Ronnie O’Sullivan was the player of the decade, in terms both of most titles won and in the way in which he bestrode the sport as its biggest draw and brightest star.
The 2000s began with O’Sullivan in some personal distress. He checked himself into the Priory Clinic to receive treatment for addiction and depression but despite some well publicised blow ups, kept himself on an even enough keel to realise his full potential as the decade wore on.
On the final night of the 2001 World Championship, O’Sullivan watched as former winners of the title took part in a ‘Champions Parade.’
Ridiculously, Jimmy White was invited to take part, despite the fact he had never won the title.
O’Sullivan looked on as his friend, six times the Crucible runner-up, took his applause and resolved never to put himself in the same position.
He would beat John Higgins in arguably the highest quality of all 10 world finals staged during the decade. Theirs was a rivalry born out of friendship and mutual respect. At the end of the final, Higgins told him he was happy for O’Sullivan’s father that he had won the title, a gesture much appreciated by Ronnie junior.
More titles came: a total of three world crowns, two more UK trophies to add to the two he had won in the 1990s and three more Masters victories in addition to his 1995 success.
But there were slumps as well, including a two and half year gap between winning ranking titles at the 2005 Irish Masters and 2007 UK Championship.
O’Sullivan took instantly to the Premier League’s shot-clock and, with one to go, has hoovered up every title under the format – five in a row, taking his total haul from the decade to seven.
He achieved a level of consistency hitherto lacking in his career and spent a total of five years as world no.1.
There were, of course, headlines for other reasons, ranging from the explosive to the bizarre.
O’Sullivan was extremely unwise to bad mouth Stephen Hendry in such graceless terms before their 2002 Crucible semi-final, which Hendry devoted every conceivable ounce of energy and concentration into winning.
In 2006, he walked out of his match against Hendry at the UK Championship, a gross lapse in professionalism to some, proof of the debilitating effects of his depression to others.
In China in 2008 his crude behaviour in a press conference was front page news, although it soon began to look like a lot of fuss about very little.
The cracks in his fragile character were laid bare at the Crucible in 2005 when he went to pieces as Peter Ebdon grimly ground him down in their World Championship quarter-final.
Yet it is these very human qualities that have endeared O’Sullivan to so many. And it is he, more than any other player, who has drawn new fans to the sport, particularly in areas such as Europe and China where snooker has grown in considerable ways in the last ten years.
O’Sullivan cannot boast the consistent record Hendry enjoyed in the 90s but has been responsible for many of the most memorable moments of this decade.
In 2007, he made a century in each of the five frames he won against Ali Carter in the Northern Ireland Trophy.
The same year he ended an epic UK Championship semi-final against Mark Selby with a maximum.
He lost two terrific Masters finals in deciders, first to Paul Hunter in 2004 and then to Higgins in 2006.
And he destroyed Higgins in the 2005 Wembley final and then Ding Junhui in 2007, putting together snooker Steve Davis described as “unplayable.”
For O’Sullivan, this was a decade in which, for all his frailties and love-hate relationship with snooker, he came of age as a player.
Our sport should consider itself lucky to have him.