Higgins Sets Sights On Stephen Hendry Trophy

Story of the 2017 Betfred World Championship

This year signified the 40th anniversary of snooker’s showcase event being hosted at the sport’s Theatre of Dreams – the Crucible in Sheffield.

It couldn’t have been marked in any better way than a final between two of the finest competitors to grace the Sheffield venue. In the end Mark Selby emerged an 18-15 winner after a thrilling encounter with John Higgins. However, 16 days of high quality action and an evening of pure nostalgia preceded tonight’s showpiece finale. Here are the key facts, moments and stories which developed over the course of the last month in Sheffield.

The Celebrations

The night before the action got underway there was a stunning green carpet reception with all the Crucible champions from the last 40-years invited to a special event hosted by the BBC’s Hazel Irvine and Eurosport’s Colin Murray. It looked back at some of the most special moments at the home of snooker.

The programme saw the Rocket Ronnie O’Sullivan take to the floor alongside six-time World Championship winner and former mentor Ray Reardon. We looked back at the sport’s most storied final with Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor and Cliff Thorburn recreated a shot from the Crucible’s maiden 147.

First Round

A lot of the pre-tournament talk was centred upon Judd Trump, who was the form man heading into the event. For the first time the Ace in the Pack had won multiple ranking titles in a single season, the European Masters and Players Championship. He faced world number 54 Rory McLeod in a match the 2011 UK Champion was heavily favoured to win. Trump looked on edge throughout and succumbed to one of the biggest first round upsets to have taken place at the Crucible. McLeod said: “It’s the best win of my career, to beat Judd Trump on centre stage is brilliant.”

Top five Crucible first round shocks
Tony Knowles 10-1 Steve Davis (1982)
Stuart Bingham 10-7 Stephen Hendry (2000)
David Gray 10-9 Ronnie O’Sullivan (2000)
Michael Wasley 10-9 Ding Junhui (2014)
Rory McLeod 10-8 Judd Trump (2017)

Second Round

Ronnie O’Sullivan outplayed Shaun Murphy in a superb victory, but it was a clash between John Higgins and Mark Allen which turned out to be tie of the round. Allen found his best form of the season so far and made four centuries during the match. However, the Scot did what he has done to so many players in the past and found a way to overturn the Antrim potter in a 13-9 win. After the defeat Allen admitted that the pressure applied by Higgins was too much. He said: “I was always in trouble when I got to the table. That is what the best players of all time do and John is in that bracket.”

Quarter-Finals

Ding Junhui and O’Sullivan met in a classic quarter-final clash. Previous encounters between the sports two biggest global stars were lopsided in terms of the head to head record. The Rocket led 10-2 coming into the match, but it was Ding who looked more at ease on snooker’s biggest stage this time around.  He won 13-10 and made 13 breaks over 50 during the victory. His opponent in the semi-final would be world number one Mark Selby who eased into the last four by demolishing Marco Fu 13-3.

Semi-Finals

Selby and Ding contested one of the great Crucible semi-finals, a match which will live long in the memory.  Ding was forced to wait another year for his chance to become the first player from Asia to wear the world crown. John Higgins came through the other last four tie by demolishing Barry Hawkins 17-8. It ensured history would be made in the final. Either player was in position to beat Stephen Hendry’s record of most prize money accumulated in a single season, which stood at £740,555.

The Final

Mark Selby repeated his great escape from the 2014 final, when he came from behind to defeat Ronnie O’Sullivan and lift his maiden world crown. This time he trailed John Higgins 10-4, before snatching the final three frames of the second session to give himself hope going into the final day. The Jester then went on a remarkable streak, winning 14 of the next 19 frames to lift the title 18-15. It sees him join an elite club of players to defend the Crucible crown. The only other players to have achieved the feat are Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis.

Shot of the Tournament

We’ve seen an array of superb shot-making throughout the 2017 World Championship. There was Shaun Murphy’s outrageous trick shot which went viral on social media and Stephen Maguire’s drilled pressure black to stay in his quarter-final with Barry Hawkins. However, the effort which sticks out for pure skill came from Selby in the 17th frame of his semi-final with Ding: a phenomenal long blue running off the side cushion to develop the reds. An incredible shot – watch it again here

The Numbers…

Centuries: 74

Allen’s four century breaks in the second round were in vain as he lost out to John Higgins

Most Centuries:  Ding Junhui 13

Highest break: Ronnie O’Sullivan 146

140+ Breaks: 3

Most Centuries by one player in a match: 4 – Mark Allen and Ding Junhui

Biggest deficit overturned: Marco Fu 7-1 down against Luca Brecel and Mark Selby 10-4 down against John Higgins

Longest Frame:  Judd Trump vs Rory Mcleod Frame 15 – 49 minutes 10 seconds

Deciding frames: 2 – Marco Fu 10-9 Luca Brecel and Ding Junhui 13-12 Liang Wenbo

Crucible Debutants: 5 – Noppon Saengkham, Gary Wilson, Zhou Yuelong, Yan Bingtao, David Grace