The final part of my trio of ‘best of’ articles sees me take a look at the most improved players of 2011, an award won by Martin Gould in 2010 who is again one of the leading candidates this time around…
As has seemed obligatory for my 2011 awards pieces, 22-year-old Judd Trump is an obvious nominee having taken two full-ranking event titles this year, as well as having won a further two PTC events and reached the final of the World Championship for the first time in his career.
It is strange to think that just 12 months ago he languished down in 26th position in the rankings, but now up to a career high number five, he has come a long way in a short period of time since I wrote this article almost exactly a year ago.
A worthy recipient of this award back in 2010, Martin Gould has continued his progress up the rankings in 2011 with a series of consistent performances, breaking into the top 16 in October 2011 to earn a place at the Masters for the first time in his career.
Up nine places over the course of the year, Martin also took his first professional title at the Power Snooker Masters in Manchester and like Judd continued to win over the neutrals with his attacking style of snooker.
Always a very good player, Stuart Bingham took his game to the next level in 2011 with a series of impressive performances culminating in his first ranking title at the Australian Goldfields Open in the summer.
While his rise of three places up the rankings is on the face of it not particularly noteworthy, that increase was enough to see him up into the top 16 for the first time as he found a new level of consistency in his game.
Matt Selt, Joe Jogia, Jamie Jones, Jack Lisowski
Four players to have moved up into the top 48 for the first time during 2011, they have all benefited once again from a series of consistent performances during the PTC events, while Matt Selt impressed with victories against John Higgins and Stephen Hendry out in Bendigo.
All with relatively few points to come off their tallies between now and May, watch out for at least one making it up into the top 32 by the end of the season.
Not yet into the top 48, but a player who has climbed up from 75th position 12 months ago to a career-high of number 50 recently is Leicester’s Ben Woollaston, the winner of the PTC3 event in Sheffield back in August.
With a series of other consistent results behind him in the PTCs as well as important runs in qualifying for the Australian Open and UK Championship, Ben is now well-placed to continue his rise in 2012.
Xiao Guodong, Michael White, Li Yan
Three players up into the top 64 of the rankings of the first time in their careers and all prodigious break-builders, White, Xiao and Li have all impressed in 2011, Li in particular having made it onto the tour for the first time back in May and already assured of retaining his main tour place for next season.
It will be interesting to see whether the trio can build on that in 2012 and push on into the top 48 as their current form suggests they might…