The concentration of no fewer than three ranking event qualifying matches in one week in Preston was bound to produce some winners and losers. For some, the first few events are crucial to their chances of staying on the tour and it is precisely these players that would have been looking to hit the ground running in Preston. So who were the biggest winners and losers of the week?
It’s not so much the dosh that those who won all three matches carried off with them, but more the potential this gives them to add to their money pot and in turn move up the rankings when others around them are sat at home. Some who didn’t progress in either the Indian Open, World Open and Riga Masters, will now have all summer to reflect on this, with nothing to play in professionally until the end of August at The Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.
I spoke to a few of the players when I went over to Preston last Sunday and there was mixed views on whether they liked the intensity of playing in three ranking events in the same week, it’s fair to say that most I spoke to didn’t like the format. Personally, I do, but I’m not a player so I’m allowed to. It brings a nice focus to the sport early on in the season and is followed by a break before the tournaments themselves, but you have to feel for those who have gone home potless. I am still not a fan of snooker so early in the season though.
Add to this that World Snooker didn’t release the tour qualification criteria until two of the tournament qualifiers had finished and you have some disgruntled potters on your hands, though no doubt the response from the powers that be, or to be more precise, Barry, would be to shut up and win, then your place looks after itself. He’d then use his line about the sport being brutal no doubt.
Anyway here is a look at the main beneficiaries and the not so fortunate following their week in Lancashire.
It’s been a great week for my mate Allan Taylor who tops the one season ranking list if you sort it by first name (a minor detail) having qualified for all three overseas events, racking up a minimum of £6525 in prize money. It’s great that The Assassin has started the season so positively and I really hope this is the beginning of a great run for him as a nicer fella you could not wish to meet. Other notable names amongst the 17 players to have started the season in style are Kyren Wilson, Luca Brecel, Zhou Yuelong (Ghou Yolonge) and Anthony McGill, who will all be looking to the future with hopes of really making their mark this season, Kyren in particular is only a ranking update or so away from a place in the very elite of the sport. Some established names are there too such as Graeme Dott, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Ryan Day, Mark King and Dark Mavis (Mark Davis). All these players will have left Preston with a smile on their faces after a top weeks work.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who leave Preston with not a lot to look forward to for the next three months. There are a few in there that you might have predicted would face a stiff challenge but there are others who will leave wondering if they have missed the early season boat, amongst them are Craig Steadman, Scott Donaldson, Paul Davison and Syd Wilson.
There will be players who are in neither camp who will still consider the week in Preston to have been largely positive and it is at this point we showcase the Snookerbacker Classic Champion Sam Craigie, who despite missing out on India, managed to take his first big scalp in Ken Doherty to qualify for the World Open, he also qualified for Riga so has already earned at least £4525 which puts him on a par with the likes of Ali Carter, John Higgins, Joe Perry, Judd Trump, Michael Holt and Neil Robertson. Players like Mike Dunn, Peter Ebdon, Stephen Maguire and Marco Fu won’t lose much sleep having qualified for India and China but not Riga, while Shaun Murphy having qualified for India managed to wangle his World Open match against Sanderson Lam being held over to the main venue by virtue of the fact he was getting married. Those probably less satisfied with their week’s work having only qualified for Riga include Chris Wakelin, Tian Pengfei, Ken Doherty, Sean O’Sullivan and Chen Zhe.
Ronnie O’Sullivan. Igor Figueiredo. Kritsanut Lertsattayatthorn (That’s easy for you to say…). Rouzi Maimati, Mei Xiwen (both only confirmed as Chinese nominations for the tour this week). Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Aditya Mehta had qualifying matches held over to their respective country events but did not enter either of the other two. Mark Allen also opted out of all three events, despite entering Riga, obviously not realising that the qualifiers would be in Preston, he like me is probably not a big fan of this holiday season snooker.
Leo Fernandez was suspended and awaits a hearing over an alleged breach of betting regulations relating to a match in the World Championship Qualifiers. World Snooker believe Leo has a ‘case to answer’ in relation to suspicious betting patterns. The incident does not, I believe, relate to the outcome of the match and rather centres around an incident during it.
You can take a look at all early season rankings here.