The 2019 Betfred World Championship saw giant killings, records smashed and a lifetime ambition realised as a new name was etched on the famous trophy.
Snooker’s tournament of tournaments was very much at the forefront of the sporting public’s consciousness over the last 17 days.
James Cahill arrived at the Theatre of Dreams as the first ever amateur to reach the final stages. The Blackpool potter also clinched a professional tour card for next season in the process of qualifying. Cahill scored one of the biggest shocks in Crucible history, beating legendary five-time World Champion and world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-8.
“You’ve got to believe you can beat anyone,” said 23-year-old Cahill. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Ronnie, he is such a great player and is my idol really. But there’s only so much respect you can have for these people, because at the end of the day you’ve got to go out there and beat them.”
Shaun Murphy brutally charged to a 10-0 win over Luo Honghao, to inflict only the second whitewash in Crucible history on the Chinese prospect. The Magician also restricted Luo to the lowest ever points tally at the World Championship. The teenager amassed just 89 points during the match, comprehensively undercutting the previous worst tally of 191 set by Danny Fowler in his 10-1 loss to Stephen Hendry in 1993.
Gary Wilson booked his place in round two by winning the Crucible’s longest ever frame. His decider with Belgium’s Luca Brecel lasted 79 minutes and 31 seconds, before the Wallsend potter eventually emerged a 10-9 victor.
The second round saw world number 16 David Gilbert make his first major impression on a tournament he would go on to leave an indelible mark upon. The Tamworth cueman knocked out defending champion Mark Williams, claiming an impressive 13-9 victory.
“It means everything,” said Gilbert, who dropped off the tour in 2011 and required Q School to regain his professional status. “It wasn’t so long ago I was struggling to get through the qualifiers and now I’m at the Mecca of snooker and I’ve just beaten the defending champion. I feel like if I play the way I did there and keep that up, I can cause people some grief.”
Gary Wilson continued to grab the headlines in the second round, as he upset the odds to defeat three-time World Champion Mark Selby 13-10.
John Higgins and Neil Robertson locked horns in a titanic quarter-final tussle, where the Wizard of Wishaw disregarded the form books to secure a huge win.
Robertson came into the Crucible on a red-hot streak, having reached four consecutive ranking finals. The Australian amassed three-titles across the campaign, at the Riga Masters, Welsh Open and China Open. Heading into his clash with Higgins he was favourite to pick up the title.
By stark contrast 30-time ranking event winner Higgins had endured a barren campaign ahead of Sheffield and hadn’t won any silverware in the season. However, the illustrious Scot summoned a typically steely display to down the Thunder from Down Under 13-10.
The fairytale runs of former taxi driver Gary Wilson and ex potato farmer David Gilbert continued, as both men reached the fabled one-table semi-finals for the first time.
Wilson overcame Ali Carter in a fiercely contested clash to come through a 13-9 winner. While Gilbert gained revenge against the man he lost to in this season’s German Masters final, Kyren Wilson, emerging a 13-8 victor.
John Higgins survived a nerve-shredding final frame decider to beat David Gilbert 17-16 in an emotionally charged tie.
Gilbert had led for the majority of the game, but Higgins slowly reeled him in and forced a deciding frame with a sublime run of 139 to make it 16-16. It came down to a safety battle on the very last red, which Higgins eventually got the better of to progress.
The aftermath saw Gilbert conduct a tearful live interview with Rob Walker and Higgins also shed a tear in the BBC studio while speaking to Hazel Irvine and John Parrott.
“I don’t know how I got through that match. I could have thrown in the towel during the first three sessions. I was getting annoyed at myself, but I was just trying to hang in,” said 43-year-old Higgins. “I could see Dave was really upset at the end, that’s what it does to you. If I wasn’t in the tournament and I was watching back at home – like 99% of the players – I’d be wanting Dave to win because he’s a diamond of a guy.”
Judd Trump progressed in the other semi-final. He defeated Gary Wilson 17-11 to reach a second World Championship final, eight years after his first one in 2011.
John Higgins and Judd Trump crossed cues in a repeat of the their epic 2011 final, where the Scot had prevailed 18-15. On this occasion roles were reversed as the Ace in the Pack secured a momentous maiden World Championship title with a thumping 18-9 win.
Trump produced a dazzling display to realise his dream. The 11-time ranking event winner has now completed the Triple Crown, having also claimed the Masters title this term. That means he is the first player since Mark Williams in 2003 to win both events in a season. In picking up the £500,000 top prize, Trump also becomes the first ever player to earn over £1 million in prize money in a single campaign.
Trump and Higgins made 11 centuries between them, the most ever in a professional match. That topped the previous best of 10 set by Ding Junhui and Alan McManus in the 2016 Crucible semi-finals. Trump’s contribution of seven tons also equals the record for an individual player in a match, held by Stephen Hendry and Ding.
Trump’s century in the 25th frame saw the total tally for the tournament reach 100. That underlines the standard of the event, which smashed the previous record of 86 set in 2015 and 2016.
The match was ultimately decided by a sensational second session from Trump. Trailing 5-4, he ruthlessly reeled off eight frames in a row to lead 12-5 coming into the second day. From there he took six of the next ten frames to lift the coveted Crucible crown.
Tournament Centuries: 100
Most Centuries: 14 – Judd Trump
Highest break: 143 – John Higgins
140+ Breaks: 3
Most Centuries by one player in a match: 7 – Judd Trump
Longest Frame: 79 minutes 31 seconds – Gary Wilson vs Luca Brecel
Deciding frames: 6 – Gary Wilson 10-9 Luca Brecel, Judd Trump 10-9 Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, Stephen Maguire 10-9 Tian Pengfei, Stuart Bingham 10-9 Graeme Dott, Stephen Maguire 13-12 James Cahill, John Higgins 17-16 David Gilbert
Crucible Debutants: 7 – Scott Donaldson, Michael Georgiou, Luo Honghao, Tian Pengfei, Li Hang, Zhao Xintong, James Cahill