The 2011 Pro Snooker Awards – Part One

With the New Year fast approaching it is time for the fourth Pro Snooker Awards as I look back at 2011 and am faced with a number of tricky decisions. Click below for part one…

  • To view the 2008 awards, please click here and here.
  • To view the 2009 awards, please click here and here.
  • To view the 2010 awards, please click here and here.

Player of the Year: Judd Trump

While he came up just short in the final of the World Championship back in in May, for me there is only really one choice here for the player of the year and that is Judd Trump, particularly following his victory at the UK Championship earlier this month.

Indeed following his earlier success both in Beijing and at the Crucible, Judd’s 10-8 triumph against Mark Allen in York confirms his position as one of the elite players in the game in 2011 and as one who is surely going to be among the men to beat for several years to come.

Perhaps even more than his bare results however, Judd also earns my nod due to his incredible popularity to the public at large and the part that he has played in attracting a new generation of snooker fans to the sport as demonstrated by his near 70,000 followers on Twitter. His relaxed, fearless approach to the game is a breath of fresh air and exactly what the game needed as we move into 2012.

Other possible candidates included John Higgins, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui, Higgins in particular recording results at least as impressive as Judd’s, but for the overall impact that he had on the sport, Judd is my player of the year.

Young Player of the Year: Judd Trump

And what is most impressive about Judd is that he is still only 22, indeed he was still just 21 when he won the China Open as well as reached the World Championship final back in May. For that reason he becomes the first player since I have been writing this blog to scoop a double as both the player of the year and the young player of the year. Judd also takes the award for the second time having also earned my vote back in 2008 following his run to the semi-finals of the Grand Prix as a qualifier.

An honourable mention goes to Judd’s flatmate Jack Lisowski who after just a season and a half is up to 39th in the rankings having qualified for the PTC Finals last season as well as the venue stages of the German Masters, Welsh Open and Shanghai Masters tournaments in 2011. Similarly Jamie Jones has also continued his rise up the rankings, while Xiao Guodong, Michael White and Li Yan also enjoyed impressive years.

Surprise of the Year: The Success of the Snooker Shootout

While there were a few surprising results to spring to mind, indeed Nigel Bond’s victory in this tournament was one such result, for me the surprise of 2011 was the success of the inaugural Snooker Shootout in Blackpool, a tournament that in truth I had expected very little of when it was announced.

In reality however, after a slow start on the opening evening, by the conclusion of what was a dramatic Saturday session, I was won over by a format which while I would not want to see in a ranking event any time soon, was a genuine success story for an invitational, weekend of high-stakes fun such as this.

During this season I have spoken to a number of players for the blog and it struck me how excited they were at the prospect of playing in the event having watched it on television last season. All in all then, this goes down as this season’s surprise success for a traditionalist like me!

Click here to view my review of the tournament written back in January.

Comeback of the Year: Ken Doherty v Sam Craigie, (2012 German Masters qualifiers)

Always a tough category to decide, the 2011 comeback of the year goes to Ken Doherty following his recent victory against young Sam Craigie from 4-0 down to win 5-4 and qualify for the venue stages of the 2012 German Masters.

As reported over at World Snooker at the time:

Ken Doherty completed a miracle comeback from 4-0 down against Sam Craigie, winning 5-4 to qualify for the German Masters.

Craigie was aiming to qualify for the final stages of a ranking event for the first time, and looked certain to do so when he won four consecutive close frames, three on the black and the other on the pink. But former World Champion Doherty turned the tide after the interval and won the next four with a top break of 135.

In the decider, Doherty made 43 then Craigie replied with 44 and led 58-43 with one red left. But it was Doherty who potted the red and cleared to the pink for victory.

Ken’s comeback was not the only one worthy of a mention however, take Justin Astley’s 4-3 win against John Higgins at the recent PTC11 event, while Liu Song’s recovery from 6-1 down against Michael Judge at the World Championship qualifiers to win 10-8 was also a fine comeback. In the same tournament both Jamie Jones and Jimmy Robertson recovered from 6-3 to win 10-6 while at the UK Championship qualifiers Sam Craigie completed an impressive fightback to defeat Andrew Pagett 6-5 on a re-spotted black.

Finally at the World Championship of course, there were a series of impressive comebacks from John Higgins en route to his fourth world crown, most notably from 12-9 down against Judd Trump in the final.

Qualifying Win of the Year: Xiao Guodong 10-9 Kurt Maflin

Whilst the previous category was tough to call however, this one poses me with an even more difficult decision, particularly given the introduction of live streaming at the qualifying tournaments in 2011/12. That said, given the fact that I have constantly repeatedly droned on about the above match during the nine months since, I am going to give Xiao’s victory against Kurt Maflin at the 2011 World Championship qualifiers a final mention in 2011, the standard really was that good. To read more about the match please visit my previous article here.

Other mentions go to those matches mentioned in the above category, as well as dramatic victories for Mike Dunn and Matthew Stevens against Sam Baird and Fergal O’Brien respectively at the 2011 World Championship qualifiers. Furthermore Marco Fu’s terrific win against Anthony Hamilton during the 2011 UK Championship qualifiers is also worthy of a mention, speaking of which…

Break of the Year: Marco Fu (2011 UK Championship qualifiers)

The scene was set, the clock fast approaching 1am at the South West Snooker Academy as the final qualifying match after four and a half days between Marco Fu and Anthony Hamilton drew to a conclusion with referee Brendan Moore in position as he always seems to be at these sorts of matches.

With a lead of 55-1 with just 59 on and the remaining balls awkwardly placed, the smart money looked to be on Hamilton to make it through to York, but what was to follow was a magnificent clearance from Fu which as the black rolled up the table up into the green pocket had his opponent applauding and congratulating Marco on the clearance. Some breaks are worth not getting home until 4:51am for and for me that was one of them!

Other candidates for this award are any of the various 147 breaks made during the recent flurry, while Judd Trump lit up the table at various points of the season with his quick-fire scoring.

Shot of the Year: Trump’s missed blue (2011 World Championship final)

While it was not the best shot of the year, Judd Trump’s missed blue during frame 22 of this year’s World Championship final was to prove the most important shot of the year and therefore earns my nomination. Leading 12-9 and by 55-47 in the next, Judd was faced with a tough blue down the cushion to put himself four frames clear of Higgins and just five away from his first world title.

With fans and experts alike musing over whether he should go for the shot or whether he should have played safe, Judd opted to stay true to the attacking snooker that had taken him this far and take the shot on. As it was however, Judd missed and Higgins was to clear and take a frame that would eventually prove to be a pivotal moment in the final, the Scot adding the last three of the session to lead 13-12 heading into the evening session.

Otherwise, Stephen Lee’s positional shot during his opening round victory against Mark Williams at the China Open must surely rank as the best positional shot of the year, while this pot from Judd during the World Championship would be hard to top in any year.

Disappointment of the Year: The Premier League

While the decision to make changes to the Premier League was not one that I disagreed with in itself, the decision to reduce the shot clock to just 20 seconds as well as introduce a format whereby not all of the players would play each other, while some would meet on numerous occasions, for me did not work.

The reduced shot clock combined with deciding frames which were played under Shootout conditions left a format which felt disjointed and left a feeling that perhaps the powers that be had gone too far with their attempts to add spice to the tournament.

That said, I do get the feeling that World Snooker introduced changes such as the ball-in-hand rule as something of a trial run to see how they would operate in tournament conditions, so it will be interesting to see if any of the rules are introduced into ranking competition at some point. Just a feeling I get.

Part Two will follow over the next couple of days…