Crucible champions: Part three of Nick Metcalfe's look at World Snooker Championship winners

Nick Metcalfe's Crucible champions

Nick Metcalfe completes his look at past Crucible champions by taking us from Shaun Murphy to Judd Trump.

Shaun Murphy (2005)

Murphy was the first qualifier to win the tournament since Terry Griffiths more than a quarter of a century earlier when he went all the way in 2005.

In his two previous appearances at the Crucible, in 2002 and 2003, he had lost in the first round, and he was a 150/1 outsider in 2005. However, he rose to his task in brilliant fashion that spring. Murphy hammered Steve Davis 13-4 in the last eight, before seeing off Peter Ebdon 17-12 in the semi-finals. The final against Matthew Stevens was a typically dramatic Sheffield affair, Murphy coming from behind to win 18-16. Almost overnight, Murphy, who was then very open about being a devout Christian, went from complete unknown to recognisable public figure.

Some observers will insist Murphy has since underachieved, but he's certainly still had a terrific career, which has also included a UK Championship and Masters success. He reached two more world finals too - he was heavily beaten 18-9 by John Higgins in 2009 and then edged out 18-15 by Stuart Bingham in 2015.

After the worst season of his career in 2018/19, Murphy has been very strong during this current campaign, picking up two ranking titles. He's still well capable of another Crucible success before he hangs his cue up.

Graeme Dott (2006)

Possibly the most unsung Sheffield winner of them all, Dott's year of glory came in 2006. He had already reached a world final, being easily beaten by Ronnie O'Sullivan in 2004, before being the last man standing two years later.

Dott held his nerve to win a dramatic quarter-final 13-12 against Neil Robertson in the 2006 tournament, before seeing off O'Sullivan 17-11 in the last four. The final is the stuff of Crucible folklore, and not for entirely the right reasons. Dott against Peter Ebdon wasn't for the faint of heart. It just went on and on and on. Eventually, Dott sealed an 18-14 win at nearly 1am. Imagine if the final score had been 18-17?

Dott has had a strange career in many ways, only winning one other ranking tournament to go with his world title. He did reach another Crucible final, in 2010, losing to Robertson.

The redoubtable Dott is still very much treading the boards - he remains a Crucible regular, and reached the final of a ranking event, the World Grand Prix, earlier this year. A fearsome will to win and granite tenacity still characterises his game, and the Scot deserves greater credit.

Neil Robertson (2010)

Robertson is undoubtedly one of the top players of his generation. The Australian first claimed a ranking event in 2006, the Grand Prix, and had reached a quarter-final and semi-final at the Crucible before his year of triumph in 2010.

Robertson produced an amazing comeback in the last 16, coming from 11-5 behind to beat Martin Gould 13-12. He was fortunate to then meet a 52-year-old Steve Davis in the quarter-finals, winning 13-5. Robertson beat Ali Carter 17-12 in the last four, to set up a showdown in the final with Dott.

Unfortunately that final was somewhat overshadowed by a Sunday newspaper making damaging allegations against one of the game's top stars, John Higgins, but the show had to go on in Sheffield, and Robertson powered his way to an 18-13 victory.

It's something of a surprise that Robertson has only reached one semi-final in the decade since then - he's also won UK Championship and Masters titles to complete the celebrated Triple Crown set - but he's had a superb 2019/20 season so far, and more Crucible glory would certainly come as no surprise.

Mark Selby (2014, 2016, 2017)

The player of the decade just gone, Selby has to go down as an all-time great of the game. Three world titles in four years, not to mention multiple UK Championship and Masters successes, guarantees him that status.

Selby was already an eight-ball pool world champion by the time he reached his first Crucible final in 2007. Higgins was too good for him on that occasion, winning 18-13. Seven years later, he made the showpiece match again, and this time he came up against O'Sullivan.

Selby, fatigued after his marathon 17-15 semi-final win over Robertson, started slowly but fought back. A turning point seemed to be O'Sullivan missing a simple pink to middle in the final frame of the third session, allowing Selby to move 12-11 ahead. The Leicester man could see the finishing line, and he was inspired on the final night, sealing an 18-14 victory.

After failing to defy the Crucible curse in 2015 (naturally), Selby won the title again in 2016, this time beating Ding Junhui in the final, 18-14. At almost the exact moment he was clinching the win, his beloved Leicester City were crowned Premier League champions, a miracle 5,000/1 success and a memorable double celebration for Selby in Sheffield.

Selby made it three world titles when he came from 10-4 behind to beat Higgins 18-15 in a tremendous 2017 final. After a couple of years of relative disappointment since then, he's bounced back with a fine 2019/20 campaign and could well add to his trio of world crowns yet.

Stuart Bingham (2015)

One of the Crucible's great fairytales. That's the only way to describe Bingham's 2015 world title win. The Englishman was something of a journeyman before blooming late on in his career - his first ranking tournament win came in Australia in 2011, when he was 35.

He certainly did it the hard way in the 2015 tournament too, beating O'Sullivan 13-9 in the quarter-finals and Judd Trump 17-16 in a titanic semi-final. The final against Murphy was a joy to watch, remaining unpredictable throughout. From 15-15 on the final night, Bingham produced when it really mattered, to win three frames in a row and close out an 18-15 victory.

"Winner, winner, chicken dinner," Bingham told the BBC's Hazel Irvine as he prepared for a long night of celebrations. Many of the newspapers had a smiling Bingham on their back pages the following morning. It was truly one of Sheffield's great stories.

Bingham has had his difficult times since that success, not least when he was given a six-month suspension for breaching snooker's betting regulations, but he has continued to pick up decent tournament wins along the way, including the Masters earlier this year. You suspect there's a fair bit more to come from him too.

Judd Trump (2019)

When the precociously talented Trump went all the way to the 2011 Crucible final as a 21-year-old, it seemed like the snooker world was his oyster. But his inexperience showed in going down to an 18-15 defeat to Higgins, and despite claiming the UK title later in 2011, a world crown eluded him in the years following.

However, Trump has just enjoyed the best two years of his career, seemingly helped by having his brother Jack along for company. A thumping victory over O'Sullivan in the 2019 Masters final gave him all the confidence he needed, and Crucible glory came his way a few months later.

Trump enjoyed plenty of good fortune in beating Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 10-9 in the first round, but from that point onwards, it looked like destiny. Trump saw off Ding, Stephen Maguire and Gary Wilson to set up a meeting in the final with Higgins – a repeat of the 2011 showpiece.

The Bristol man produced the finest performance ever seen in a Crucible a final, making seven centuries in a sparkling 18-9 win. Higgins didn't play badly, he was just blitzed off the table. And the brilliance from Trump has continued this season, with him claiming a record six ranking titles.

If the World Championship does eventually take place this year, Trump will clearly be a hot favourite. Could that curse finally be broken?

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