The final chapter in a series of articles takes a look at each campaign from the Crucible Era.
The 2012/13 snooker season was another busy season in the fledgling Barry Hearn era, but two contrasting streaks of success and failure stood out above all else.
In May 2012, Ronnie O’Sullivan captured the World Snooker Championship for the fourth time in his career when he made his latest threats to quit the sport.
Many thought it was just another one of Rocket’s little tantrums and that he would soon be back competing for jackpots in the most lucrative event.
But snooker was changing, going where the days when the sport would take a long summer vacation between campaigns, was instead replaced by an action-packed June through May schedule that effectively forced players to compete year-round or face the rankings. consequences.
O’Sullivan, who for years had a love/hate relationship with the game, wasn’t keen on joining Hearn’s business-like ideology, claiming that he The previous manager was “blackmailing” the players.
Away from the table, O’Sullivan was also dealing with family difficulties, suffering from glandular fever, and generally trying to maintain his fragile mental health.
For once and then following up on his threats, ruling out a single loss in an undescribed PTC event at Gloucester, O’Sullivan was not seen again until he returned to Sheffield at the end of the 2012/13 snooker season.
When he entered the World Snooker Championship that year, there was a lot of hype about whether he would be able to pull off his cobwebs and compete for the main title again.
It has since been noted that what happened is one of the best championship performances in the history of the sport.
O’Sullivan not only defended his crown, but he completely annihilated his competition and was rarely upset throughout the 17 days of the marathon.
One-sided victories against Marcus Campbell, Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham brought him back to the singles table lineup, where he defeated Judd Trump 17-11.
Earlier in the term, Trump triumphed in the inaugural international tournament in China to briefly lead the recently overhauled two-year rolling ranking system, but was unable to produce his A-game upon his return to the round of four at the Crucible.
The final opponent was Barry Hawkins’ surprise package, whose success in the previous season of Snooker Shoot Out transformed him from a skilled player of sorts into a reliable contender for silver titles.
Hawkins won the July Australian Open at Australian Goldfields with a 9-3 victory over Peter Ebdon in the final, and his subsequent title-winning run at the Crucible included victories against Deng Junhui and the Triple Crown chasing Mark Selby.
Hawk played superbly against O’Sullivan, but there was only one winner and the latter racked up six tons for an unforgettable 18-12 performance that cemented the first successful crucible defense of any player since 1996.
O’Sullivan may have been ranked outside the world’s top 16 after his hiatus, but if anyone had any doubts as to whether or not he was the best player in the world, they were crushed hard by his unbelievably impressive display.
Stephen Lee was one of the notable players missing from that edition of the World Championship, despite being ranked in the top 16 for most of the campaign.
In October, the five-time ranking event winner was suspended with immediate effect after a controversial 4-2 loss to John Higgins in a Premier League outing.
It seemed clear to the fans that Lee, who at one point led by a score of 2-1, was guilty of missing chances that could have taken the match to a decisive point on purpose.
The England player was only recently acquitted of allegations of match-fixing, but authorities have gone deeper after this latest ploy.
Lee, who turned pro that same year with O’Sullivan and Higgins, was widely advertised as having the best move in the game, and his comment coincided with his recent return to the form he’s seen regularly appearing at the end of business for tournaments. repeatedly.
In fact, the 37-year-old had just won an Asian event at PTC in Yixing in the weeks before his glaring stumble on TV in the Premier League.
Lee was out on the main round for the remainder of the 2012/13 snooker season, and while an independent investigation was ongoing, new evidence emerged of a number of his matches from previous years – including at the 2009 World Championships when he lost 10-4 to Ryan Day in first round.
It took until September of the following season for a ruling to be reached, and that was damned – the longest ban ever handed to a player.
Lee, who was judged to have affected the outcome of seven matches in 2008, when he reached the Masters final, and in 2009, he was suspended for 12 years.
Around this time, snooker, a sport that had always been closely associated with gambling but now has more and more industry-related tournaments in terms of sponsorship, began to fall increasingly and more frequently against match-fixers.
Whether or not this war was won is questionable, but Lee’s heavy judgment sent a message to the players that if you were caught, you wouldn’t get off easily.
For the Premier League, it was a stain on what happened to be the final chapter of their long run in the schedule, with Stewart Bingham’s 7-2 victory over Trump marking the last time the competition was held.
There were victories elsewhere for the usual invitees. John Higgins won the Shanghai Masters, Neil Robertson won the China Open, while Mark Allen defended the World Open.
The season-opening Wuxi Classic kicked off a campaign of five ranked events in China overall, with Ricky Walden appearing by his name on that trophy to achieve a second career success.
Shi Wuxi’s Ding Junhui won the PTC Grand Final while Ali Carter took home the title of German Masters in the superb Tempodrom, which quickly became one of the all-time favorites on the track.
Player of the season, though, was Mark Selby, and despite losing to Hawkins in the World Round of 16, the Englishman finished the 2012/13 snooker season as world number one – a feat at the end of the term that would become the Leicester man’s regular repeat in the years coming.
Selby triumphed in all successive big laurels, defeating Sean Murphy in the UK Championship final before replicating a 10-6 success against Robertson to claim his third Masters title.
The clown was missing one precious possession from his group, but that soon changed.