Apologies for the delay, here are the second annual Maximum Snooker Awards for the year of 2011! Who will win the coveted player of the year award and there a few new awards including best break of the year.
Maximum Snooker Awards 2011
Even though he has been on the tour for a few seasons now apart from a last 32 finish in the 2007 Welsh Open, young Ben Woollaston from Leicester has not managed to kick off properly on the main tour.
2011 will be a year to remember for Ben though as apart from marrying snooker referee Tatiana in June he managed to pull of some great wins in the qualifiers including last 64 runs to the Australian and UK Championship events but his biggest glory game in PTC3 where he beat Graeme Dott 4-3 to capture his first pro title.
Ben now sees himself sitting comfortably in the top 64 of the world rankings and rising all the time, will 2012 be another good year for him and could he see himself in the top 32 sooner than later?
Runner up: Michael White
Coming a close runner-up; Michael White. The young player from Wales has been tipped to be a star of the future from a young age but in recent years he hasn't lived up to his potential. This year he had a run to the last 48 of the UK Championship and a PTC semi-final and looks to be finally settling on the tour. 2012 will be a good year for him i'm sure.
Most Improved Player
Easy choice for the most improved player, the UK and China Open champion; Judd Trump. Only in 2010 Judd was struggling for consistancy and had failed to qualify for the Crucible for many seasons. In Beijing he beat Mark Selby in the highest quality final of the year to win his first major ranking title and then produced some amazing displays of potting and break building on the way to the World Championship final, narrowly losing to John Higgins.
Judd finished the year on a high, after beating former world champions Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson on route to the UK Final where he valiantly survived a Mark Allen fightback to win 10-8 and his first major ranking title on British shores. Now ranked at a career-high of 5th in the world, many will be tipping him to complete the triple and win the Masters and the World Championships in 2012, can he do it?
Runner up: Stuart Bingham
Stuart Bingham has been a pro since 1995 but has failed to reach his full potential. After narrowly missing out on a top 16 place due to losing to Ding Junhui at the Crucible he hit back straight away at the start of the season by beating the likes of Ding and Shaun Murphy on the way to the Australian Open final where he came from 8-5 behind to beat Mark Williams 9-8. The rest of the season were less than impressive from Stuart but he still sits in the top 16, can he win another major this year?
Best Break of the Year
Stephen Lee - China Open
Stephen Lee was really up against it facing the then recent German Masters champion Mark Williams who was still in staggering form as he made four centuries in the best of 9 match. For Mark though it wasn't enough as Stephen who has been described as having a 'Rolls-Royce' cue action, produced one of the most amazing breaks of his career to beat Mark in the decider to win 5-4.
Unfortunately for Stephen he lost in the quarter-finals to Ding Junhui, but he will probably forever own the unique achievement of winning a best of 9 5-4 with the opponent having made four century breaks. Stephen now sees himself back in to the top 16 for the first time in a few years, can he remain there and challenge for titles once again?
Runner up: Stuart Bingham - Australian Open
Stuart Bingham fought from 8-5 down to force the decider with Mark Williams in the Australian Open decider and after some scrappy play he found himself in an impossible situation and was forced to take the cross double on. It went in and produced what would be a crucial amount of points to win the title. See the break here.
Bloggers Player of the Year
A few weeks back I polled some of snooker's top bloggers who they thought should be player of the year and obviously the overwhelming favourite was Judd Trump! For many reasons including those explained above, Judd impressed in 2011 and during the UK championship along with friend and fellow pro Adam Duffy they coined the phrase 'naughty snooker' which was described as by Judd 'Just like normal snooker, but a bit naughtier!' Whatever it is, it worked and now Judd is the one to beat in 2012.
Runner up: John Higgins
Finishing just one vote ahead of Mark Selby for the runner-up spot is John Higgins who came back strong in 2011 after missing half the year of 2010 due to suspension and won the Welsh Open, Hainan Classic, Scottish Professional Tournament and most importantly his 4th world title at the Crucible in May. How many will John win this year?
Best New Event of 2011
This one was a tough category to decide but the CaesarsCasino.com Snooker Shootout was my clear winner. Unlike the other events where they just took traditional snooker to new/underused territories, Barry Hearn came up with the concept of a one-frame, ten minute shoot out tournament featuring the games top 64 players.
Apart from relative unknowns getting some major television exposure, there were some exciting conclusions to matches, century breaks and much more and the real star of the show was the Tower Circus in Blackpool where the event was held. The perfectly round arena which held the World Championships many years before the Crucible gave a great atmosphere to the event and crowd attendance was great throughout.
Nigel Bond won the event last year, and it is coming back at the end of the month, find out the draw and how to get tickets here.
Runner up: German Masters
No one would expect how popular the first staging of the German Masters at the Tempodrom in Berlin would of been weeks before the event. Crowd levels at the 2500 capacity venue were consistently high and it was fully packed out for the final where Mark Williams and Mark Selby came out like rock stars to a fantastic reception. This event definitely has a place on the calendar for many years to come.
On Q Promotions Player of the Year
As voted for by you (winner to be announced shortly) Northern Ireland's Mark Allen is this year's On Q Promotions Player of the Year. Mark impressed at the recent UK Championships beating Adrean Gunnell, Ali Carter, Marco Fu and then Ricky Walden to reach his first major ranking event final where he performed valiantly to come from 8-4 down to 9-8 behind Judd Trump but narrowly missed out in the end.
Having also recently getting engaged to girlfriend Kyla, Mark looks to be settled and happy on both sides of the fence. Lets hope 2012 will continue well for Mark as well as 2011 finished.
Runner up: Dominic Dale
Coming in with the next highest amount of votes is the the former Grand Prix & Shanghai Masters champion Dominic Dale who recently moved to the UK from Vienna. Like Mark he also has had a good year, reaching the final of PTC10, the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and narrowly losing to eventual winner Judd Trump in the first round of the UK Championship.
One to Watch in 2012
Martin Gould's progress has been steady in the past few seasons and recently during the Power Snooker Masters he won his first pro title and now sees himself in the top 16 for the first time in his career. I believe the Londoner will be tough to beat throughout 2012 as he won't have to worry about qualifying events which will make him fresher for the PTCs and the televised events as well. I predict that by the end of the year Martin will have won at least one major televised event.
Runner up: Jack Lisowski
Having reached the televised stages of the German Masters and Welsh Open in 2011 and finishing comfortably in the top 48 of the rankings, Gloucester's Jack Lisowski should have another great year, I fancy him to qualify for either the Crucible or the televised stages of the UK championship and finish in the top 32 by the end of the year.
Maximum Snooker Player of the Year 2011
What else is there to be said about this year's Maximum Snooker Player of the Year? His exciting, unpredictable style of snooker delighted audiences all year round and at the age of 22 who's not to say that he will go on to win many more ranking events including the world championship? All eyes will be on the Bristolian at the Masters in a few weeks and if he can re-create his form from York it will take his opponents a lot to stop him.