Ronnie O'Sullivan (8) 5-3 Steve Davis (3)
Jimmy White (2) 5-2 John Higgins (32)
John Parrott (4) 5-3 Alan McManus (6)
Stephen Hendry (1) 5-2 James Wattana (5)
I remember reading on here a few days ago someone saying how the early 2000s was the toughest period in snooker history with regards the the level of quality players someone would need to plough through to win any event. When I read that I thought, sure, you certainly have a good case to make there...but...
And then when you posted this it kinda confirmed what I was thinking. That I think the toughest time ever to be a journeyman snooker pro looking to make some headway in random tournaments it really should be the season you're highlighting at the moment.
This one specific season might not make an era, but taken by itself, it surely must be the toughest year ever.
Davis is still a peak-level player, a destroyer of the highest order, not yet gone off the boil.
White is on full peak, even claiming number 1 spot above peak Hendry in phases.
Parrott is still on the tail end of his peak.
McManus is an ever present wall of near perfection.
Hendry is already the new Davis and considered stronger in every department, total peaking.
O'Sullivan already a big name and big threat after just a few tv appearances.
Watana and Doherty cleaning up any remaining players who managed to squeak past the early rounds.
And this is before you realise there's people like Ebdon and Bond lurking in the shadows.
Its no surprise people like Gary Wilkinson seemed to vanish over night. Why the old guard of Griffiths & co suddenly stopped being regularly seen on tele.
Griffiths in 1991/1992 - 2 QF 3 SF, one of the SFs even being the worlds & just 2 seasons later in 93/94 he was lucky to get one solitary QF... in the European Open.
Wilkinson in 1992/1993 - 3 QF, 1 SF, 1 F, and one of the QFs was The Masters, just one season later in 93/94 he was lucky to get one QF in the Grad Prix.
This particular year wasn't immense because it was the beginning of a new era, it was immense because it combined the effective peak of three eras, that of the early 80s, the late 80s and the early 90s. And I don't think any other year can claim to have just soooo much talent peaking at exactly the same time. It must have been horrifying for David Roe, getting to rank 16 and then, no matter where he looked, round 2 was going to be a pants-shitting draw.