Best of 2010: The Best Player

In the second of my ‘best of 2010’ features, I take a look at the best players of 2010. Continue reading to vote in my poll and read my thoughts as to those with the most obvious claim to the accolade…

Neil Robertson

It goes without saying that the reigning world champion is always going to be a leading contender in a poll such as this and 2010 is no exception. Following his victory over Graeme Dott at the Crucible Theatre, Neil Robertson became the first Australian to win the game’s biggest tournament and in doing so reinforced his reputation as one of the strongest players in the game at the moment.

Having won that tournament, many wondered where Neil would go from there. Would he lose motivation and suffer a dip in form? Would he become complacent? It was not long before any such questions were answered as he won the year’s very next major tournament, the World Open with a dominant 5-1 victory against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final to prove that he is going to be a contender for top honours for the foreseeable future. In many ways I was more impressed with his victory at this tournament than at the World Championship, partly given the quality of the opposition that he defeated and partly the standard that he produced from start to finish in an unusual format.

Renowned for his fabulous long game which is second to none at the moment, Neil has also demonstrated this year that he can battle as hard as any of the players out there, notably defeating Martin Gould 13-12 during the World Championship having trailed 11-5 and also overcoming one of the most mentally strong players out there in Graeme Dott during the final.

As a result of his successes, Neil moved up to number one in the world rankings for a short while, another real landmark for him.  Finally Neil also made his first maximum break in professional competition during his China Open defeat against Peter Ebdon, ironically the only frame that he would win during that match.

John Higgins

When taking into account the fact that John was suspended for half of 2010 it is quite incredible that the Scot is even in the running for this award but with the UK Championship and Welsh Open titles to his name he certainly cannot be ignored.

Entering the year on a run of five consecutive ranking event semi-finals or better, John made it six at the Welsh Open as he defeated Graeme Dott, Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter to win his 21st ranking event title. With a seemingly unassailable position in the provisional rankings at that point, John looked set to dominate for the forseeable future and his status as the world’s best player was acknowledged by most in the game, including myself.

Then of course everything changed as John’s world came crashing down upon him. First was that incredible defeat to Steve Davis at the World Championship as his reign as king of the Crucible was brought to an abrupt end before just days later the News of the World carried out their now infamous sting operation which would result in John’s suspension from the game.

Upon his eventual return many onlookers wondered how he would fare back on the professional circuit following a six month lay off. Would he be rusty? Would he struggle under pressure? Would he ever be the same again? My personal belief as stated on the blog is that he would get back to his previous level, but not immediately and possibly not this season.

What followed however was to be an incredible return to form as John won his first event back on the tour in Hamm before reaching the final of his second a week later in Prague. Back on home soil in Telford, he then proved to the world that such success was no fluke, defeating Graeme Dott, Stephen Lee, Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen and then dramatically Mark Williams to win his third UK title and reclaim top spot in the rankings from Robertson.

Mark Williams

While defeat to Higgins in Telford was a blow for Mark, it was nevertheless a fine year for the Welshman as his return to form continued with one ranking event title in China as well as that final in the UK Championship and semi-final appearances in Wembley and Glasgow.

His form might not quite be at the same level that it was back in his 2003/4 heydey but it was certainly not far from that standard and as a result he currently tops the one-year ranking list and has every chance of moving up to top spot on the official list at the end of this campaign.

Mark also won the first event of the new Players Tour Championship this season to get his campaign off to the perfect start.

Mark Selby

The final man in my shortlist is Leicester’s Mark Selby, back among the winner’s circle this season with his second Masters triumph at Wembley and victory in the second Players Tour Championship event of the season in Sheffield.

Aside from his thrilling Masters triumph, defeating Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-9 from 9-6 down, the other highlight of Mark’s year was also a comeback against Ronnie, this time at the Crucible Theatre as he moved into the semi-finals of the World Championship. Though he could not progress any further, some of his play during the competition was again of the highest standard and for me cemented his reputation as one of the strongest players over the longer format matches.

Other highlights included a strong run to the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters as well as finishing second on the PTC Order of Merit.


Aside from these four I feel that it becomes difficult to make a case for any of the other players as best player, though it will be very much a different story in my next poll which will question who has been the most improved player of the year. If you do disagree though, feel free to make your case in the comments below!

As you can tell from the length of my comments, for me it comes down to Robertson and Higgins. While I do believe that John has the best all-round game at the moment and is the best player in the game, as far as 2010 is concerned at least, Neil comes out on top.