2018 was a year dominated by the "old guard".
It looked good for the young brigade early on as Mark Allen won The Masters, his first of the coveted Triple Crown events, beating pre-tournament favourite and "Master of Masters" Ronnie O'Sullivan en route. He beat Kyren Wilson in the final, a 20-something player who over the last couple of years has been fulfilling his promise as a regular in the latter stages of events.
As has been the case for the past decade, however, any talk of "baton passing" proved unfounded.
The German Masters was won by Mark Williams, his second ranking win of the season in a resurgent campaign. Beating fellow 40-something Graeme Dott (who played great stuff in his own right), Williams showed that his Northern Ireland win in November was no fluke of form, winning not by scrapping his way through or relying on a collapse from Dott, but by utterly blowing him away. This would prove to be a portent of things to come.
Michael Georgiou won the inappropriately-ranking Shoot Out, with Graeme Dott again finishing in second place. You only have to look at Georgiou's year since then to appreciate just how (ir)relevant this tournament actually is.
The next two ranking events were won by Williams' fellow Class of '92 alumni, Ronnie O'Sullivan (World Grand Prix) and John Higgins (Welsh Open) who best Ding and Hawkins in their respective finals to continue their domination of the 2017/18 season.
The Gibraltar Open saw Ryan Day emerging victorious in a field with many top players notably absent, defeating now-convicted-cheat Cao Yupeng who was himself appearing in his second final of the season having succumbed from a strong position against Neil Robertson in the pre-Christmas Scottish Open. Day would follow this up a week later with a victory over Stuart Bingham in the non-ranking Romanian Masters final to cap a career-best season in which he shed the back-handed compliment of "best player never to win a ranking event."
Ronnie O'Sullivan's love affair with the ITV tournaments continued with a comprehensive defeat of Shaun Murphy in their third final of the season at the Player's Championship, earning a record-equalling and career-best 5th ranking event of the season.
As if 5 ranking titles weren't enough, O'Sullivan deigned to make a 14th maximum break at the next ranking event and lead-in to the World Championships, the China Open. Meanwhile, Mark Selby proved his affection for China remained as strong as ever as he romped to an 11-4 victory over Barry Hawkins in a newly-extended final, as if to remind the rest of the field that he was still reigning world champion and favourite to win his third World Title.
And a third World Title was indeed secured during a remarkable 2018 World Snooker Championship. But not by Selby. In a tournament that featured a 146 break by eventual finalist John Higgins, an all-time great match between him and Judd Trump, the long-awaited (and eventually truncated) emergence of Jack Lisowski's abaility in front of the TV cameras, a violent brawl for the ages between O'Sullivan and Carterthat was almost immediately dubbed "Shouldergate", the defending champion falling with a whimper in the first round, a sublime performance by Ding being followed up by a nadir of playing quality in the next round and a tremendous run to the semi finals by the emergent Kyren Wilson, the final was eventually contested by two players of over 40 years of age: John Higgins and a man who had played by far the best stuff over the course of the tournament, Mark Williams.
And what a final it turned out to be. Williams took the overnight lead at 10-7, after Higgins had pulled level from 7-3 down.
Williams consolidated his lead the next afternoon by winning the first four frames to lead 14-7 at the interval. But if you expected Williams to run away with it from there, one must only assume you know nothing about The Wizard of Wishaw.
Though Williams did eventually finish the session at 15-10, Higgins unsurprisingly made several key clearances in the evening session to win the first 5 frames and level the scores at 15-15.
Suddenly, what had looked like being a damp squib was turning into a genuine classic. Williams won the next two frames with the help of a century and was on his way to an 18-15 victory when he missed a regulation pink.
Unsurprisingly, Higgins cleared to take the frame, leaving the audience wondering if Williams had missed the boat.
He hadn't. In the next frame Willliams potted a marvellous red to right middle and made a match-winning break of 69, followed by an audacious long pot to confirm, to win this third World Title 15 years after his second.
For my money the most surprising result not just of the season but in recent times, a truly renarkable victory for a players whose thoughts of quitting the game had been well documented. It was also a demonstration that the new brigade has a long way to go before they can topple the old guard.
On to the 2018/19 season then. Neil Robertson won the first ranker of the season to extend his run of at least one ranking title since 2006.
Mark Williams won his first event of the season at the World Open, denying David Gilbert a first title from 9-5 behind.
Kyren Wilson won the Paul Hunter Classic in a sadly depleted field to continue his rise through the game (also winning the 6 reds soon after.)
Mark Selby predictably won in China again, beating John Higgins in the China Championship final amidst the latter's continued hints at retirement and hatred of the game, in what has unanimously been described as The Match of the Season (an early but justified call).
Jimmy Robertson completed a fairytale story to win the European Masters after a career that was threatening to become the archetypal journeyman, finishing off in style with a century to take the trophy.
Stuart Bingham announced his return to form following a ban for betting with victory in the English Open, an emotional occasion which set him up (briefly) for the £1million Home Nations megaprize.
Mark Allen stsrted a terrific run of form by lifting the International Championship beating Neil Robertson sfter making 14 centuries, a record for the format.
Ronnie O'Sullivan became a three-time winner of the Champion of Champions, increasing his unparalleled strike rste in the ITV events, thanks to a fluked snooker in an entertaining match that once again demonstrated Kyren's ability to go toe to toe with the big boys, but also once again showed him just coming up short.
Judd Trump ended a 13 month drought to win the Northern Ireland Open, beating Ronnie O'Sullivan in fine style to once again begin claims of a new era for snooker as he played as well as he has in years with his game finally backing up his confidence.
And Ronnie O'Sullivan, already having featured so heavily throughout the year, closed his 2018 with a record 7th victory in the UK championship over Mark Allen, who made the scoreline respectable but never really threatened to beat O'Sullivan who in terms of consistent winning must surely be considered the player of the year. It was also a record 19th Triple Crown for O'Sullivan, who celebrated as fervently as you will ever see him do, clearly caring more than he lets on about breaking records and cementing his name in the annals of history.
So, what do you make of 2018in snooker? What were your highs, lows, pleasant surprises and disappointments? Favourite / least results? What does it mean for the future of the game, if anything, and what didn't happen this year that you'd like to see next year?
To quote SnookerFan: "Discuss."
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