As the new season has just gotten going with the Australian Open qualifiers last week, let’s have a look at some players who have started out either last season or this season that caught my eye.
A player I first saw in the prequalifiers for the Paul Hunter Classic in Fürth, Germany in 2012 (incidentally, if you are going to watch or play in a PTC then I highly, highly recommend this one. Next season the PTC’s might vanish completely, and it’s not yet known what will happen with this one. Take the chance while it’s there!), Oliver Lines was always going to catch the eye as he starts his professional snooker career. His father, Peter Lines, started his 22nd season last week in the Aussie qualifiers, and it is only a matter of time before father and son will compete against eachother in a professional event I’d say. Oliver is clearly more naturally talented than his father, who has a more ‘taught’ style. He’s a fast, fleunt breakbuilder, and I’ve been told he’s an attractive face for the teen girl audience (I’ll take their word for it!). His results last season were very good considering it was his first stab at being a professional, with notable wins over Mark Selby (64 in the International Championship, from 40 down), Ryan Day (42 in a run to the final of Asian Tour Event 2), Mark Williams (43 in European Tour Event 3) and a nailbiting 43 over Matthew Selt in Poland. He achieved the main goal for a season: win more matches than you lose. He won 23 out of his 42 matches, and claimed GBP 27.833 in prize money, a healthy sum in any season, let alone your first. In short, this is a very talented young player, interesting to watch, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he’ll start lifting the silverware!
If you’re actively following the snooker community on, for example, Twitter, you can’t help but have read the name of this young Chinese player. Many high.ranked snooker pro’s including Joe Perry, Matt Selt and Mark Williams have been singing his praise for months, and the reason is clear to see. Having been given wildcard entries into multiple Chinese ranking events, he has beaten the likes of Marco Fu, Ken Doherty, Matthew Selt and Jamie Jones, and he is a real threat for any pro. There has been much talk over the last 10 years or so of a Chinese Revolution in snooker, which I personally don’t believe ever hit the predicted high points, and indeed seems to be waning now, but the fact is this player is the best to come out of China for a while. Mention should also be made of Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao, , both of whom are one step ahead of their countryman by already having made it onto the main tour. Xintong got very close in the recent Q School qualifiers, losing to Alexander Ursenbacher (Switzerland, last 16) and Duane Jones (Wales, quarterfinal), both 43. The match against Jones was to decided who went pro the coming season, and went down to an absolutely nailbiting last black decider. There is a video floating about in Youtube of the last couple of shots, where we see how Xintong misses a fairly decent chance to earn his place, but at a time like that nothing is easy, Jones rolled in the black and let out a scream of delight. Great stuff! So why do I still go on about this guy? Well, his temperament needs a little bit of work, but he mostly just needs experience, and plays with a level of maturity and fearlessness that can only be admired. Remember the name!
￼Q School Graduates
Speaking of Q School, who made it onto the main tour next season, and what of them? Sadly our own champion Rune didn’t make it onto the tour, even though he could probably push himself up to that level, but the fact is that in both Q School events there were about 40 players truly capable of going the distance. A brief note on each of the winners:
● Gareth Allen:A young(ish!) player from Wales who has been knocking on the door for a few years, he’s played John Higgins on telly and had wins over Kurt Maflin, Rory McLeod & Nigel Bond in his amateur career. Very calm player, solid technique.
● Paul Davison:A former professional with 16 professional seasons under his belt, it was an extended dip in form which saw Paul lose his place, but seeing him play in the PTC amateur rounds on two occasions it was frighteningly clear that he does not belong in the amateur ranks. Solid in all departments and a hardened competitor, Davison belongs on the main tour!
● Duane Jones: A similar story to Allen, indeed they are good friends, what is most noticeable about Jones is his patience as a player. He has played Rod Lawler and Peter Ebdon over relatively shortformat matches which took several hours, and kept his cool and composure, plays the right shots and takes the time he needs. Not to be called slow though. Very talented, will need a bit of time to find his feet I think, but his second season could be very solid indeed!
● Jason Weston: Abit of an unknown name for me I must say, Jason has 10 seasons experience as a professional, but lost his place in 2003. He played PIOS (a previous secondtier professional tour) for a year, and then seems to have packed professional snooker in for a bit. He turned up to last year’s Q School and didn’t do very much at all, but caught his form this time round and he’s back on the tour. It will be interesting to see what a slightly older player can do after such an extended break away from the pro game.
● Rhys Clark: One of two Scottish names we have become very familiar with over the last few seasons, mostly thanks to the PTC’s and the Q School topups in ranking events, Rhys has impressed with wins over Kurt Maflin, Mike Dunn and Pankaj Advani in his outings on the pro tour. He’s a very solid, technically savvy competitor who will surely be a handful even for the more experienced players of this world.
● Eden Sharav: His countryman is a name I remember from the very early start of the PTC’s, the very first event held in June 2011 at the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, where this Scottish kid with a funky name who nobody had ever heard of showed up and started beating pro’s. He beat Liang Wenbo, Adam Duffy and Gary Wilson on his way to the last 16, which showed us all that this boy can play! Whilst not reaching those kinds of heights very often, Eden has become a familiar face in ranking events and PTC’s, has a heavy scoring, solid game and could be the next big thing out of Scotland!
● Daniel Wells: A talented Welsh player who in his previous outings on the main tour (5 seasons in total) has been far from impressive, it has to be said. Rarely coming close to winning 40% of the matches he played, it is perhaps strange to see his name in this list. Why is he there then? Well, to put it simply, he is a much better player than his results suggest. I think he mostly struggles with nerves, and should work on turning his mind on blank and just playing his own natural game, rather than thinking he’s playing Ronnie O’Sullivan for a place in the last X of huge tournament X. The
occasion at the end of the day doesn’t matter, snooker is about you, the table and the
balls. Let it flow!
● Sydney Wilson: An extremely pleasant person to talk to who is mean as hell on the
table is this young Englishman, who has impressed in his young career with wins over Marcus Campbell, Gerard Greene & Robbie Williams. Perhaps this was one of the more predictable winners of a Q School spot. He doesn’t have a great deal of wins over pro players, but if you look at the Q School field as a whole he was always in the top 10 for me. He has a lot to learn, as do all the young pro’s, but he has a very positive atitude and is willing to work for his right to win. Eyes on Syd here!
Written for Snooker Magasinet