Yan Bingtao’s stunning victory over John Higgins to claim the Masters title in Milton Keynes on Sunday night could prove to be a seminal moment in snooker’s long-predicted power-shift towards the east.
No fewer than 19 Chinese players currently inhabit the world’s top 100, and here, the PA news agency picks out the five most likely candidates to follow in Yan’s wake.
No less than John Higgins hailed the 22-year-old Zhou after being knocked out of last year’s UK Championship. “He’s got a great temperament and all-round game, and he’ll be here for years to come,” said Higgins. Currently ranked 21, Zhou has already reached two ranking finals.
In terms of raw talent, few come close to the 23-year-old over whom Ronnie O’Sullivan fawned: “He (Zhou) is like the Federer of the snooker world, no lie. He is beautiful to watch.” An extraordinary potter, Zhou has so far reached three ranking tournament quarter-finals.
Currently ranked 53, Yuan boasts a string of wins over star names like Higgins, Mark Williams and Kyren Wilson, and has the praise of Stephen Hendry ringing in his ears. “He’s one of the best youngsters I’ve seen since the likes of Ding, Ronnie, Mark Williams or John Higgins turned pro,” gushed Hendry.
The 18-year-old Chang earned a two-year tour card in 2019 and made his mark the following year by beating Mark Allen en route to the third round of the UK Championship, where he was nudged out in a final-frame decider by his compatriot, Zhou.
Rookie Pang Junxu takes ANOTHER scalp! Stephen Maguire the victim.
Breaks of 102 & 54 forced a decider, and a 95 secured a place in the last 16.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) December 1, 2020
The 20-year-old Pang has enjoyed a remarkable debut season on the tour, beating Barry Hawkins to reach the fourth round on his debut at the European Masters, and sinking Stephen Maguire to repeat the feat in his first appearance in the UK Championship.