The 2016 Betway UK Championship saw Mark Selby become just the sixth player to win all three Triple Crown events on multiple occasions.
The Jester from Leicester added a second UK title to his three Masters wins and two World Championship crowns. In light of Selby’s achievement, we’ve taken a look at how snooker’s top stars weigh up against major champions of other sports…
At the very highest level, the success of snooker’s greatest players has typically been determined by the number of world titles in their locker. However, in many other sports the magnitude of superstars is quantified over several of the big events. In tennis there are four Grand Slam tournaments and in golf there are four majors. Snooker has three Triple Crown events: the UK Championship, the Masters and the World Championship.
Stephen Hendry has tasted success at the Crucible seven times, more than anyone else, but he is also at the top of the running in terms of number of Triple Crown victories. His feats in the sport seem even more remarkable when held up against the most successful golfer there has ever been, Jack Nicklaus. The King of the Crucible has 18 Triple Crown titles in total. That puts him level with the Golden Bear’s 18 majors, despite there only being three Triple Crown titles to compete for each season to golf’s four majors. Roger Federer tops the charts in men’s tennis with 17 grand slam wins.
Phil Yates, a leading journalist and broadcaster in golf and snooker, is certain that Hendry’s Triple Crown exploits put him on a sporting pedestal with the greats.
Stephen Hendry leads the way with 18 Triple Crown titles.
“Hendry, in terms of his record, is without a shadow of a doubt the greatest snooker player of all time,” said Yates. “Whether he is the best is open to debate, but in my view the word greatest is connected with your record.
“It’s difficult to compare it to golf. To win golf’s majors you have to beat 155 other people. For Hendry to win the World Championship he had to beat five. A much better comparison would be tennis. To win a grand slam you have to beat those individuals put in front of you. Hendry can be thought of as right up there with the likes of Federer and Pete Sampras.”
In a similar fashion to golf and tennis, snooker’s biggest three events each offer a unique challenge. The UK Championship sees 128 players fighting it out in a flat draw, the Masters is an invitational event for the world’s top 16 and the World Championship provides a marathon challenge with the longest races found on the tour. Yates believes that the Triple Crown is the metric to be used when deciphering snooker greatness.
He said: “Back in the day when there were fewer tournaments, the UK Championship was a real beacon of excellence. There is always a debate about what is the second most important event, the UK or the Masters. I’m not sure, but what I do know is that besides the World Championship it doesn’t get any bigger than those two events.”
In terms of current members of the World Snooker Tour, Ronnie O’Sullivan stands head and shoulders above the rest in regards to his Triple Crown record which stands at 16 titles. With the standard of the tour being so high, it may be difficult for anyone to ever catch the O’Sullivan. Although after defeating the Rocket in Sunday’s UK Championship final, it’s clear that Selby places great pride on enhancing his Triple Crown standing.
The world number one said: “When you look at the likes of Ronnie, Stephen and Steve Davis their numbers put into context what they have achieved. At this stage in my career it is probably impossible to get to the level they have.
“Winning a second UK Championship was one of the goals that I have left, having won the World Championship twice and the Masters three times. It was in the back of my mind and I didn’t expect to win another so soon. That was my goal for the next two or three years, so to do it this week was amazing.”
Ronnie O’Sullivan has the most wins of the current tour players. Selby’s victory at the weekend moves him ahead of Mark Williams.
Selby’s victory in York moves him ahead of Mark Williams and level with Ray Reardon on the all-time list of Triple Crown titles won. The Masters in January provides the next opportunity for players to register on the Triple Crown tally. The magic of snooker’s triangle of excellence is undeniable, with each event boasting a long and rich history.
Most Triple Crown Titles
Stephen Hendry 18
Ronnie O’Sullivan 16
Steve Davis 15
John Higgins 9
Ray Reardon 7
Mark Selby 7
Mark Williams 6
Alex Higgins 5
John Spencer 4
Neil Robertson 4
Cliff Thorburn 4