Snooker review 2013
Last Updated: 13/01/14 8:23pm
Stephen Lee was handed 12-year ban from snooker for match-fixing
Snooker continues to grow in terms of tournaments and prize money under Barry Hearn, but in a year full of incident it was marred by match-fixing headlines with Stephen Lee banned for 12 years after the biggest controversy to ever hit the sport.
It was also another year full of Ronnie O'Sullivan news, as he made a sparkling return to the baize to claim a fifth Crucible title despite playing just one competitive match throughout the season up to the start of the World Championship.
His future career is still very much in the air as he continues to struggle with the day-to-day life of a snooker player on an expanding Tour, but he still has the thirst when it comes to the big events, especially the Worlds.
As Ronnie slid down the rankings, Neil Robertson was heading in the other direction and he ended the year as the World No 1, although after such huge controversial news off the table, he sadly won't be what snooker is remembered for in 2013.
Pick of 2013...
Lee match-fixing scandal
Stephen Lee was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and banned for 12 years for what snooker officials called the worst case of corruption they'd even seen in the sport - although Lee has vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
The charges go as far back as 2008, which is the only thing that saved Lee from a life ban as the punishment had to reflect the rules as they stood and not the current ones, which would be an automatic life ban for anyone found guilty.
Barry Hearn insisted that the result was a positive one for snooker, as it proved that match-fixers would be caught and that the game had the best corruption unit in sport, but it still left a sour taste in the mouth.
Lee has already launched an appeal, but if unsuccessful the five-time ranking event winner cannot return to action until 2024 when he will have just turned 50, so his career could well be over.
Hearn could have done without Ronnie O'Sullivan's comments immediately after the ban was announced, as he claimed he knew of much more corruption in the snooker world - comments he later cleared up though after feeling the heat from World Snooker bosses.
You just can't keep Ronnie O'Sullivan out of the headlines, but as much as you can question his decisions off the table, on it there's no doubt he's among the best ever and he showed this yet again as he came back from essentially a whole season off to claim his fifth World Championship title.
The Rocket arrived at the Crucible with just one competitive match under his belt after an initial six-month break basically turned into a season off, but he played some of his best snooker as he hit a record six centuries in the final to become just the third man to retain the title at the Crucible.
An 18-12 win over Barry Hawkins, and the manner of his play throughout the tournament just emphasised what a natural talent O'Sullivan is. He will not be seen too often at the regular Tour events but does at least look like he'll be back in 2014 looking to make it a hat-trick of Crucible victories.
Record breaking Ding
Ding claims hat-trick
A so-so year for Chinese No 1 Ding Junhui until the autumn when he went on a remarkable run of form to pick up three ranking event titles in a row, becoming the first player to claim a hat-trick since Stephen Hendry way back in 1990.
Ding first beat Xiao Guodong in the first ever all-Chinese final in a ranking event to win the Shanghai Masters in September, before doubling up at the inaugural Indian Open in October and sealing the hat-trick at the International Championship a fortnight later.
The final against Marco Fu was a classic with Ding hitting five centuries to win it 10-9. He ends 2013 back up at No 3 in the world rankings after his brilliant run of ranking event wins.
Aussie back on top
Robertson ends as No 1
A fine end to the year for Neil Robertson as he claimed the UK Championship to become just the eighth player, and the first overseas star, to complete the 'Triple Crown' of the UK, the World Championship and Masters titles in their careers.
Robertson beat World No 2 Mark Selby in York to settle the argument over who the best in the world was, for now anyway, and the Aussie left-hander will be the man to watch in 2014 for the rest of the season.
Robertson also won the China Open in March and the Wuxi Classic in June, and he is targeting more of the big trophies starting with the Masters and then, of course, the World Championship at the Crucible.
He may be 56, but six-time world champion Steve Davis is still plugging away on the main snooker Tour, although he is down at 58 in the rankings and struggling to make regular ranking events.
The Nugget can still mix it in the senior ranks though, as he showed in October by claiming his first World Seniors Championship, his 81st professional title and the tidy sum of £18,000 first prize when beating Nigel Bond in the final.
Davis also got the chance to exact some revenge on Dennis Taylor for that famous 1985 Crucible final win as he beat his old nemesis 2-0 in the first round in Portsmouth en route to lifting the crown.