It was a decade which served up some terrific matches, full of skill and drama that proved whatever problems there may have been off the table, the product on the table has never been better.

Many matches stand out, too many, in fact, to mention here. For that reason, I am limiting this review to finals only.

Hand on heart, I would say the best final of the decade was between John Higgins and Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2006 Wembley Masters.

This was two of the greatest players of all time on top of their games going toe-to-toe right to the final ball.

When O’Sullivan missed match ball red to a middle pocket by a couple of millimetres in the decider, Higgins produced the best clearance of his career, 64, to land the title.

It was a fitting way for the Wembley Conference Centre’s last ever match to end.

Deciding frame finishes of course always throw up plenty of excitement, especially in finals.

O’Sullivan had three years earlier beaten Higgins 10-9 to win the Irish Masters. I remember in the decider he refused to roll up behind the brown after potting a red and instead blasted it into the middle before going on to win match and tournament.

This was part of a golden run of finals in 2003 that began when O’Sullivan beat Stephen Hendry 9-6 to win the European Open in a final that nobody saw because the tournament wasn’t televised.

I saw it and the standard was superb, although not as high as their British Open final a few months later, which included five successive centuries. Hendry won 9-6 in what was arguably his finest performance of the decade.

And the Crucible final that year saw Mark Williams hold off Ken Doherty, who recovered from 11-4 down to 12-12 before losing 18-16.

Williams’s first world title triumph in 2000 had seen him come from 13-7 down to edge Matthew Stevens 18-16.

Peter Ebdon felt the pressure at 17-16 up on Hendry in the 2002 final but admirably held himself together to win the decider.

And Higgins’s 2007 victory over Mark Selby was dramatic because of the way Selby came back at him, from 12-4 down to trail just 14-13 before the Scot stepped it up to win 18-13.

The previous year, Graeme Dott and Ebdon fought out a long but fascinating battle which Dott won 18-14.

The last ever Embassy sponsored world final saw Shaun Murphy outlast Stevens 18-16 in what was a gripping battle.

Murphy would lose 10-9 to Stephen Maguire in the 2008 China Open final, a match which kept a nation riveted until gone midnight.

At the Masters, Paul Hunter won three 10-9 deciders in four years, victories which hugely boosted snooker’s profile and proved its ability to produce exciting matches featuring dynamic characters the public could easily identify with.

The first Masters final of the decade brought heartbreak for Doherty, who missed the black off its spot for what would have been a 147 against Stevens, who compounded the misery by beating him 10-8.

Indeed, Doherty endured his fair share of disappointment in finals, also losing 10-9 to Williams in the 2002 UK Championship final.

Williams also came from 8-5 down to beat Anthony Hamilton 9-8 and win the 2002 China Open in Shanghai. I will always give Anthony credit for his refusal to make any excuses and blame anything other than his own lack of nerve as the pressure grew.

At the Welsh Open, O’Sullivan came from 8-5 down to beat Steve Davis 9-8 in 2004 and edged Hendry 9-8 after a terrific contest in 2005. Remarkably, this is the last time any player has successfully defended a ranking title.

The 2007 Welsh event saw unlikely finalist Andrew Higginson storm back from 6-2 down to lead Neil Robertson 8-6 before the Aussie fell over the line at 9-8.

In 2008, Mark Selby outdid O’Sullivan sufficiently to come back and beat him 9-8.

Though close finals tend to be regarded highly and remembered fondly, there were a number of superb performances by players winning easily.

O’Sullivan featured in the first of these this decade when he swept aside Ken Doherty 10-1 to win the 2001 UK Championship. Maguire did similar to David Gray in 2004 and O’Sullivan then thrashed Maguire 10-2 in 2007.

The Rocket also powered to a 10-3 victory over Higgins in the 2005 Masters final and beat Ding Junhui by the same score in 2007.

Ding, treated to great hostility by sections of the Wembley crowd and completely outplayed, tried to concede at 9-3.

For me, though, the best single performance has to be Higgins’s remarkable four successive centuries and 494 unanswered points against O’Sullivan in the 2005 Grand Prix final because it was a spell of utterly unstoppable snooker.

The 2000s was a decade in which standards across the board improved and the titles were more shared around than ever before.

And, my word, some of the snooker was sensational.


snookerfanatic said...

What about the 2009 Masters final Dave? I can't remember another final having me so captivated since the 2006 Masters you had at number 1.

And it's a shame some of the classic semi-finals weren't included because often a semi produces the match of the tournament. Take Higgins v Robertson at this years Grand Prix as an example, and then you had the O'Sullivan v Murphy needle match at the same stage in 2007 and the classic Selby v Murphy Crucible semi-final where Selby came of age.

jamie brannon said...

My top 5 performances are:
1. O'Sullivan v Ding masters 2007
2. O'Sullivan v Higgins Masters 2005
3. Higgins v O'Sullivan grand prix 2005.
4. O'Sullivan v Hendry 2008 World semi
5. Selby v Lee Masters 2008

I know people will go here is another comment banging on about Ronnie, but for me his Masters wins in 2005 and 2007 were more complete than Higgins Grand Prix win. Against Ding Ronnie hit four centuries and three nineties and had 97 per cent pot success rate for 13 frames, Higgins outside his sensational four century burst did not win another frame in one visit. In 2005 O'Sullivan also had 97 per cent success for potting and both of these displays were just as unplayable if not more so as his level especially against Ding was maintained from 2 nil down for longer than John did. I want to point out though that I'm not detracting from John, display it is was the best I have ever seen from him.

jamie brannon said...

My top 5 matches
1. Hendry v Ronnie 2002 World semi final.

2. O'Sullivan v Higgins 2006 Masters final
3. Ebdon v Hendry 2002 World final
4. Higgins v Robertson 2009 Grand Prix semi
5. Hunter v O'Brien 2001 Masters final
To be honest I have rushed this list and may have forgot matches and I can see why Dave kept it too just finals. I chose the top 1 as it had needle, but the standard was excellent as two most talented players ever went toe to toe until Hendry pulled away in the final session. I was still a Hendry fan at the time so I was well pumped after this which was in stark contrast to the Bank Holiday Monday of that championship when snooker's greatest slaphead took a thrilling final which for a younger fan like me was our Davis v Taylor.

Anonymous said...

There you go again Brannon. It's all about O'Sullivan for you isn't it? Where is the match between your beloved O'Sullivan and "snooker's greatest slaphead" (as you disgracefully called him) in the World QF in your list.

Oh no, that wouldn't be in there would it because:

1 O'Sullivan lost
2 There wasn't a century break in every frame.

The fact that it had, not just snooker fans but, all sports fans talking about it for days is irrelevant in your very very blinkered world.

Anonymous said...

Did Jamie really say "snooker's greatest slaphead" :0 lmao naughty boy James!!

jamie brannon said...

If you actually look at my list you will see that Ronnie lost 2 of the five matches I selected. That match against Ebdon was a disgrace to snooker the way he slowed up and I say that as a Hendry fan at that time. I have wasn't sure whether to say slaphead as in a way I could be seen to lowering myself to insults, but it was a compliment I mean there have been a few balding players so Ebdon should feel proud that he is the best. I won't totally lie though I am not a big fan of Ebdon, but I still give him his due. I feel that he deserves a blog post by Dave in his 2000's series as this has been his most prolific decade.

Anonymous said...

I bet Peter would be shouting from the rooftops to be known as the world's "greatest slaphead".












Anonymous said...

Jamie - unless every game is full of high breaks you don't seem to appreciate the skill on offer. The Ebdon v O'Sullivan match was a classic as it showed a totally different aspect to the game, namely the psycological battle that develops - especially at the Crucible.

Your follow up statement about Ebdon...

"I have wasn't sure whether to say slaphead as in a way I could be seen to lowering myself to insults, but it was a compliment I mean there have been a few balding players so Ebdon should feel proud that he is the best."

...does you no credit, and you should try to embrace all the different styles on offer in the modern game.

Anonymous said...

Nearly 8 years on and it still hurts to think about that match.Stephen how did you lose.Quite strange that of all the snooker i've watched my favourite and least favourite matches took place within a couple of days of each other.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was about the greatest finals and not just matches overall. For me, they are:

1. Williams v Stevens 2000 WC final
2. Hunter v O'Brien 2001 Masters final
3. Hendry v Ebdon 2002 WC final
4. Hunter v O'Sullivan 2004 Masters final
5. Robertson v Higginson Welsh Open 2007 final

jamie brannon said...

Hendry v Ebdon was not all about breaks and I included that match in my top 5. I dont see why the Ebdon comment has caused a stir, people within in the game always joke about Thorne's shiny pallet. John Parrott and Ken Doherty said Ebdon was wrong in 2005 and Matthew Syed called him a cheat and Ebdon showed no class by then trying to sue Syed, which he failde to do thankfully.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for you and the other O'Sullivan fans, the sole judge of fair play is the referee and he decided that Ebdon was playing within the rules.
The point is, there are more ways to win a snooker match than by making big-breaks every frame, something which I believe you fail to grasp!

jamie brannon said...

Colin Brinded in my opinion did not apply the rules as perhaps he should have. I have always appreciated great safety play, and like the more methodical players. Alan McManus is in my top 5 favourite players of all time.

Anonymous said...

Jamie - Colin Brinded was the sole arbiter of fair play, and not once did he mention Ebdon's pace of play to him.
The last session was dramatic, tense and an amazing spectacle. And all without a decent break of any note registered by either player.
One final point - you didn't refer to Ebdon as the "world's greatest slaphead" in your original post, you called him "snooker greatest slaphead" which is entirely different. Either way, I doubt Ebdon would shout anything of the sort from the rooftops.

Anonymous said...

2002 World Final, Ebdon V Hendry, Final frame, Ebdon fouls the green ball with his cue but doesnt call a foul on himself. Watch it!!!
I have never respected him after this! And i had money on Hendry to win so it was doubly painful!