Big break: China will dominate snooker within 15 years, says governing body chairman Barry Hearn
Ding Junhui is currently the highest-ranked Chinese player at number 17.
World Snooker chief Barry Hearn believes the top 16 players in the world rankings will be half-filled by Chinese cueists within 15 years.
The chairman of the governing body made his claim during an interview with BBC World Service Sport against the backdrop of the ongoing 2016 World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield.
“Over the next 10-15 years, China will dominate most sports. The government are pouring money in,” said Hearn, who has been World Snooker’s head for the last six years.
“Do I want to see the top 16 players all Chinese players? Do you want to see a draw between all Chinese players? The system is there, if they are good enough, to do exactly that.”
The Chinese number one is Ding Junhui, who is currently ranked 17 in the world after enduring a difficult season. He was forced to progress through three stages of qualifiers in order to make the first round proper of the world championship.
Ding, 29, yesterday held off a gutsy late fightback from his first round opponent Martin Gould to progress to round two where he will face either Englishman Judd Trump or fellow Chinese Liang Wenbo on Sunday.
Ding is the most successful Asian player of all time having won no fewer than 11 ranking tournaments during his career.
“It is inevitable one day [that Ding Junhui will win the World Championship],” Hearn said.
“He hasn’t had the best of seasons but that may make him the most dangerous player in the field – he has no pressure.
“If Ding happens to win it, it will be a big boost to the game in China and bring in the start of an era with more and more Chinese players.
Snooker’s governing body has identified the Asian market as its strongest potential source of revenue and has stepped up its charm offensive in the region in recent years.
The Shanghai Masters and China Open are two of just nine ranking tournaments on the snooker calendar.
The body provided support for a number of promising Chinese youngsters, including Ding Junhui, to continue their development in Sheffield, England, as well as establishing a number of exhibition events across China in recent years.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s 2015 world champion Ng On-yee became the first Asian female to be invited to compete in the qualifying stages of the men’s World Championship. She was eliminated in the opening round of qualifiers.