Following on from my polls to find the best match and best player of 2014, the final part of my trio of ‘best of’ articles sees me take a look at the most improved players of the year, always a category that is open to interpretation (improved results or improved ability?), with a mix of up and coming young players, as well as more experienced players enjoying a return to form…
Please note that the above options are merely suggestions and you are free to insert your own choice into the ‘other’ option should you so wish.
Following a difficult couple of years which had seen Matt Selt slip back down the rankings having climbed as high as 37th in 2011, Matt is now back up at that ranking following a much-improved 2014.
Earlier in the year he was able to reach the semi-final stages of the Asian Tour two event and the Gdynia Open in Poland, before last week he was able to make it through to his first professional final at the inaugural Lisbon Open event in Portugal.
Add that to his last 16 run at the UK Championship earlier in the month and it has been a good year for Selt.
Another player to have enjoyed a strong run to the last 16 of the UK Championship was James Cahill, who of course stunned world number one in waiting Ding Junhui along the way.
York aside though, James has shown consistent improvement generally, beating John Higgins at the Paul Hunter Classic and memorably recording a shock 10-4 win against Gary Wilson at the World Championship qualifiers, as he has climbed up the rankings.
From just two match wins on tour in 2013, James won 12 in 2014.
Continuing the improvement first seen in 2013 has been Joel Walker, who earlier this year broke through at the Welsh Open by making it through to his first career quarter-final in Newport.
Although his success has not been reflected in his ranking, due to starting the new campaign back on zero having earned a fresh two-year tour card thanks to his results at European Tour events, Joel impressed recently at the UK Championship with wins against Alan McManus and Tom Ford to make it to the last 32 stage, before losing out to eventual semi-finalist Stuart Bingham in a decider.
The Thai player might not attract too many headlines, but from a ranking of 104 a year ago, now sits up in 68th place and recently made it through to the quarter-finals in Lisbon, as well as the last 32 of the International Championship with a win against Stephen Maguire.
Will he make it up into snooker’s top 64 by the end of the season?
Having made it back onto the main tour in 2013, notably defeating Luca Brecel at that year’s World Championship qualifiers, it was a surprise to see Fraser struggle for victories, with just two match wins coming before the turn of the year.
2014 though has been a different story so far, 15 victories, including runs to the last 16 of the Paul Hunter Classic and last 32 of the UK Championship and two further European Tour events, all but securing his place on the main tour for a further two seasons.
Who has been your most improved player of 2014?