The final chapter in a series of articles takes a look at each campaign from the Crucible Era.
The 2013/14 season boasted scores of ranking events, a new record for the number staged under this mode at the time.
One of the players who took full advantage of the increased opportunities was Ding Junhui, who had finally been at the peak of his strength for a long time, even though she was.
Despite turning 26 by the time the 2013/14 pool season began, Ding’s accomplishments have already been the source of much discussion among analysts and fans alike.
So far, Ding has already been a six-time ranking event champion – a number that included a double in the UK Championship – and a Masters winner.
But his failure to build on his early promise as a devastated teenager, particularly at the Crucible Theater in Sheffield where he struggled with a dismal record, has already left some questioning his fragile temper.
Ding broke into the arena by capturing the 2005 China Open on his 18th birthday, thus igniting a massive wave of snooker’s popularity in the Asian country.
The former U-21 amateur world champion was and still is so beloved by his Chinese fans that the pressure on his shoulders was at times too heavy to bear, and this often led to sub-par performances on home soil.
When he then triumphed at the 2013 Shanghai Masters with a 10-6 victory over compatriot Xiao Guodong in the final, much of that burden was suddenly lifted.
Deng’s confidence was carried forward in the next ranking event, the kick-off of the Indian Open as he beat home champion Aditya Mehta in the decisive showdown.
Fast forward a few more weeks and he was at it again, this time again in China for the lucrative international tournament in Chengdu when he beat Australian Open winner Marco Fu 10-9 in a thrilling finale.
For the first time since Stephen Hendry in 1990, a player won three ranked titles in trotting, and Ding had another Hendry record in sight.
The 2005 and 2009 UK champion needed two more wins in the ranking event to equal Hendry’s previously untouchable record.
Ding’s streak concluded after running out of gas in the UK Championship won by Neil Robertson, Australian defending champion Mark Selby to add to his Wuxi Classic season opener success.
But it wasn’t long before he was back, rising to the occasion in front of 2,500 snooker fans at Tempodrom in Berlin to lift the German Masters Cup at Judd Trump’s expense.
Just a month later, Ding had his first chance to equal Hendry’s record-breaking five when he faced Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the Wales Open – the final edition of the event to be held at the Newport Centre.
The missile did not take such Long period of gap as in the previous campaign, but missed big parts during the first half of the 2013/14 snooker season.
When he played, he seemed to win, especially in the unranked events where he thrived among the high-quality participants.
O’Sullivan triumphed in the inaugural Champions League with a 10-8 victory over Stewart Bingham, then defeated Selby in the Masters final.
At this time, despite the fact that there is a relatively new two-year rotation system for the world rankings, the ranking is still determined by a strange points formula.
A slate of earnings alone will only be carried out in the subsequent campaign, so despite winning two previous world titles, O’Sullivan has been seeded outside the top 16 as a result of failing to enter most of the standings. events.
By contrast, Ding was rapidly rising in the rankings and by the end of that calendar year he would be at number one for the first time in his career.
However, in the Wales Open final, Ding wasn’t the favorite, and so he proved dominant O’Sullivan had more success, capping off a superb display with a superb break 147 in the final frame that sealed the first prize.
Another month later, Ding returned to Beijing, where he conjured a second chance to match Hendry’s two-decade-old record of five titles ranked in one campaign.
In front of cheerful home support, he made it to the final where he duly beat Robertson with a score of 10-5 which would, for the time being at least, write his name in the history books.
The World Championships were only two weeks away and his first title on the Crucible stage seemed within reach.
But Deng’s disappointment in Sheffield continued incredibly 10-9 down against Michael Wasley It is considered one of the biggest crucible disorders of all time.
That coveted world title at the end of the 2013/14 snooker season would instead be one more person to savor.
Aside from Deng, most of the talk in preparation for the tournament focused on whether O’Sullivan would be able to secure three times, and aside from frightening against Joe Perry in the second round, the England man answered all of those questions by qualifying for another final.
With his third consecutive championship and sixth World Championships at stake, O’Sullivan faced off against Selby, a player he had recently dubbed the “tortured.”
Selby, often through his performances in the Masters, earned him a reputation as a master of brinkmanship and a protagonist who never knew when he had been beaten.
But nevertheless, Jester’s record in the rankings event finals to this point in his career has been mediocre at best, with his defeat to Shaun Murphy in the World Open final in March representing his eighth disappointment from 11 games at that point.
When O’Sullivan took a 10-5 lead in the World Championship match, it looked as if the misery pattern would continue.
However, Selby decisively won the last two frames of the first day to trail with just three frames overnight, and thanks to his late-night efforts, he quickly returned to level terms on Monday afternoon’s bank holiday.
The key to the transformation was Selby’s talent for controlling the table and making it difficult for his esteemed opponent to make the playoffs.
Once Selby took an 11-10 lead, O’Sullivan had to dig deep but now he was mentally blown, and the former grew strong to eventually pull away and complete a convincing 18-14 success.
Devastated by the loss, it would take years for O’Sullivan to be the same type of animal again in the Crucible, while Selby was about to become unstoppable in Sheffield.
Meanwhile, the beginning of the end for another famous player who was once an unstoppable force at the Crucible Theater.
Steve Davis’ failure to qualify for the 2014 World Championship stages meant the six-time champion was placed outside the top 64 in the rankings to drop out of the main round.
The invitation card extended his career even longer, but Nugget rarely accepted the opportunity to play, and two years later one of the game’s all-time legends banished him for good.