Could Chinese snooker players make an impact next season with a record number of touring professionals?
World No 6 Ding Junhui will lead a growing band of mainland cueists who will try their luck against the world’s best with teenager Yan Bingtao a future prospect
Chinese snooker players competing on the men’s professional tour are growing in numbers with a record 24 cuesman from the mainland set to compete in the new season kicking off next month.
Leading the mainlanders for baize glory will be world number six Ding Junhui, a 15-year veteran of the professional circuit, as the Chinese team will have two additional members who will try out their luck this season.
Ding is the only Chinese player to have tasted major success having won 13 ranking titles but China are ranked second only behind powerhouse England with the most players in the pro ranks among the participating nations. England has been dominating world snooker for many years and have a headcount of 55 players, including world number one, Mark Selby.
The influx of mainland players could tilt the balance of power one day with Selby saying last year in Hong Kong that China would play a more important role in the sport “sooner or later”.
Ding remains China’s leading player having made his professional debut in 2003. Nicknamed “the Dragon”, Ding lifted the 2017 Yushan World Open, his 13th ranking title, after putting on a superb display to brush away Kyren Wilson 10-3 in the final.
But it’s up-and-coming Yan Bingtao that has caught the eye as a potential champion. In just two seasons on tour, Yan is the world’s best teenaged snooker player, climbing to 23rd in the rankings.
In November, he came within a frame of beating Ronnie O’Sullivan’s long-standing record as the youngest player to win a ranking event. Three months before his 18th birthday, Yan, who was born in 2000, was narrowly edged 9-8 by Mark Williams in the final of the Northern Ireland Trophy.
If the youngster from Shandong Province continues to improve in leaps and bounds, Yan will surely be lifting trophies and climbing into the top 16 before long.
Hong Kong also has two players on tour for the first time in a decade after Andy Lee Chun-wai made a return following his third placed finish in the Q-school number three. The 37-year-old last appeared in the tour after securing the berth through the 2008 English Pro Ticket Tour play-offs.
Marco Fu Ka-chun stays 18th in the world rankings after his season was hit by an eye problem.
The new season kicks off with the 2018 Kaspersky Riga Masters in Latvia from July 27 to 29.