There’s now less than a fortnight to go until the first ball of the snooker season is struck.
The sport’s summer break seems to be getting shorter and shorter as Barry Hearn continues to pack the calendar with lots of playing opportunities – there’s never been a more lucrative time to be on the professional tour.
With the Riga Masters beginning in July, The Sportsman asks the people in the know in the game who are the dark horses to watch out for in the new campaign.
Snookerbacker – Chris Wakelin
“I’ve had my eye on him for a few seasons now and I think he is ready to step up following his Crucible debut. While plenty have suffered a post-Crucible debut hangover in the season that followed, I don't think this will happen to Chris. I think he will use it as a springboard to greater things. His main advantage to me is his shot selection and a good temperament; two essentials to succeed in the modern game. I would like to see him establish himself in the top 32 and perhaps push for a ranking semi-final this season.”
Cluster of Reds – Luo Honghao
“This young Chinese player is one of the many rising newcomers in the snooker world and hit the headlines by completing his first maximum at just 16 years of age. He is the 2017 IBSF World Under-21 runner-up and won the WSF Championship to qualify for the main tour this year. Last season he beat four professionals including top 16 player Anthony McGill to reach the last 16 of the China Open. It will be incredibly exciting to see what Luo can do in his debut season; he’s definitely one to watch."
The Old Green Baize – Elliot Slessor
“Anyone who can beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in convincing fashion twice in a single season is certainly worth a close look at. Slessor showed his full repertoire in the snooker world last season. He is blessed with good positional play and has a fine eye for a long pot. He will be hoping for more success as he aims to climb up the rankings. The snooker world has already taken notice, now he needs to be more consistent.”
GWSnookerTips – Kishan Hirani
“Hirani is one of only two UK-based rookies on the tour from Q School this season looking to make a splash in the big pond. He’s been a leading amateur for a good while now, but never had the promotion from amateur onto the main circuit. He’s a very calm player around the table. I think his relaxing manner mirrors a bit of fellow countryman and world champion Mark Williams. When he’s in the balls, it’s poetry in motion. He gets the ‘balls talking’. That’s a sign of a very accomplished player when you can do that.”