|INTRO | REVIEW BY SPORT | GALLERY | VOTE | LEGENDS REMEMBERED | 2002 CALENDAR|
By Richard Hughes and Pete Sanderson
This was the year Ronnie O’Sullivan finally came of age.
The Rocket, surely the most naturally talented player to grace the game, claimed snooker’s most coveted prize, beating John Higgins 18-14 in a gripping finale to the World Championship.
For years, every corner of the snooker world had plotted O’Sullivan’s downfall, drawing parallels with Jimmy White, a man who never won at The Crucible.
But O’Sullivan proved his doubters wrong to become the first English champion since John Parrott in 1991.
He cemented his place at snooker's top table with a 10-1 humiliation of Ken Doherty in the UK Championship final.
O'Sullivan's victory at Sheffield helped the crowd to forget the fact that two of snooker’s most popular figures – Jimmy White and Steve Davis – did not even qualify for the Crucible.
Snooker’s profile took a further battering when a court case broke out over a proposed breakaway tour which had the support of many of the game’s leading players.
The political wrangle is now finally over and the rival bodies have a chance to work together to improve the running of the game.
Higgins gained some revenge for his Sheffield defeat beating O’Sullivan 9-6 in the Regal Masters final in Glasgow for the Scot’s first victory on home soil.
The world number two also landed the Champions Cup and the British Open.
And he played a vital role in Scotland’s Nations Cup success, linking up with Stephen Hendry and Alan McManus to defeat the Republic of Ireland.
There are whispers around the snooker circuit that the legendary Hendry is set to hang up his cue.
Although he is not the Hendry of old, he continues to turn on the style in the major tournaments, and retirement would certainly be a sad loss to the game.
Elsewhere, the popular Paul Hunter’s rise to the top was confirmed with victory in the Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley.
Only his somewhat controversial antics off the table can prevent him becoming a lasting force.
Ken Doherty landed the Regal Welsh Open and Thailand Masters while Peter Ebdon took the Regal Scottish title.
Welshman Mark Williams kept his place at the top of the rankings thanks largely to his performances in 2000.
But he is destined to make way for O'Sullivan next season.
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