2021 Christmas Awards and Golden Turkey

First of all …

Wishing a happy, peaceful Christmas to all of you and your loved ones, whether you celebrate it or not.

Olivier Marteel was on social media earlier today, wearing a mask and a green outfit, wishing everyone a happy Christmas, just as I did, but also urging everyone to be careful and stay safe. Olivier is a nurse working at the A&E ward in one of the biggest Belgian hospitals, he has gone through this whole crisis as a frontline worker,  and he was at work again today, Christmas day, ready to take care of anyone in need of help.

Of course, he’s just one of the many thousands of unsung frontline heroes, but he is also a top snooker referee and he gets my

Snooker Person of the Year: Olivier Marteel

Now … Phil Haigh has given his own awards here:

Snooker review of 2021: Awards for Player, match, upset, disappointment of the year and more

Jordan Brown produced one of the moments of 2021 against Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Zheng Zhai)

It has been a memorable year on the baize starting with the Masters back in January when Yan Bingtao sprung a surprise to win the trophy and culminating this month when Ronnie O’Sullivan made more history with his 38th ranking title at the World Grand Prix.

2021 started behind closed doors and saw fans return in spectacular fashion at the World Championship as a full Crucible watched Mark Selby win his fourth world title.

We’ve seen new ranking event winners in Dave Gilbert, Jordan Brown and Zhao Xintong and a host of established stars continuing to pick up titles in a year that has seen 12 different men pick up ranking crowns.

Some of these awards had very obvious winners others were completely up for grabs, none more so than this first one…

Player of the Year – John Higgins

John Higgins
John Higgins is maybe a surprise winner of Player of the Year (Picture: Zheng Zhai)

This wasn’t an easy choice. Mark Selby is the world champion and world number one, but he’s only won that one title in 2021 and his only other final was at the Shoot Out. It’s still been a great year for the Jester, but he can’t claim consistency.

Judd Trump has picked up three titles in 2021 – more than anybody else – but while the Champion of Champions is a big one, the German Masters is less so and the Gibraltar Open is even smaller. No other finals and nothing beyond a quarter-final this season for the Ace.

Neil Robertson and Mark Williams have both won two titles in 2021, Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong have each won a first Triple Crown title but it is John Higgins who wins Player of the Year.

The Wizard of Wishaw has only won the Players Championship this year, which he did in the most incredible fashion, but he has been to five more finals. From the Masters in January until the Scottish Open in December, which is superb consistency across the year.

With more finals than anyone over the year and one of the bigger tournament wins on the calendar, Higgins just edges this one.

Match of the Year – Mark Allen 9-8 John Higgins

Mark Allen
Mark Allen’s win in Northern Ireland was one for the ages (Picture: Zheng Zhai)

Early in the season we were realy shown just how good it was to have crowds back as the Belfast fans roared on local hero Mark Allen to the Northern Ireland Open title.

The Pistol looked like he was going to miss the target when he foudn himself 6-8 behind to John Higgins in a race to nine.

The Wizard had just made breaks of 59, 64 and 136 to take that lead and looked very unlikely to toss away that lead in that kind of form.

However, Allen scrapped his way back into contention and amid an incredible atmosphere he picked up an emotional and career-defining win.

Shot of the Year – Shaun Murphy

Not much of a clue about how to remember the possible contenders for Shot of the Year, never mind how to pick out a winner, so here is the first one that sprung to mind.

Shaun Murphy had been 10-4 down to Kyren Wilson in the World Championship semi-final and looked set to be on his way home with the Warrior in firm control.

The Magician then conjured up a quite incredible comeback which ended with him winning 17-12 and there was one shot that really characterised that immense effort.

The 20th frame came down to the black with both men level on points and Murphy crunched in a really difficult long pot before giving it a fist pump to the crowd followed by an even bigger one as Wilson wandered off dejected.

It wasn’t just the superb shot, but the fist pumping was an ongoing story of the World Championship, with Wilson also admitting it was bothering him after the match.

Great shot, great celebration, great comeback, great storyline.

Breakout Star – Zhao Xintong

This could well have been Yan Bingtao for winning the Masters, but the Tiger had already won a ranking title and was clearly already in the top 16 to have a crack at the title at Alexandra Palace.

Zhao Xintong winning the UK Championship was an even bigger surprise, having been to just one semi-final of any event in his career beforehand.

The great talent of the Cyclone had been known since he was a schoolboy, but he had largely failed to deliver on it until he surged to victory in York.

Zhao Xintong
Zhao Xintong became a superstar in York (Picture: Zheng Zhai)

Superb wins over John Higgins, Thepchaiya Un-nooh, Jack Lisowski and Barry Hawkins took him to the final where he comfortably dealt with Luca Brecel to lift the trophy.

The pressure will now be on for him to cement his position as a top player in 2022 after the remarkable, out-of-the-blue success in 2021.

Upset of the Year – Jordan Brown

Incredibly, Zhao’s win at the UK was not the biggest shock or upset that happened at a big tournament in 2021.

Jordan Brown went to the Welsh Open in February without a single individual on the planet tipping him for the title. The Northern Irishman had been to one quarter-final ever and came into the event as a 750/1 shot.

It had been an impressive but largely unnoticed run to the quarters at Celtic Manor as he beat Luo Honghao, Sam Craigie, Alexander Ursenbacher and Mark King, but that’s where it looked set to end as Brown faced Mark Selby next.

Few would have backed the Antrim Ferrari to beat the Jester, but that he did in a dramatic deciding frame, before comfortably upsetting Stephen Maguire in the semi-finals.

This was sensational stuff, but Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final was surely too much for Brown, where he was an 8/1 underdog just for that match.

He played brilliantly, with the Rocket playing perfectly well himself, and it was Brown who held his nerve in a deciding frame to claim a 9-8 win and the 2021 Welsh Open title.

Disappointment of the Year – No fans for months

A huge shame for Brown, not that he would have cared much at the time, was that there were no fans at Celtic Manor to see him stun the Rocket and win the Welsh Open.

There were also no fans to see Yan shock Higgins in the final of the Masters and the same can be said for Higgins’ immense win at the Players Championship and Robertson’s superb victory at the Tour Championship.

These were brilliant tournaments and finals and really special moments that could have been even better with the atmosphere of packed crowds in the arenas.

Highs feel much higher after lows and the full crowd at the Crucible for the World Championship final was one of the best moments of the year. An emotional, spine-tingling moment as the players walked out in Sheffied.

It was great to have competitions on in the first half of the year but there’s no denying it was disappointing to have no crowds in to enjoy them.

In general, I agree with all of Phil’s choices although

Jordan Brown’s Welsh title is “Achievement of the Year

rather than the “Upset of the year” in my view, an achievement that wasn’t followed by a real breakthrough which is a bit disappointing.

Now, I’d like to make a case for Ronnie O’Sullivan  …

A lot has been made from the fact that, until last Sunday, he hadn’t won a title since August 2020, and hadn’t beaten a top 16 player since March 2021. All that is true but …

  • Except for his 5-0 defeat to Hossein Vafaei in the 2022 German Masters qualifiers, in 2021, Ronnie has reached the last 16 in EVERY “non league” tournament he has competed in.
  • He has been in four finals, losing the first three, and in two more semi-finals. 
  • He was beaten heavily in the Players Championship Final and in the Tour Championship Final, struggled with confidence, motivation and his game, He was written off by many …
  • And what does he do? Not playing well, but through sheer grit and determination, he gets to the final of the last comp of the year, finds some magic in the last mini session of that Final and wins his first trophy in 16 months, extending two of his records: most ranking titles and longest gap between the first and last (for now).

Ronnie gets my “Comeback of the Year Award”

Alternatively this award could be named the “Prove Your Doubters Wrong Trophy“.

Another person who deserves recognition this year – again – is Jason Francis who somehow has managed to keep the Seniors Snooker circuit going, against all odds. He had to show incredible resilience and creativity as events had to be canceled and rescheduled, some of them more than once, venues changed, rebooked or repurposed.

Jason gets my “Snooker Promoter of the Year Award”

with a special mention as well for faithful acolyte, tournament director, sound and light engineer … and more … Paul Tett 

My “Disappointment of the Year Sad Award”

goes to Ding Junhui

I don’t think I need to explain…

and now …

Golden Turkey

For the man who hasn’t got past the quarter-finals of any ranking event since early March 2021, The man who has come across as an ungracious loser countless times in post-match interviews, the man who has only won each of the triple crown events once (and the UK Championship was in 2011) and downplays their prestige as a result and wants them “shortened”, the man who expressed the opinion that he, not Mark Selby, should be World Number 1 after Mark became World Champion again last May but didn’t complain when winning that same title helped him massively to get to that position in 2019, the man who said about Ronnie : ‘he can’t win an event to save his life at the minute.’ before being promptly proven wrong.

Judd Trump gets my “Big Headed Golden Turkey” Award

It’s Christmas after all so that turkey may be appreciated… who knows? 😇

In all seriousness, Judd is a fantastic player. Not everybody likes his style, but he has trememdous ability and cue power. He can play shots nobody else can. His form has dipped over the last months, but such thing happens to ALL sportspersons. Form comes and goes, and it’s normal. He should know that, he probably does know that. He comes across as someone desperate for regognition and being loved. He wants to be the voice of the younger generation of players… He is not helping his cause with such quotes, same as Ronnie didn’t help his own cause in 2002 when he had a dig at Hendry ahead of their Crucible SF, saying things he still regrets to this date.

7 thoughts on “2021 Christmas Awards and Golden Turkey

  1. Hello Monique.
    by all means it is that time of the year for awards. Thanks for your article and your “round up”.

    Obviously Ronnie received one as well, which went a bit under the radar social media wise:
    from the “21st Century Icon Awards” he is the winner in the category “Competitive Sports Award 2021”. The following is a direct quote from their website http://www.21stcenturyiconawards.com

    Competitive Sports Award
    This award is for someone who has demonstrated tremendous belief, focus and determination to reach the pinnacle of sporting glory. This may also be someone who has set up an entity that manages fosters or facilitates sports or involved in a sports league.
    I think it is very appropriate for Ronnie to be nominated.

    At the time of the award reception, which was held in London, Ronnie was playing in the Scottish Open. Therefore he could not attend in person but obviously Laila did the acceptance speech and collected the award in his stead.

    Sources / Footing:
    a short but very nice video with Ronnie’s response for being nominated
    on you tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAVx6461uf4
    and on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/CXldAdrIxoE/ with a lot of pictures from the ceremony.

    More about the 21st Century Icon Awards (back ground a.s.o. on their website: http://www.21stcenturyiconawards.com).

    Maybe you will like it as much I did and you might like to share on your blog.

      • Yes, very strange indeed. I was wondering about it myself. In fact, I had never heard from the 21st Century Icon Awards before. Maybe it is a question of reputation? But looking at their website that seems to be quite a silly reason. Maybe you will be able to get some more background info about it.

        And thank you Monique for putting it on the blog and for all the fabulous work you put in all year around to keep us snooker and Ronnie fans up top date.

        I wish you dear Monique and all reading and commenting here
        a joyful festive season and a peaceful and happy New Year 2022. Keep safe in these turbulent times.

  2. I can’t believe no mention of Luca Brecel who made two finals in a row and won one of the against Higgins

    • No mention of Luca this time but I do hope that he will earn more than just a mention in my end-of-season review. It’s not first time that Luca makes the headlines. He did when, at 17, he reached the QFs at the 2012 UK Championship, he did again when he won the 2017 China Championship, beating Ronnie by 5-4 in the QFs, then trashing Shaun Murphy by 10-5 for the title. But he has never so far been consistent. This season, he has been consistent so far and I hope that this trend will continue. If it does, he will be dangerous at the Crucible.

  3. And I love the writing on Trump. With the hope that while form comes and goes, I for sure hope you his decline has started lol.

    And I’m still enjoying and savouring Ronnie’s final from last week. I for one am happy to have been proven wrong in this case.

  4. Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone – whatever you celebrate! Stay safe and healthy. (Jordan Brown – I’m trying hard to forget. )

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