Betfred World Championship: Nick Metcalfe on a decade of memorable finals

The Crucible hosts the World Snooker Championship

This year's delayed World Championship will mark the beginning of a new decade in snooker. Nick Metcalfe takes the opportunity to reflect on the last 10 Crucible finals.

2010: NEIL ROBERTSON 18 GRAEME DOTT 13

A special decade of world finals had an inauspicious start, to say the least. Snooker fans everywhere were left reeling on the first day of the 2010 showpiece, as a Sunday newspaper made allegations of match fixing against the world champion, John Higgins. The story definitely cast a shadow over the final between Graeme Dott and Neil Robertson.

Australia's Robertson, in his first final, claimed six of the eight frames in the second session to take a 9-7 overnight lead, and from that point he always kept his nose in front against former champion Dott.

It remained a tense affair on the final night, but Robertson, who didn't make a century in the final, found a head of steam when he really needed it to pull away at 15-13, winning three frames in succession for an 18-13 win. He was the first champion from outside Britain and Ireland since Cliff Thorburn 30 years earlier.

2011: JOHN HIGGINS 18 JUDD TRUMP 15

A fabulous final, which may well have featured the best atmosphere in snooker history. Indeed, the match in many ways came to symbolise the rebirth of a sport which had spent years in the doldrums.

Judd Trump, who had won the China Open just before the World Championship, thrilled fans everywhere with his run to the final in Sheffield. His fearlessly attacking approach was reminiscent of some of the exciting showmen of the past like Alex Higgins and Jimmy White. And he was certainly the crowd favourite against the other Higgins.

With a little more experience, Trump may well have won, especially when you consider he led 12-9 at one stage. But on the final night, which began with deafening roars from the Crucible crowd, Higgins showed all his experience to close out an 18-15 win. It was a happy ending to a truly turbulent year for Higgins, which included the match-fixing allegations - the Scot was eventually cleared of those - and the death of his father. An emotional Higgins was king of the snooker world for a fourth time.

Click the image for Nick's Crucible champions feature - including John Higgins

2012: RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 18 ALI CARTER 11

Ronnie O'Sullivan clearly had the bit between his teeth at the 2012 World Championship. He had already seen off three former world champions in Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams and Robertson, before he cruised to a comfortable win over Matthew Stevens in the last four. Understandably, O'Sullivan was a huge favourite to beat Ali Carter in the showpiece.

It was a repeat of the 2008 final, and they actually felt like pretty similar matches, with Carter never seriously looking like he could overcome O'Sullivan in a marathon best-of-35 frames affair. O'Sullivan's lead was only 10-7 after the first day, but the writing was on the wall for Carter when he then won the first four frames of the third session.

O'Sullivan duly sealed an 18-11 victory, to become world champion for a fourth time. And then, being the unpredictable maverick that we know and love, he proceeded to take nearly the whole of the following season off.

2013: RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 18 BARRY HAWKINS 12

Surely there's a decent case for saying O'Sullivan's 2013 world title win is both one of the greatest achievements in modern sport, and one of the most underrated.

After not playing in the season leading up to the tournament, nobody knew quite which O'Sullivan to expect at the Crucible. We got the brilliant version, as he strolled past Stuart Bingham and Trump to reach the final. Barry Hawkins stood in the way of another title for O'Sullivan, and many pundits were talking of it in foregone conclusion terms. As it happened, Hawkins was himself excellent in a final of supreme quality.

O'Sullivan was peerless at times, firing in six centuries, but the result still remained in some doubt throughout the match, even when Hawkins pulled back to only 15-12 behind on the final night. O'Sullivan was just too good however, as he claimed three successive frames for an 18-12 win. On that night, with a fifth title under his belt, Stephen Hendry's record of seven Crucible crowns looked severely under threat.

Click the image for more on O'Sullivan's sensational 2013 triumph

2014: MARK SELBY 18 RONNIE O'SULLIVAN 14

Another marvellous final, that in terms of sheer impact stands alone in the last decade. O'Sullivan was aiming for a third world title in a row and a sixth in all, as he took on Mark Selby.

O'Sullivan, who had never lost a world final, certainly looked the part on the first day, but a tenacious Selby crucially won the final two frames to leave him only 10-7 behind. Selby, who already had an impressive history of taking the game to O'Sullivan in big matches, then won the first four frames on the final day. The last frame of the third session was pivotal, and should have gone to O'Sullivan. But for reasons unclear to this day, he smashed a pink to middle for no good reason, missing it and allowing Selby to steal and lead 12-11.

The Leicester man always looked the likelier winner from there, and he held his nerve on the final night to seal a glorious 18-14 win. It was the start of a tremendous run of success for Selby in Sheffield, but O'Sullivan hasn't been near the title since - in fact, he hasn't even reached the one table stage.

2015: STUART BINGHAM 18 SHAUN MURPHY 15

Fairytale might well be one of the most overused terms in sportswriting, but it's perfectly right and proper in this case. Bingham was seen as something of a journeyman and had only won his first ranking event in 2011. In truth, it never really looked like a World Championship was in him.

But superb victories over O'Sullivan and Trump set Bingham up for a Sheffield showdown with Shaun Murphy. And what a terrific watch it turned out to be. Bingham was 8-4 down on the first day, but crucially rallied to trail only 9-8 overnight. The Essex man came out a man inspired on the final day, and at 15-12 in front was only three frames from the title.

Murphy then won three frames in a row to level, but a marathon 64-minute 31st frame seemed to settle Bingham's nerves, and he edged it before then taking the two more frames he needed for a famous 18-15 win. "Winner, winner, chicken dinner," a delighted Bingham said to the BBC's Hazel Irvine. The 38-year-old was the oldest champion since Ray Reardon in 1978.

Stuart Bingham - Betfred World Snooker - Exclusive Interview

2016: MARK SELBY 18 DING JUNHUI 14

It seems extraordinary to suggest you can win a tournament as gruelling and grand as the World Championship playing your B game. But that's pretty much what Selby did in 2016.

He eventually got over the line 17-15 against Marco Fu in the last four to set up an intriguing final against Ding Junhui, who was aiming to become the first winner of the title from snooker-mad China. Ding had a horrible start in his first final though, as Selby won the first six frames. But it then became a real battle after that.

Selby looked an almost certain winner when he went 16-11 ahead on the final night, but breaks of 73, 70 and 103 saw Ding close to 16-14. The redoubtable Englishman took the next frame however, and a break of 74 clinched an 18-14 victory. It was to be a dream double for Selby that night - at almost the same moment as he won the title, his beloved football team Leicester City had sealed their miraculous Premier League triumph.

2017: MARK SELBY 18 JOHN HIGGINS 15

There was no doubt at all following the 2017 World Championship. Selby wasn't just one of the best players of his generation, but an all-time great of the sport. A third world title in four years cemented that status.

Not that another looked likely when Higgins went 10-4 up in the final, in a repeat of the showpiece match from a decade earlier. Selby, still drained from his marathon 17-15 semi-final win over Ding, looked bereft. But somehow the Englishman roused himself to win the last three frames of the day. It was the turning point.

Selby picked up six of the seven frames played in the third session, to move 13-11 ahead going into the last evening. Higgins was always going to make getting over the line tough, as he won three frames in a row on the final night to trail only 16-15, but Selby wasn't to be denied and he fired in breaks of 131 and 75 for an 18-15 victory.

2018: MARK WILLIAMS 18 JOHN HIGGINS 15

This might well have been the greatest Crucible final of them all. It really did have everything. Great quality, riveting drama, a big comeback, a grandstand finish. Williams, fuelled by kebabs and sweets, resumed the second day of the final with a 10-7 lead over Higgins, and he extended that to 14-10 with an outstanding start to the third session. Higgins rallied, but Williams was still a big favourite on the last night, with a 15-10 lead.

But then came the real theatre, with Higgins winning five successive frames to level the match. Williams responded to claim the next two, and looked for all the world like he would seal the title when 63-0 up in the 33rd frame. But he missed match ball pink and a nerveless Higgins cleared with 65 to steal the frame. The Crucible was in raptures. Williams steeled himself for one more push, and an incredible red to middle gave him another chance, one he would nervelessly take with a clinching break of 69 for an 18-16 victory.

Welshman Williams, who had watched the 2017 tournament in a caravan after failing to qualify, and strongly considered quitting the game, was champion again, 15 years after his last World Championship victory. After the final, he promptly kept to his promise of appearing in front of reporters with only a towel to protect his modesty. And he then partied. A lot.

Mark Williams speaks to the media after winning at the Crucible

2019: JUDD TRUMP 18 JOHN HIGGINS 9

Trump had burst on to the scene at the start of the decade, and it seemed a matter of when, not if, he would win the world title. But a number of disappointments had seen the Bristol man fail to reach the final until he eventually got there again in 2019.

Remarkably, Higgins had also reached the climax for the third year in a row, an eighth final in all for the Scot. But nobody could have lived with Trump that bank holiday weekend. He was truly magnificent. The final was effectively over as a contest when Trump claimed eight of the nine frames in the second session to build a 12-5 lead.

In the end, Trump won the final 18-9, with seven century breaks. Higgins himself made four. He didn't play badly at all in the match. But he could only applaud the brilliance of the new champion. And surely Trump will enjoy more Sheffield success in the years to come. He might even be about to defy the famous Crucible curse this time round. It will certainly be fun watching.

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