The 2022 Betfred World Championship staged snooker history and a moment of destiny for the sport’s greatest ever player.
Millions of people from around the world watched on, as an event filled with shocks, sporting perfection and tension played out inside snooker’s Theatre of Dreams.
For the first time in three years, a capacity Crucible crowd were present for the opening round of snooker’s showpiece tournament. Defending champion Mark Selby started proceedings with a hard fought 10-7 win over Jamie Jones.
Selby elected to sit out his previous two events in the build up to the championship, in order to focus on matters away from the table. The 38-year-old made the brave admission earlier this year that he has been suffering with depression. Following the defeat of Jones, he said that he was happy to be enjoying competing once again.
“It was quite emotional walking out there today,” said Selby. “The reception was great, I suppose partly because I am defending champion and partly because I have been honest about what I am going through. People can relate to it. Everyone on social media has also been really supportive.
“I have had matches this season, like in the Masters, where I stopped enjoying the game. I still love the game but mentally I was not in a good place. Today was a lot better.”
World number one Ronnie O’Sullivan trailed David Gilbert 3-0 in the early stages. However, from there he turned on the style and made three centuries on his way to claiming ten of the next 12 frames to secure a spot in the last 16.
Jackson Page enjoyed a dream Crucible debut by stunning 2013 runner-up Barry Hawkins. The Welsh 20-year-old showed composure and skill to fire in back-to-back centuries in the last two frames to get over the line as a 10-7 victor.
Just a year earlier, at 2021 World Championship qualifying, Page had dropped off the circuit and required Q School to keep his professional career alive. Fast forward 12 months and his defeat of Hawkins set up a second round showdown with mentor and practice partner Mark Williams on snooker’s biggest stage.
Pic: Andy Chubb
Jack Lisowski and Neil Robertson contested one of the matches of the tournament, which included snooker’s Holy Grail and final frame drama.
Pre-tournament favourite Robertson became only the eighth player in Crucible history to craft a 147 break at the famous venue. The Australian produced the magical break in the 19th frame. However, it was Lisowski that was celebrating at the end of the evening, taking a nerve shredding decider to win 13-12.
“It’s my biggest win because Neil is the best player in the world at the moment,” said Lisowski, who has reached six ranking finals but is yet to win a title. “He threw a lot at me over the match. It’s a massive win for me, I feel great.”
The other big story of the round saw defending champion Mark Selby defeated 13-10 by Yan Bingtao, who made the quarter-finals for the first time in his career.
The 22nd frame was the longest played in the 45 years of snooker at the Crucible, lasting 85 minutes and 22 seconds. It was Yan who claimed it to land a pivotal blow, as he secured victory in the following frame.
Mark Williams fired in six centuries during a 13-3 demolition of his protege Jackson Page. The three-time World Champion’s win booked a last eight showdown with Yan. Welshman Williams would go on to rack up a record equalling 16 centuries during the event. That equals Stephen Hendry’s record during a single World Championship, set in 2002.
Fresh from his heroics in the previous round, Jack Lisowski immediately found himself embroiled in another Crucible classic. This time he was pitted against four-time World Champion John Higgins.
Higgins was competing off the back of a season which had been impressive and heartbreaking in equal measure. The 31-time ranking event winner reached five major finals across the season, but failed to get over the line in any of them.
The pair slugged it out it out in a gruelling contest, which lasted eight hours and 14 minutes, over the three sessions of play. Lisowski clung to Higgins’ coattails throughout the tie. He took the very first frame and never led again, until moving 12-11 up.
With the pressure at its greatest, Higgins produced his best snooker. The Glaswegian composed breaks of 105 and 72 to win 13-12 and earn a spot in the Crucible semis for the 11th time. Lying in wait was a showdown with familiar foe Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Higgins: “This season has been pretty tough and I’ve had some bad losses. Getting to this one table set up makes all of that worth while. To play against Ronnie as well is brilliant and I can’t wait. I think I’ll play better. The conditions are always good for the one table setup here. He looks great and he looks tuned in. I will have to raise my game.”
O’Sullivan earned a record breaking 13th semi-final appearance with a comprehensive 13-5 defeat of Stephen Maguire.
Judd Trump and Mark Williams made up the last four line up with respective wins over Stuart Bingham and Yan Bingtao.
When Judd Trump blitzed his way to a 7-1 lead over Mark Williams in the opening session, it had looked set to be a one-sided affair. What transpired was a thrilling contest, which nearly produced the greatest ever comeback in a Crucible semi-final.
Williams trailed 9-2 and 12-5, before he fired his way back into contention. If he were to have won, it would have been the biggest deficit ever erased in the last four at the Crucible.
Eventually Williams led for the first time in the entire match at 16-15, but it was Trump who took the last two frames to win 17-16 and earn his place in the world final for a third time.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins played out another chapter in one of snooker’s greatest rivalries.
The pair had met 69 times prior to this semi-final contest, with O’Sullivan leading the head-to-head standings 36-33 going into the game.
Higgins was O’Sullivan’s opponent when he won his first world final back in 2001. Fast forward 21 years and they met again in the hallowed single table set up at the sport’s most famous arena.
It was a match which O’Sullivan dominated against a visibly frustrated Higgins. The Rocket soared to a 17-11 win, moving within touching distance of a historic seventh Crucible crown.
An emotional Ronnie O’Sullivan made history in the title match by scoring a record equalling seventh World Championship win, levelling the great Stephen Hendry.
Day one of the final went the way of the mercurial O’Sullivan, who stormed to a 12-5 overnight advantage and had appeared to be turning the match into a procession. The evening session saw an out of sorts Trump lose seven of the nine frames to leave himself deep in a hole.
However, the 2019 World Champion showed his steel on Monday afternoon to set up a grandstand finish. Trump roared back into contention by taking the session 6-2 and trailed 14-11 heading into the concluding evening.
With the heat ramping up in the Crucible, O’Sullivan fired in breaks of 82, 88, 75 and 85 to take four of the six frames and get over the line 18-13. He was left overwhelmed at the close of play and embraced Trump, as he broke down in tears, before lifting the famous trophy for a seventh time.
Victory closes the debate surrounding the identity of snooker’s greatest player, with O’Sullivan holding almost all meaningful records in the sport. It was an unparalleled 39th ranking event victory and at the age of 46 he is the oldest ever World Champion.
“That’s probably the best result I’ve ever had,” said O’Sullivan. “It was a titanic battle against a strong competitor who is young and hungry. I had to fight for every point. Even at 12-5 I knew it wasn’t over. As far as I’m concerned, Judd is already an all time great. The way he plays the game, he plays such dynamic snooker. He’s going to be winning this a few times and the other guys better get their act together.
“I gave him a big hug at the end and was sobbing in his arms. He said some lovely words. What he said to me blew me away. He’s a great lad and I didn’t realise what he thought of me until then. He’s great for snooker. I have been emotional for the last few years, I suppose that happens when you get older.”
Tournament Centuries: 109 (new record)
Most Centuries: 16 – Mark Williams (equalling Stephen Hendry’s record set in 2002)
Highest break: 147 – Neil Robertson
140+ Breaks: 2
Most Centuries by one player in a match: 6 – Mark Williams
Longest Frame: 85 minutes 22 seconds – Mark Selby vs Yan Bingtao
Deciding frames: 3 – Jack Lisowski 13-12 Neil Robertson, John Higgins 13-12 Jack Lisowski, Judd Trump 17-16 Mark Williams
Crucible Debutants: 3 – Hossein Vafaei, Ashley Hugill, Jackson Page