of snooker as well. They had rarely, if ever, come to watch their son play before.

Here is Anthony’s interview  with Worldsnookerafter the match.

And with the Eurosport gang

His win earned “the Sheriff” a spot in the 2017 Champion of Champions. He came to Coventry determined to enjoy it, saying that it could be his last hourrah, as his back and neck injuries had returned. He actually did very well: he beat Ding Junhui and Ryan Day to reach the semi-finals. He wasbeaten at that stage by Ronnie.

Ronnie’s 2017 year wasn’t a bad one either. Once again he won over 80% of the matches he played, won four events, including the Masters and the UK Championsip. It was Ronnie’s 7th Masters, a new record. The UK Championship was his 6th, equalling Steve Davis record and also getting even with Stephen Hendry 18 “Triple Crown” events. 

He was beaten by Ding in the QF of the World Championship. Ding played some oustanding stuff, outplaying Ronnie in the second session. Ronnie battled valliantly in the last session but it wasn’t enough. The pair are good friends, and as Ronnie became emotional at the end of the match, Ding hugged him …


The story and pictures of the Masters 2017

The story and pictures of the English Open 2017

The story and pictures of the Shanghai Masters 2017

The story and pictures of the UK Championship 2017

Ronnie’s American Hustle

Reflecting on the decade: the year 2016

Barry Hearn had announced the creation of the Home Nations Series in 2015, but they were effectively played for the first time in 2016/17.

The four tournaments – English Open (Steve Davis Trophy), Northern Ireland Open (Alex Higgins Trophy), Scottish Open (Stephen Hendry Trophy) and Welsh Open (Ray Reardon Trophy) – have identical formats. It’s best of seven up to the last 16 included, best of nine in the QF, best of 11 in the SF and best of 17 in the Final. It’s a flat draw, with the 128 at the venue – no qualifiers – and the draw is random, except for the top 32 who are seeded (top 16 originally). There is a £1000000 bonus for the player who would manage to win all four events in the same season. Now, the concensus is that this is never gonna happen.

With such a format, many predicted shocks and surprise winners. Here  is what happened until now:

Home Nations Series

Except in the first two events, it’s been all the usual suspects lifting the trophies.

One of the distinctive features of the series, is the “Moving Day”, the Thursday when two rounds are played and 32 become just 8. The series is broadcasted by Eurosport;  they do a very nice job of it, both in the studio and in commentary. Ronnie and Jimmy White are part of the team when they are not playing.

The first two events produced first time winners. Here is what it meant to them…

Liang Wenbo

Mark King

It was in 2016 as well that Mark Selby won his second World Title. 

Mark Selby played no less than 109 matches that year, of which he won 84 (77%). He reached the final of an event six times, winning five out of six:

  • the 2016 Gdynia Open
  • the 2016 World Championship (beating Ding by 18-14 in the final)
  • the 2016 Paul Hunter Classic
  • the 2016 International Championship (beating Ding in the final)
  • the 2016 UK Championship (beating Ronnie by 10-7 in the final)

He also reached the final of the Shanghai Masters where he was beaten by … Ding. Amazingly, Ding Junhui played three 15-reds snooker finals that year, and faced Mark Selby in all three! Ding won the 2016 6-reds World Championship.

Ding has always a lot of pressure on his shoulder at the World Championship, the only big title eluding him. It was even worse that year, when he reached the final. He had an absolute nightmare in the first session: he trailed by 6-0 and did really well to take the last two frames of the session. From then on the frames were shared, but Ding never managed to close the gap completely.

Ronnie’s 2016 year was a mixed bag: he won over 80% of the matches he played, reached no less than six finals, but won only two of them

  • the 2016 Championship League Snooker – Runner-up
  • the 2016 Masters – Winner 
  • the 2016 Welsh Open – Winner
  • the 2016 European Open  – Runner-up
  • the 2016 Champion of Champions – Runner-up
  • the 2016 UK Championship – Runner-up

For the story and photos of the 2016 Masters follow this link

For the story and photos of the 2016 Welsh Open follow this link

and yes… that’s when he did THAT 146 against Barry Pinches in the first round.

Ronnie was beaten by Barry Hawkins that year at the Crucible, in the last 16. But the real drama happened in the first round.

Ronnie had a breakdown after beating David Gilbert. Here is what he explained to Desmond Kane (Eurosport) a few months later. He was unable to do his post-match press conference and spent several days in hospital; he showed a lot of courage to come back and play his last 16 match. He still took that match to a decider. He had 11 breaks over 50 in it, including 4 centuries, he outscored his opponent, Barry Hawkins, but still lost as he wasn’t able to win the tactical frames.

Reflecting on the decade: the year 2015

Thinking ahead of this article, I realised that 2015 turned out to be a rather stranger year in snooker. Neither Mark Selby, nor Ronnie had a great year. Those two had basically dominated the three previous years.

Mark Selby still won two ranking events: the 2015 German Masters and the 2015 China Open. He then went to the Crucible as defending champion, and lost in the last 16, by 13-9 to Anthony McGill. In the first round he only narrowly beat Kurt Maflin by 10-9. Mark hinted that going all the way in the China Open had taken a lot out of him. However, the rest of the year wasn’t great either: he played in 10 more events, and on 6 occasions lost in the last 16 or earlier.

Ronnie didn’t win anything that year, in fact he didn’t play much. He entered 8 events, withdrawing from two of them (the Championship League Snooker and the China Open). he reached the semi final at the Masters 2015, the final at the World Grand Prix 2015, the quarter finals at the German Masters 2015 and at the World Championship 2015, where he lost to Stuart Bingham. I remember vividly how tense and irritable he was during the spring of 2015, kicking photographs out of the arena and being upset at about everything. He didn’t play at all that year after the World Championship, except in the Pink Ribbon, the charity event organised by Paul Mount at the SWSA. He won that one and you can see all the pictures and read the story here.  But he didn’t enter anything else, didn’t defend either his Champion of Champions crown, or his UK Championship crown.

John Higgins won three ranking events that year: the Welsh Open 2015, the Australian Open 2015 and the International Championship 2015 but otherwise didn’t really perform to his best. Despite winning  those three ranking events, where obviously he was undefeated, he only won 66% of his matches over the year.

Stuart Bingham was the surpise winner of the 2015 World Championship.

He wasn’t even on the poster! Back then Stuart was seen by most as a very capable journeyman, not champion’s material. However that year he had started working with Steve Feeney, Mister Sightright. It made a massive difference.

Worldsnooker has very recently published an article about the Sightright method

Working with all-time greats, rejuvenating careers and sparking ascensions to the summit of the sport: Steve Feeney has made an undeniable impact as coach for some of the World Snooker Tour’s top players

The pioneering coach has convinced high profile figures in golf and darts, as well as snooker, to adopt his SightRight method. The key objective is to eliminate parallax error, an optical illusion caused by looking across the line of aim. Feeney aims to overcome this by finding a player’s perfect point of alignment, from which their technique can be built or moulded.

Feeney explains: “I have people coming to me who are playing with their right leg on line, the way they have always been coached, when they are left eye dominant. It doesn’t take much to figure out that is a mismatch. Once these corrections are made and a player arrives at the stage of perfect sighting and alignment it is like adding a sighting scope to a gun. The player now has the sight to aim through. Everybody can sight a straight line of aim perfectly when they are shown how.”

The governing body’s WPBSA World Snooker Coaching Scheme neither endorses or disagrees with SightRight’s ideas on alignment methods. Therefore, SightRight is not yet seen officially as a definitive technique. Six-time World Champion Steve Davis, one of the advisors to the WPBSA World Snooker coaching set-up, believes there may be more to Feeney’s coaching than just the mechanics.

Davis said: “Working with top class sports people is partly about whether or not you can get them to be inspired. You are dealing with people who are so talented that something which can inspire them, whether it be a new putter or a new cue, can bring out enthusiasm that wasn’t there. It isn’t always technical, it can just be a change of outlook on a daily basis. I would say, for me, the jury is out on whether SightRight is brilliant or fundamentally flawed. The WPBSA hasn’t come across anyone qualified to give a definitive answer on the theory surrounding this subject. However, in essence it doesn’t really matter, because it is whether the player believes in it.”

Feeney was coaching Stuart Bingham when he won the world title in 2015 and currently works with three-time Crucible king Mark Williams. The Welshman apportioned a huge amount of credit to Feeney for his 2018 Crucible win, which was his first World Championship victory since 2003.

Subsequently, Feeney has enhanced his already illustrious resumé by becoming coach of snooker’s biggest name, 36-time ranking event winner Ronnie O’Sullivan. For many, the idea of coaching a player widely regarded as the greatest to ever lift a cue would be a daunting one. However, Feeney doesn’t appear to have been afflicted by any form of apprehension in working with the Rocket.

He said: “I have always maintained that in the world of golf I could stand in front of Tiger Woods and coach him as if I was coaching an amateur. Once you get an opportunity with someone, no matter who they are, when you get up in front of them and prove that they are sighting off line, then you already have the upper hand.

“When I started working with Ronnie it was the greatest of privileges and the greatest of honours. However, I knew he wasn’t bang on line. Working with him didn’t faze me at all. You have to try and remember that from Mark Williams to David Gilbert to Ronnie O’Sullivan, your job with all of these people is to help them play the greatest game they can play. I was more aware of this responsibility with Ronnie though. If suddenly something went wrong, then I could be the person that ruined his game. Ronnie is a perfectionist, he knew he could improve parts of his game.

“When Ronnie first approached me, Mark Williams really encouraged me to do it. I have the greatest respect and allegiance for Mark. For him to say that was amazing. I had a discussion with him when I was first approached, and he was fully behind it.”

Feeney believes that his work with snooker’s finest proves that even the tour’s top players can be susceptible to sighting errors. When observing on the circuit, he doesn’t limit his analysis to just the players currently in his team.

“I study all of the players. That is my job,” said Feeney. “I know in my mind who is bang on, close or totally off line. I can pick players like Mark Selby, Neil Robertson or Judd Trump and I know whether they have alignment errors. It doesn’t stop them winning either way of course.”

One of the most dramatic success stories of Feeney’s time working on the circuit is world number 11 David Gilbert. The pair started working together at the beginning of last season and since then Gilbert has reached four ranking event finals, graced the one-table set up at the Crucible by making the World Championship semi-finals and broken into the world’s top 16 for the first time.

Just a few years earlier, Gilbert was sleeping on a friend’s sofa, having dropped off the circuit. The Tamworth cueman fared more successfully after returning to the tour, but still felt that he wasn’t reaching his potential and opted to take a leap of faith with SightRight.

Gilbert said: “When I signed up I didn’t know what I was agreeing to. I was going in blind so to speak. Steve promised that he could help me. It was worth a try, because it was obvious to me things weren’t going well. I was hitting shots that I thought were good and they were terrible. It can do your head in eventually. I was in the top 32 of the world and making a living, but I thought I would be happier doing something else to be honest. I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it. Things had really got me down so I had to try something.

“I kind of knew I had a technical fault, I just didn’t know what it was. Within five or ten minutes he had shown me what my big faults were. It showed me that maybe I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was and that I had a fundamental problem. That instantly gave me something to work on and I’m still working on it now. I don’t quite see the ball the way Steve wants me to 100% of the time. Sometimes I can ‘lose the line’ as he puts it. However, it is great having him at the tournaments and usually he can fix things pretty quickly. Steve has helped me tremendously. I used to just hit balls when I was practising. Now I have something to work at and try to improve. Practice isn’t a chore any more. I enjoy it.”

Stuart played extremely well all championship, Having beaten Graeme Doot in the last 16, Ronnie in the QF, he got the better of Judd Trump in a deciding frame in the SF, and finally beat Shaun Murphy by 18-15 in the final, having trailed 0-3 and 4-8. It was a very high quality match and very entertaining as well.

For me that championship was also a special moment as my friend, and fellow Belgian, Olivier Marteel reffed the Final.


Interesting article by Worldsnooker on the psychology of winning

They published this yesterday:

Snooker is a sport inextricably bound with nerve shredding tension and psychological pressure. Never is that more apparent than when a player is on the verge of victory.

Commentator Clive Everton coined the phrase ‘Clincher’s Disease’ to describe the affliction a player might suffer in those crucial moments where he is trying to close out the match. He might have performed at the peak of his ability to get to the verge of victory, but he becomes aware that if he fails to pot those last few balls, his previous efforts will count for nothing.

Devastating collapses and colossal fightbacks seem to occur more in snooker than any other sport. In a football match, if one team is 3-0 ahead with five minutes to go, they can run down the clock until time is up. But in snooker, no matter how significant a player’s lead, he still needs to win one more frame before the handshake. And that’s when anxiety can take hold, as he considers the psychological consequences of blowing his advantage.

There have been countless examples of players letting seemingly unassailable advantages slip. Ken Doherty trailed Paul Hunter 15-9 in their 2003 World Championship semi-final, but eventually emerged a 17-16 winner. Mike Hallett led Stephen Hendry 8-2 in the 1991 Masters final, before the Scot stormed back to win 9-8.

And the most famous of all: Dennis Taylor trailed Steve Davis 8-0 in the early stages of the 1985 World Championship final, before winning 18-17 on the last black in the deciding frame, as 18.5 million television viewers followed the epic drama until nearly 1am.

Davis may have buckled in the vital moments on that occasion, but for much of his career he was a ruthless finisher of matches as he accumulated 28 ranking titles including six Crucible crowns.

The key to fulfil your potential, Davis once said, is to play as if it means nothing, when in fact it means everything. To achieve that zen like state, one must avoid thoughts of what has gone before and what could be to come.

“There is a lot you have to forget and there is a lot you have to remove from your mind,” said Davis. “You have to forget about press conferences, commentators and the fact that everybody is getting ready backstage for the match to finish.

“Towards the end of a Crucible final you can sense that things are going on behind the curtain. You know they are all bunched up backstage, ready to come out on to the arena floor. Everyone is going crazy around you and you need to be the calmest one. I was naturally good at being able to do that.

“When you are one frame away from winning you are in a zone where some people are able to keep the wolves at bay and others aren’t. The key is to be able to forget any bad shots or anything that has happened in the past, that has no relevance to what you need to do now.

“Obviously this gets easier with time. The first tournament win or the first in a particular event is obviously the hardest. The bigger the prize, the more the pressure builds up. You just have to be able to climb that ladder and cope with the dizzy heights.”

Chris Henry has coached snooker greats such as Stephen Hendry and Shaun Murphy, as well as golfers Lee Westwood and Rafael Cabrera Bello. His approach is based on neural science: repetition and habit help the brain to normalise potentially difficult situations. The aim is to make the conscious act of playing a sport into a subconscious one. He also believes that a player’s subconscious psyche can be the source of negative thoughts.

“Once a player gets towards the finishing line they may start thinking about the outcome and what we call future thinking,” explained Henry. “Their emotional state changes and they start to feel different. We know snooker is a high skill sport and there is a fine line between playing great and not playing well. If you feel emotionally different then your muscles and technique react differently as well. The backswing can change and the cue ball physics are different.

“Most of these thoughts are happening subconsciously. So for the most part it is out of a player’s control. You can consciously try to override it, but that is very difficult. Repetition of thoughts can help the brain to be more prepared for when situations arise. This all goes on in an interesting part of the brain, because it doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality. That means that you can create memory files in preparation for something happening and aim to be a bit more comfortable.

“Stephen Hendry was phenomenal. I coached him for seven years and his levels of concentration and focus were unbelievable. He was like a cat watching the mouse. You couldn’t distract him and he was very unemotional. His emotional states were on a pretty flat line. That is perfect for sport. The more you can keep on an even keel emotionally the better. He genuinely believed he was going to win every match and through his aggressive playing style he felt superior. That also intimidated other players.”

Last season’s Shoot Out runner-up Michael Holt is among the most experienced players on the circuit, having been a professional for 23 years. Having witnessed countless personalities and characters on the tour over the years, he has learned that there is no single formula for success in pressure cooker situations. Holt feels that each player has their own unique way of handling the approach to the finish line.

He said: “Neil Robertson is a fantastic example. Away from snooker he collects his Warhammer figures and can sit painting them for hours. He is the same in the snooker arena. That is his mentality. I’m a thinker and can’t switch off. Neil has a great ability to focus on one thing and stay in the moment. Obviously he has a great technique and is very talented. But there are a lot of people like that. Mentally he is incredible.

“I’ve met a lot of the great champions. Mark Williams is one extreme. He will tell everyone he doesn’t care and isn’t bothered. We all know he is, but that is how he gets himself past the line. Whereas Peter Ebdon is very focussed and driven. People look for inspiration from the champions, but their mentality might not suit an individual, so doing that is a waste of time. You need to look inside yourself and think about what will work for you.”

Phil Yates has been working on the circuit as a commentator for over 30 years and has become accustomed to reading the signs of capitulation on the table.

Yates said: “I’m not going to mention any names, but you know the guys who are more likely to falter when they have a big lead. You know who is most susceptible as it really does tend to be a recurring pattern. Players say in press conferences that past experiences don’t impact on how they think. They do. Even if you don’t consciously think about it. That is simply human nature. There is definitely a pattern which develops over the years with players who are more likely to suffer from it.

“One of the best recent examples of overcoming that is Judd Trump. He had some really difficult defeats two seasons ago. None more so than when he led Kyren Wilson 5-2 in the Masters semi-finals and lost 6-5. I thought that would have a big impact. However, it couldn’t have been any more different. He has come back and had the best year of his life and reached the pinnacle of the sport by becoming World Champion. It just shows that even if it is difficult to do so, you can overcome potential mental scars.”

Confidence in my opinion plays a big role. Chris Henry is cited above, telling how confident Hendry was in his prime. He believed he could win every match. But those, like me, who have watched him in the last years of his career, will remember how often he started a match playing well,  missed one shot and that turned the match as his game seemed to disintegrate completely.

Confidence comes with winning, but winning isn’t enough. Both Mark Selby and Ronnie are great champions, and serial winners, but aren’t naturally confident persons. Maybe in both cases, it’s linked to rather traumatic experiences during their childhood and teenagers years. Both are sensitive persons, prone to anxiety, very far from the “emotional flatness” that Chris Henry mentions about Hendry. Ronnie tends to express it in various ways, Mark tends to try to bottle it. Ronnie has grown into an ultra perfectionist who tends to run away or self-punish//sabotage when he can’t sustain the – often unrealistic – level of performance he sets for himself. Less so nowadays than in the past, but he still does. Mark tends to go into his shell, overthink and turn negative, this despite knowing full well that he plays better when he plays faster, with more freedom. It’s all the more remarkable that they have achieved so much.

Reflecting on the decade: the year 2014

The big 2014 story was Mark Selby’s victory at the Crucible. He beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final by 18-14, having trailed 10-5. It was an amazing achievement.

Ronnie largely dominated the first day. The match basically turned on one ball. Leading by 10-5, Ronnie missed a black off the spot early in frame 16 and Mark took full advantage. Mark then won the next frame as well, finishing the session “only” 10-7 behind. It was obvious right away that Ronnie was very annoyed with himself because of this miss.

The next day, Mark came back fighting – as he does – and put Ronnie in all sorts of trouble. Ronnie chose to try and continue to attack. It didn’t work. He was outplayed on that day. He was criticised for not changing his approach to the match, but I think that’s unfair. He wasn’t going to beat Selby at Selby’s game. On another day, things might have clicked together at some point, that day it didn’t happen.

In that match, Ronnie had 9 breaks over 50, including 3 centuries. Mark had just one century, but he still won with a bit in hand.

Mark deserves a lot of credit for never giving up, and keeping the belief that he could still win. He showed a lot of heart and determination and was a worthy winner.


Mark had a very difficult childhood and youth.  His mother abandonned him and his brother when they were only kids. His father took care of them, but died from cancer when Mark was only 16. His brother and himself lost their house.

Mark’s father loved his snooker. When his father became critically ill, Mark made him the promise to become World Champion one day. He kept his promise. It’s an inspiring story that was told in this moving documentary:

Mark Selby Life Story Documentary

The World Championship was the only full ranking event that Mark won that year, a year during which he had won 52 matches, out of 74 (70%)

The man he had beaten at the World Championship, Ronnie, had a much more succesful year overall. He had won 34 of the 40 matches he had played (85%).

He had won the 2014 Masters at the start of the year. He did beat Mark Selby by 10-4 on that occasion.

The Masters 2014 Photo Gallery

He then won the 2014 Welsh Open, the last one to be played in Newport, beating Ding Junhui by 9-3, and finishing the match with a 147.

The Welsh Open 2014 Photo Gallery

And here is Ronnie’s 147 to win the Final. It was his farewell gift to the Newport crowd.

He came to the 2014 World Championship as defending Champion and reached the final.

In the autumn 2014, he defended his Champion of Champions title.

The Champion of Champions 2014 Photo Gallery

And he finished the year, by winning the 2014 UK Championship, beating Judd Trump by 10-9 in an epic final. He played the whole tournament with a broken ankle. In the last 16, he made another 147, in the last frame of his match against Matthew Selt.

The UK Championship 2014 Photo Gallery

Ronnie’s 147 to finish off Matt Selt in the last 16

But all that didn’t really matter. Mark Selby was the World Champion and that defeat did hurt. Ronnie downplayed his disappointment in his postmatch interview, but he couldn’t bear to stay in Sheffield even for one more night. He took his car and drove back home, in the night and the rain. He had a car accident. Fortunately, neither him, nor his young son who was with him were hurt. But he shouldn’t have been driving that night, and, if he wasn’t thinking clearly enough to realise that, someone should have stopped him. Also, he’s never been past the QF at the Crucible since this defeat, and my feeling is that he’s apprehensive and low on confidence going there. That defeat left scars.

2014 was also the year when Ronnie started working wit Eurosport.

The “other story” of 2014 was about Neil Robertson “century of centuries”. 

Neil managed an incredible 103 centuries over the 2013/2014 season, and the 100th one came in 2014, at the Crucible, during his Quarter Final match against Judd Trump. Neil was “helped” by the fact that he played in four different groups at the Championship League Snooker, but even so it was a truly remarkable achievement that Neil celebrated quite quite wildly…

Neil Robertson 100th century of the 2013/2014 season, came in the 2014 World Championship Quarter Finals against Judd Trump … who duly appreciated his opponent’s achievement.