The twelve months of snooker: A look back at 2008 – Part 1

The last time we will see the Crucible decked out in colours…

It has been quite a year for snooker, including match-fixing allegations, seven different winners of ranking events, seven 147 breaks, a sponsorship crisis, lewd comments and above all, some great snooker. Click below to read part one of my 2008 review…


It feels like a long time ago now but January saw the start of the World Championship with the preliminary rounds, as well as the prestigious Wembley Masters tournament which was won by the in-form Jester from Leicester, Mark Selby. Having been one of the top players of 2007, it was only a matter of time until he made a really big breakthrough by winning an event and so it proved as he took the biggest invitational tournament of the year. While the event itself was not the best we have seen and Mark’s 10-3 victory over Stephen Lee in the final proved to be a fitting end,  nothing should be taken away from Selby’s performances as he was terrific throughout. As an aside the final itself was refereed by Michaela Tabb who became the first woman to referee the final of one of the ‘big three’ events in the process.

Away from Wembley, the month also saw the retirement of Finnish world number 55 Robin Hull as a result of various medical problems that had hampered his career since around 2002. It was a great shame because as one of only 27 players to have made over a 100 career centuries, without ever making the top 16, Robin was clearly quite a talent.

Finally the month drew to a close with the China Open qualifiers, a week that saw Munraj Pal make a career best 144 break as well as Mark Allen and Nigel Bond successfully qualify for the event that would eventually see them reach the quarter-finals.


February began with the Malta Cup, though sadly it was not to be contested as a ranking event as in previous seasons. Still, this did not stop 14 of the elite top 16 players from competing and seeing a high quality event, eventually won by defending champion Shaun Murphy with a 9-3 victory over Ken Doherty in the final.

Ranking points were on offer at the Welsh Open however as Mark Selby continued his rich vein of form with a second title in a row and his first on the ranking circuit. This time it was far from easy however as having squeezed through his semi-final with Stephen Hendry 6-4, he had to come back from 8-5 down against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final in one of the best fightbacks in recent years. It is a shame that O’Sullivan chose to question Mark’s ability in his post match interview, but it was clear to most watching that Selby had truly established himself as one of the top four players in the world at that time and would go into the final two events of the season as one of the favourites.

Last but not least, February also saw the launch of the all-new Championship League, an event which would go on to be a huge success and a very popular addition to the snooker calendar. The two groups to take place in February saw Ryan Day and Ken Doherty advance into the final group with wins over Joe Perry and Ali Carter respectively – though both of these two would be back…


Into March and the race for crucial ranking points was really going to the wire as both the final World Championship qualifying round and the China Open took place.

At the English Institute for Sport in Sheffield, 17 year old Liu Chuang completed a fantastic 10-9 victory against Dominic Dale in the final qualifying round to qualify for the Crucible and eventually secure another place on the tour for 2008/9 as a result. Similarly Liang Wenbo continued his good run with a 10-5 win over Ian McCulloch and booked a match with the struggling Ken Doherty in the last 32. Indeed the draw for the first round at the Crucible threw up a number of interesting ties, Marco Fu v Ding Junhui, John Higgins v Matthew Stevens, Mark Allen v Stephen Hendry – mouthwatering!

First things first though and the China Open proved to be a fantastic event for Stephen Maguire as the Scot not only  made his second career 147 (and the first by anyone in 2008), during his semi-final with Ryan Day, but he went on to win the event with a 10-9 victory against Shaun Murphy. It was a fantastic final between two fierce rivals and one that went all the way to the end as at 0:20am local time a magnificent positional shot from yellow to green by Stephen proved to be decisive.

Also in China, Ronnie O’Sullivan caused a stir with his comments in his press conference following his first round defeat to Marco Fu with a number of suggestive remarks that didn’t do himself any favours. Eventually he was fined £3,750 and docked his 700 ranking points from the event.

Closer to home, the Championship League continued to be a success and saw Anthony Hamilton and Shaun Murphy join Doherty and Day in the winners circle with wins over seemingly perennial finalist Ali Carter.


With the World Championship just around the corner, the build-up was dominated by stories concerning the struggling Graeme Dott amidst his revelation that he had been suffering from depression and was considering withdrawing from the tournament. Eventually though he decided to compete and though he would lose out in the first round to surprise package Joe Perry, he actually performed very well and could be proud of his performance.

Indeed he was not the only one who could leave with pride as the 2008 World Championship as a whole proved to be one of the best in recent years, certainly since 2003 in my opinion. We saw Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter both make historic 147 breaks, Stephen Hendry making a fabulous run to the semi-finals only to be stopped by an inspired O’Sullivan, and the emergence of a new star in Liang Wenbo who similarly was halted by O’Sullivan.

Eventually though it was Ronnie O’Sullivan who defeated first-time ranking event finalist Ali Carter in the final and took a deserved third world title, confirming his status as the best player in the world in the process.

Away from the Crucible, May also saw the Championship League come to an end as Joe Perry and Mark King completed the final line-up. Eventually it was Perry who went all the way, defeating Mark Selby 3-1 in the final to qualify for the Premier League in the autumn. Little did we know back then that both Joe and Mark would make such a impression on the competition…

Finally the PIOS, snooker’s second division, came to a conclusion and saw Kuldesh Johal, Peter Lines, Simon Bedford, Jamie Jones, Matthew Couch, Daniel Wells, Paul Davison and Lewis Roberts promoted to the main tour for the first time. They were joined by young Stephen Craigie who defeated Anthony McGill 6-2 in the final of the European under-19 Championship, and Li Hang who took victory in the Asian under-21 tournament to earn spots on the main tour. Jin Long also ensured that he would be returning for the following season with victory in the senior event.

Check back tomorrow for part two of my look back at 2008, and also later in the week for my unofficial snooker awards…