Players from the mainland could occupy half of the world’s top 16 players in the future, according to UK and world champion.
Chinese snooker players could dominate the sport in the near future, says the world’s top player, Mark Selby.
The Englishman, winner of the UK Championship and World Championship last season, is in town for the HK$3.1 million Hong Kong Masters beginning at Queen Elizabeth Stadium on Thursday. The four-day tournament is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty.
“In five or six years’ time half of the world’s top 16 players could be Chinese,” said Selby, who spearheads the field which also includes John Higgins, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Barry Hawkins and home favourite Marco Fu Ka-chun.
“In China, if you go to a local snooker club, they are always busy but back in the UK, sometimes they are busy but a lot of them are closing [down].
“Chinese players like Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong, who are only 17 or 18 but are already doing very well, and players like this will have a good future.
“In the UK, I don’t think we have many up-and-coming players who could do really well or win a tournament.”
While Chinese players such as Ding Junhui, Liang Wenbo and Xiao Guodong have enjoyed success by winning or reaching the final of ranking events, Yan and Zhou pulled off a major surprise when lifting the World Cup trophy in Wuxi, near Shanghai, last year.
Selby said the spread of snooker to China and other countries such as Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong could only benefit the game.
“Before when you talked about snooker, it’s only England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales and that was quite boring,” he said.
“It’s good for the sport if it spreads worldwide and it can only get better for the players because if it is doing well in Hong Kong, we can have more tournaments in Hong Kong and if it is doing well in China, we can have more tournaments in China.”
At 34, Selby is one of six players who have twice won the “Triple Crown” – World Championship, UK Championship and the Masters – and has a chance to break Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles
“There is still a long way to go as I have less than half,” said Selby, who won three of four World Championship finals.
“A lot of players say if anybody could beat that record, I am probably one of the few. If you look at other players [world champions], O’ Sullivan may only play a number of years, same as Higgins.
“I probably have another eight to 10 years and if you look at that, probably yes, but it is really difficult to get to seven.
“My target is only to maintain the world number one [position] as long as possible and try to win as many tournaments as possible.”
Selby will take on Neil Robertson, the 2010 world champion, in the first round of the tournament on Thursday, while home favourite Fu meets Hawkins in another match.
Two former world champions, Higgins and O’Sullivan, will meet in another first-round match on Friday which also sees a clash between Trump and Shaun Murphy. The winner of Sunday’s final will walk away with a HK$1 million prize.
“It’s going to very tough as all the top players are here, a bit like the Masters in London where you don’t have to worry about the draw,” said Fu.
“I am not looking any further than the first round and whoever wins it won’t be a surprise.”
(the source: South China Morning Post)