Following on from my previous article discussing which has been the best match of 2011, today I consider who has been the best player of the year. Click below for my thoughts and to vote in the poll…
Please note that the following suggestions are merely my nominations and that you can vote for any other player by selecting ‘other’ in the above poll and entering your selection. The following players are listed in no particular order.
A nominee in this category for the second successive year, Scotland’s John Higgins continued from where he left off in 2010 by successfully defending his Welsh Open title in Newport before going on to lift the Hainan Classic, Scottish Professional Championship and then his fourth world title at the Crucible in May.
While Higgins was not at his peak form during the World Championship, his battling qualities never deserted him as he was able to successfully come back from behind against Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and finally Judd Trump in the final to take what was an emotional victory following the death of his father earlier in the year.
Since then John struggled to match those results during the first half of the 2011/12 season, however his consistent performances during the Players Tour Championship events which saw him reach one final, one semi-final and three further quarter-finals, were enough to see him qualify for the Grand Finals in Galway.
While he could not do quite enough to defeat Higgins at the final of the World Championship in May, it was nevertheless a year to remember for 22-year-old Judd Trump who by its end had captured two full ranking event titles, as well as a further two PTC titles and of course had made that appearance in his first world final.
The adventure began in Beijing where following his successful qualification for the tournament, he was able to defeat Marco Fu, Mark Davis, Peter Ebdon, Shaun Murphy and then finally Mark Selby in an enthralling final to win his first ranking event title.
Full of confidence, he then took this form to the Crucible just weeks later where he was able to shock defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round before going on to defeat Martin Gould, Graeme Dott and then Ding Junhui in an absorbing semi-final. While he could not convert a 12-9 lead into victory, he had more than done enough to elevate himself up into the top 16 of the world rankings for the first time at the season’s end.
2011/12 started slowly as like a lot of players Judd took time out to enjoy himself before the crux of the season really began, but with victories in PTC2 and PTC9, as well as a final appearance in PTC8, he came into the UK Championship as one of the favourites to win.
Early on it did not look promising for Judd as he trailed Dominic Dale 4-2 but with the help of a couple of important flukes he was able to win that match before overcoming Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Maguire, Neil Robertson and then Mark Allen in the final to win his first major title and round off his breakthrough year in some style.
While his performances during the ranking events in 2011/12 have not been anything to get too excited about, it should not be forgotten that he began the year by taking a dominant victory at the Wembley Masters in January, defeating Marco Fu in the final to win the tournament for the first time. With the likes of John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan exiting the tournament in the early stages, Ding looked to be the class of the field from the start and was able to banish the memories of 2007 in the best way possible.
Following that victory Ding was also able to make an impact at the World Championship for the first time, defeating Jamie Burnett 10-2 in the first round before coming up against Stuart Bingham in what would be a memorable last 16 encounter at the Crucible. As Bingham made a break of 134 to lead 12-9, there only looked to be one winner but to his utmost credit Ding was able to force a decider with runs of 92, 114 and 58 before taking the match 13-12.
From there he was able to follow that up with victory against Mark Selby in the quarter-finals before narrowly losing a classic last four match against Judd Trump 17-15.
Other achievements for Ding in 2011 include progress to his first Premier League final as well as a semi-final run at the China Open and a run to the final of PTC2, where he would again lose out to Trump.
One of the year’s most consistent performers, Mark Selby finally won his second full ranking event title at the Shanghai Masters in September by taking the final three frames to defeat Mark Williams following what was a final full of tension. In doing so, the victory also ensured that Selby would replace Williams at the head of the world rankings, becoming the first man to do so having not previously won the world title.
The reason for this was that not only was Mark successful in Shanghai, but he was also extremely consistent with runs to the final of the both the German Masters and the China Open, while he also took the PTC4 title in Furth with victory against Mark Davis in the final. Add to this his run at the World Championship during which he produced a record-breaking display of break-building to defeat Stephen Hendry in the last 16 and all things considered it was a memorable year for the Jester from Leicester.
My final nomination is the man who Selby replaced at the top of the world rankings, two-time world champion Mark Williams who added to his CV this year with his victory in the German Masters, ironically against Selby in the final.
Elsewhere he continued to be consistent, making it through to the semi-finals of the World Championship before losing to John Higgins, while he lost in the finals of both the Australian Goldfields Open and Shanghai Masters to Stuart Bingham and Mark Selby respectively.
Despite those defeats, Mark’s steady accumulation of ranking points was enough to ensure that he would end the year ranked comfortably in second place.
Who was your player of 2011?