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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 November, 2003, 17:56 GMT
Snooker: Williams shines amid chaos
By Saj Chowdhury

Mark Williams
On Sunday 12 October 2003, Mark Williams achieved something very few players before him had managed.

He was the new LG Cup champion and holder of all four BBC titles.

The last person to have swept up snooker's unofficial Grand Slam was Stephen Hendry in the early 1990s, but unlike the Welshman, his efforts did not take people by surprise.

Williams came into 2003 on the back of a thrilling 10-9 win over Ken Doherty in the final of the UK Championship.

Prior to picking up his second UK title, the left-hander had gone 26 months without victory on home soil.

It was a much needed boost for a man who said he wanted to crash his Ferrari into a wall after falling to Anthony Hamilton in the second round of the 2002 World Championship.

Next came glory in the final ever Benson and Hedges Masters at Wembley, where he cruised past Stephen Hendry 10-4.

It was sweet revenge for the man from Cwm, who had lost to the seven-time world champion in the Regal Welsh final, the previous month.

Williams then went on to cap a superb season by beating Doherty 18-16 to win his second World Championship.

But while the marvellous finale left the sport on a high, down at snooker HQ, trouble was brewing.

The WPBSA, snooker's governing body, terminated its contract with sport's commercial arm, World Snooker Enterprises after their "inability to perform under the terms of the contract".

It was felt that WSE had not been able to attract new sources of income to compensate for the loss of tobacco sponsorship.

Fears for snooker's future were heightened when all financial backing for the women's game was withdrawn.

With just days remaining before the official start of the 2003/2004 season, the WPBSA announced a new package incorporating seven events and a Order of Merit which came under the banner of the LG Electronics Tour.

The rejuvenated look still did not mask the fact that the WPBSA were still on the hunt for new sponsors.

So on the day of Halloween 2003, Sir Rodney Walker, the former chairman of UK Sport, the Rugby Football League, Leicester City, Wembley Stadium and last year's Commonwealth Games, was appointed the boss of snooker's commercial arm.

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Fans and those in the game will be hoping Walker can collect as many treats as possible during his tenure.

While Williams and snooker politics stole the headlines this year, for the right and wrong reasons, there were other stories worthy of note.

Six-time world champion Steve Davis qualified for a place in the top 16 for the 2003/2004 season to join fellow veteran Jimmy White who kept his.

Meanwhile Ronnie O'Sullivan picked up successive titles in March, the European Open and Irish Masters, before growing his hair and telling the world he had not converted to Islam.

Snooker's pin-up boy Paul Hunter decided to go one better and braid his locks.

He also managed to appear in the remake of Superstars and play his part in one of the greatest semi-finals seen at the Crucible.

Perhaps the saddest story of the snooker year was the irreparable damage to Hendry's cue he had used since the age of 14.

But as with every cloud there was a silver lining, as the canny Scot bounced back, with new cue in hand, to win the 2003 British Open.

Hendry also made the final of the UK Championship at York, but lost 10-8 in a dramatic showdown against Welshman Matthew Stevens.

Stevens had overcome a resurgent Jimmy White in the semi-final and recovered from 0-4 down in the final to claim his first ranking title.






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