Best of 2010: Most Improved Player

In the third of my ‘best of 2010’ features, I consider who have been the most improved players of 2010. Continue reading to vote in the poll and more…

Mark Williams

My first name is one that I have thought long and hard over (well, about 10 minutes but still), as in some ways it seems a little strange to describe a double world champion and former world number one as the year’s most improved player.

Finishing the season ranked  at number 3 having entered it ranked in 15th place however, there can be no doubt that Mark has improved greatly in 2010 on what he has produced during the previous two or three years. Highlights included his first ranking event title for four years in China as well as reaching the final of the UK Championship and making semi-final appearances in Wembley and Glasgow.

Mark Davis, Andrew Higginson

It seems like you don’t need to be called Mark to be on this list, but it certainly helps as Mark Davis is my second nomination for the most improved player of 2010.

A member of the professional circuit for a number of years, Mark had his strong performances in tournaments but was never able to sustain his form and move inside the world’s top 32. That was however until this year when he built upon victory in the 2009 Six-Reds World Championship in Killarney by qualifying for the venue stages of all three remaining ranking events in 2009/10, capping off the last with victory over Welshman Ryan Day at the Crucible.

Up into the top 32 for the first time at 26th, Mark has continued to win matches this season, again qualifying for each of the last three venues and progressing to the quarter-finals in Shanghai. Lying 18th in my latest projected list, it is hard to argue that Mark is not one of the year’s most improved players.

Similarly, Andrew Higginson has also enjoyed a strong year, as described in my recent article examining his rise. Now like Mark up into the top 32 and winning as consistently as he has done in his professional career to date, Andrew has a real opportunity to continue to rise if he can bring the sort of form to the venue stages of events that he did during the 2007 Welsh Open.

Marcus Campbell, Martin Gould

Also up into the top 32 for the first time following strong performances in 2010 are Marcus Campbell and Martin Gould. For Marcus it has been an excellent year in which he qualified for the Crucible for the first time since his debut back in 2001 before winning his maiden professional title at the EPTC3 event with a final victory against Liang Wenbo.

For Martin Gould meanwhile the year has seen him move from 47th in the rankings up into the top 32 for the first time, an incredible achievement for a player who has been on the tour for a relatively short time. His highlights from 2010 include his run to the last 16 of the World Championship as well as the final of the PTC6 event. Although both events ended in defeat when on the brink of victory, he bounced back well to reach the quarter-finals of the World Open tournament in Glasgow and continue his push for a top 16 place.

Tom Ford, Mark Joyce

A professional for over a decade now, Leicester’s Tom Ford has struggled for some time to deliver on his undoubted potential but in 2010 at least that has begun to change. Qualifying for both the World and UK Championship tournaments for the first time, Tom was unfortunate to run into an in-form Mark Allen on both occasions but was not to be denied during the PTC3 event as he took his maiden professional title on his way to a place inside the top 32 for the first time. Can he keep it up in 2011?

For Mark Joyce meanwhile, having briefly slipped out of the top 64 this season, he bounced back in fine style at the UK Championship by not only winning four matches to qualify, but then defeating Shanghai Masters champion Ali Carter on his way to his first major quarter-final. Now up inside the top 48, can Mark now kick on from here and establish himself?

Jamie Jones, Anthony McGill & Jack Lisowski

The final names on my shortlist are three young guns who have all made great strides during the new Players Tour Championship this season and are all in with a chance of finishing the season ranked inside the top 64 for the first time.