My choice of the top ten snooker players in the history of the game.
My main considerations in making this choice were on actual achievements in titles won rather than the influence and excitement they brought to snooker. Particular emphasis is given to the major tournaments in the calendar: the World Championships, The UK Championships and the Masters.
10. Fred Davis (England) – Although the level of competition was nowhere near the present day’s the achievements of the very best players from the early era of snooker can’t be overlooked. It was a hard choice between Davis and John Pulman, both of whom had a long time as world champions but I just went for Davis. He played top level cue sports from 1929 to 1990 succeeding his brother Joe as world champion in 1948. He was champion again in 1949 and from 1951 to 1956, winning the Professional Matchplay title form 1952 to 1956. At billiards he was world champion in 1980 aged 67 to be the oldest world champion in any sport.
9. Alex Higgins (Northern Ireland) – the first of the great entertainers at snooker with a fast, flamboyant style. He won the World Professional snooker championship in 1972 aged 23, at the time the youngest ever champion. He won the title again in 1982 and also won the Masters twice and UK title once.
8. John Spencer (England) – the winner of the World Professional title in 1969 in his first appearance in the tournament. He was one of the leading players of the 1970s and won the title again in 1971 and 1977. He also won the Masters once and the popular television series Pot Black three times.
7. Mark Williams (Wales) – The winner twice of the world championship, the UK championship and of the Masters. He was ranked number one on the world for over three years.
6. John Higgins (Scotland) – four times world champion between 1998 and 2011, three times UK champion and twice Masters champion. Always a very tough match player, especially over the longer distances.
5. Ray Reardon (Wales) – the greatest player of the 1970s, winning the world title six times. His first title was in 1970 and he won it each year from 1973 to 1976. In 1978, aged 45, he became the oldest ever champion. he was ranked world number one for a total of seven years in his career and won the Masters title once.
4. Joe Davis (England) – It is hard to know exactly where to place Joe Davis in the list. He was the outstanding figure in the early era of snooker but the number of challengers was limited. He first won the world snooker title in 1926 and remained unbeaten at the game until 1955, the year he made the first maximum 147 break under championship conditions. He won the world title fifteen times until 1946 and then retired from championship play. In 1928 he became world billiards champion and is the only man to have held world snooker and billiards titles simultaneously.
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan (England) – the most naturally gifted player in history who at his best is unbeatable. He has won the World Championship five times and also has five titles at the UK Championships and the Masters. The only thing that stops him from being top of my list is his occasional inconsistency which cost him a few titles.
2. Steve Davis (England) – The dominant player of the 1980s at a time when the sport was at its height of popularity with the public. He won six world titles and a record six UK championships. He also won the Masters three times and a total of 28 ranking events (second on the all-time list) in a career where he was ranked world number one for seven years.
1. Stephen Hendry (Scotland) – He may not have had the flair of O’Sullivan but he was a tremendous break builder and was mentally very strong. This meant that at his peak Hendry was almost unbeatable in the important matches. He won a record (in the modern era) seven world titles between 1990, when aged 21 he became the youngest ever world champion, and 1999. He won the UK Championship five times and the Masters a record six times. In his career he won a record 36 ranking titles and was ranked number one in the world for nine years.
Women’s snooker is a much less established sport than the men’s game. The two greatest players in history are:
Allison Fisher (England), who won seven world titles between 1985 and 1994, before moving to America to play professional pool.
Reanne Evans (England), who won ten consecutive titles between 2005 and 2014 and is still active in snooker.