In a category of its personal?
Every year the legend of snookers "Class of 92" – Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams – grows bigger and bigger as the legendary trio continues to compete at the highest level of our sport.
But what about another notable duo that have also enjoyed sustained success over a period of 15 years? Below we look at the achievements of Mark Selby and Neil Robertson and ask if they are underestimated in the ranking of all-time greats in snooker.
The class of & # 39; 92
With the dominance of Steve Davis in memory and a new star in the form of Stephen Hendry in the middle of his golden era, the early 1990s would usher in a new generation of gamers, many of whom would continue to compete at a high standard some 30 years later.
Of these, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams in particular have left an indelible mark on our sport by sharing a total of 89 titles in the rankings, including 13 of the last 23 world championship crowns won. The trio has long earned its place in the snooker hall of fame and continues to be among the top 16 in the world.
While the Class of & # 39; 92 is perhaps the most famous snooker trio, they're also associated with some of the players who went professional at a similar time.
In 1994 the circuit welcomed future world champion Graeme Dott and two-time runner-up Matthew Stevens, followed a year later by Stuart Bingham and Paul Hunter. Another four current pros turned pro in 1996, and Barry Hawkins and Ali Carter both made it to the World Cup finals.
The next generation
It is perhaps the 1998-1999 recording that marked the beginning of the next generation. Six winners of the ranking list, including three world champions, turned pro for the first time in these years.
Marco Fu, Ryan Day and Stephen Maguire have each won multiple ranked events, while Shaun Murphy has won nine other ranked event titles, including each of snooker's legendary Triple Crown Series tournaments throughout his career.
But – at least in terms of the volume of ranked events won – there are two players who stand out in the form of Mark Selby and Neil Robertson, each with an extremely successful career in the sport. To date, the couple has earned 18 crowns each and became number one in the world, two of the many parallels in their respective careers.
Neither had an easy trip up. In Robertson's case, he had the often underestimated challenge of moving halfway around the world to compete in a sport that was then dominated by Britain. It descended from the main tour twice before regaining its spot in 2003 and eventually staying there.
For Selby, the Leicester man had to contend with the death of his father just two months before he started his career at the age of 16 in 1999. His mother had left him eight years earlier.
However, it was in 2003 that both of them made a breakthrough on the World Snooker Tour, Robertson, by qualifying for the Masters for the first time and winning the qualifying tournament, while Selby made his first final at the Scottish Open. Two years later both made their Crucible debut by qualifying for the finals of the World Cup for the first time.
Robertson was the first to win an important title in the rankings with his 2006 Grand Prix. Selby reached his first world finals later in the season, picking up his first cutlery with the Masters and Welsh Open titles in 2008.
Since then, the pair have prevailed in one of snooker's most competitive eras. Both have made their way to the top of the world snooker rankings and won several Triple Crown titles. They share a close head-to-head record, Selby overall (19-15) and Robertson left his ranked matches (7-6) behind.
- 36 ranked titles (57 finals)
- 12 Triple Crown titles (18 finals)
- 2 Champion of Champions titles
- 11 minor ranking event titles
Without a doubt, the pair have been among the most important players of the last decade and continue to be a force at the highest level. Selby had already won silver that season and Robertson had just missed out on the English Open.
But how can your characters hold their own against the big three?
The impossible comparison
For fans of any sport, the search for the ranking of their sizes is obvious. Whether Messi or Ronaldo, Federer or Nadal, Hamilton or Schumacher – or in the case of snooker Hendry or O’Sullivan – opinions will inevitably remain divided.
This is especially true when comparing players from different eras. Although Selby and Robertson shared their careers with the 1992 class, the circumstances in which they turned pro were already vastly different.
We don't want to say that they were better or worse, but rather to find out whether their own performance is comparable and what conclusions can be drawn.
From the start of the 2006/07 season, in other words, the profit margin from Robertson's first title to Selby's most recent win at the European Masters in August, we can see the pair match the class of 92 well.
The couple have recently won 36 ranked titles, just two of the 38 claimed by Ronnie O’Sullivan, 19, John Higgins, 13 and Mark Williams, 6.
With 13 triple-crown titles won by O & # 39; Sullivan alone, four by Higgins and one for Williams, the & # 39; 92 class leads the majors of the sport at 18-12 while Selby and Robertson lead 11-8 in a minor ranking event with titles – ie Players Tour Championship and European Tour competitions.
The early years
But of course the above comparison is not comparable, as it arguably compares the prime years of Selby and Robertson with the later years of O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams.
After the big three turned pro in 1992, they secured an astonishing 52 rankings in the first 15 years, with the trio of O’Sullivan (18), Higgins (18) and Williams (16) evenly divided. By comparison, Selby and Robertson had only won eight between 1998 and 2012, six from Robertson, before Selby really made his move after his first success at the 2014 World Cup.
As with the previous comparison, the picture is not as clear as it would first appear as the snooker landscape has changed significantly since the early 1990s – not least due to the impact of the class of & # 39; 92 itself and the differences in general standard and number of tournaments available.
While it used to be not uncommon for teenagers or gamers in their early 20s to pick up large cutlery, it is far more unusual today than it has been in the past when Yan Bingtao won the 2019 Riga Masters, marking the first win since Ding Junhui's 2006 success Northern Ireland- Trophy.
When Steve Davis won his sixth and final world title at the age of 31 or Stephen Hendry won his great seventh, barely four months after his 30th birthday, few would have expected the success of the "older" players we have seen in recent years as the "high point" of a player continues to be redefined.
It wasn't until he was 29 years old that Judd Trump first conquered the holy grail of snooker in 2019 and is widely expected to be a leading contender for the top honors for many years to come.
Perhaps the most interesting comparison is Selby and Robertson's profit margins since 2006 versus the comparable time span for the big three after O’Sullivan's famous UK championship win in 1993.
On this basis, the 36 titles secured by Selby and Robertson compare favorably to the 52 titles won by Snookers Holy Trinity, while their 12 triple-crown titles differ only slightly on average from the 20 titles claimed by O’Sullivan, Higgins and Williams.
By 2002, the 92s class had each hit number one, at a time when the rankings were updated once a year while Selby and Robertson had that feat in 2011 and 2010, respectively.
Ultimately, such comparison is never the same, and of course, a player's legacy will go beyond mere statistics, taking into account each opponent, their respective head-to-head record and style of play.
While the records of the legendary class from 1992 will hold long after their deaths, it is fair to say that the accomplishments of Mark Selby and Neil Robertson should not be taken for granted or underestimated in this era either.
With all five players still firmly in the top 16 in the world in 2020, time will tell how their respective successes are viewed in the future and what the legacy of not only the class of '92 but also the leaders Graduates will be from the following class …
Article by Matt Huart (@ProSnookerBlog).