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  Tuesday, 7 May, 2002, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Return to the glory days
Australian snooker star Quinten Hann at the World Championship
Quinten Hann came under fire for his scatter break

This has been an exciting, cloth-ripping tournament to rank with the best ever World Snooker Championships.

After a decade in the doldrums, the class of 2002 has breathed life into a sport which seemed destined to join Terry Wogan and Frank Bough in BBC Television Centre's Room 101.

The event had tears and tantrums, sell-out crowds, a record number of centuries and a finale to rival that between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor in 1985.

Peter Ebdon's 18-17 victory over Stephen Hendry, which did not finish until midnight, featured brave pots and glaring misses and was a nail-biting classic.

Ronnie O'Sullivan tore a snooker table's cloth and then criticised Stephen Hendry
O'Sullivan: Headline grabber

But was this the greatest ever championship?

The standard of snooker was certainly the highest in the Crucible's history.

There were 69 centuries in all and Hendry had 16 on his own, both new tournament bests.

This break-building brilliance, combined with two stirring semi-finals, ensured that snooker fans worldwide were glued to their screens.

But it is not just the snooker on the table which makes a tournament.

Crucially, the game's 'personality void' - much lamented since the decline of quirky stars like Alex Higgins, Kirk Stevens and Ray Reardon - may finally have been filled by a varied cast of interesting characters.

World champion Ebdon can take much credit for his rousing display.

Jimmy White is still searching for his first World Championship title
White: Some things stay the same

Typically tenacious but strangely calm in demeanour, Ebdon had large audiences on the edge of their seats throughout.

We expected trademark outbursts after every big, frame-clinching pot, but fascinatingly none came.

Quinten Hann, a talented but volatile player, made a name for himself in his first-round clash with Paul Hunter.

The Australian, who was trailing 4-1, smashed the pack of reds indiscriminately with his break-off shot and duly lost the frame.

Crucible favourite Jimmy White stirred up his own controversy, clattering the reds in frustration at a missed pot when he could have played on and won the frame.

But defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan stole the biggest headlines.

Having ripped a cloth during his quarter-final clash with Stephen Lee, the Rocket then launched an extraordinary verbal volley at his semi-final opponent Hendry.

Matthew Stevens has narrowly missed out at The Crucible
Might Stevens be the next Crucible champion?

"The most satisfying thing for me would be to send him home to Scotland as quickly as possible for a nice summer off," O'Sullivan said.

Fired up by those words, Hendry let his snooker do the talking and sent O'Sullivan back to Essex instead.

With the Scottish seven-times champion back to his best and Ronnie at number one in the world rankings, this feud may well be renewed next year in Sheffield.

It is finely-balanced rivalries like this that are perhaps the most exciting legacy of the 2002 tournament.

Snooker is in a state of flux, having crowned five different world champions in the last five years and many questions remain unanswered.

White returns

Can Ebdon, a long shot to win this year, defend his title?

Will Matthew Stevens, narrowly beaten late on in the last three World Championships, be able to break his duck?

Will Hann perfect the scatter break?

Some things stay constant, however. Having prequalified by finishing in the world's top 16, six-times beaten finalist White will be back in 2003, bidding to end his long title drought.


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