Players to Watch in the 2019/20 Snooker Season
The 2019/20 snooker season is underway and a couple of ranking tournaments are already in the rearview mirror. Like every year, there are several elite pros that will be at the forefront, but they will be facing a stern challenge from some young hopefuls and ambitious veterans.
I will list some of the players who I think have every chance of having an outstanding season, so be sure you follow them closely if you’re planning on betting the big ranking tournaments.
Selby has definitely not been the same player since winning his third World Championship back in 2017. “The Jester from Leicester” held on to his No. 1 ranking spot for as long as he could, but finally lost it to Ronnie O’Sullivan this year.
Selby has indeed won a couple of ranking titles in this period, but his performances in the big tournaments have been way below par. He’s had to endure a lot of early exits especially in the UK events and his form at the start of the 2019/20 hasn’t been much different.
This has resulted in him taking a plunge to fifth in the snooker rankings. I expect he will still be among the favorites in the outright betting markets, but until his form picks up, he’s a very risky choice to make.
At 36 years old, this will be a pivotal season for Selby, who will have to prove he can still mix it up with the top talent in snooker.
Trump is on top of the snooker pyramid right now. He finally got his hands on his first World Championship trophy and added the coveted Masters title to his portfolio. He finished the season with two more ranking titles and is currently occupying the No. 1 spot in the rankings.
The “Juddernaut” has carried his form into the new season and has already won a title by beating Shaun Murphy in the International Championship final in China.
Without a doubt, Trump’s focus will be on the Triple Crown events, and he will be the big favorite to win them all. However, with the momentum he’s gained in the last year and the obvious maturity with which he’s playing, he will be a threat in every event he features.
For a long time, short-format tournaments have been Trump’s Achilles heel. Last year, he showed tremendous improvement in the way he handles his tempo in such contests. If this continues, there’s every chance that Trump is in for a record-breaking season.
There’s no telling what this season holds for the “Rocket.” After reclaiming the No. 1 spot in March, everyone thought we’re in for a Ronnie renaissance. However, after his shock exit in the first round of the World Championship, we can’t be sure where O’Sullivan’s head is.
Back in May, he stated that he won’t be taking part in this season’s Triple Crown events. There’s no way for me to tell whether that’s true or not, but I won’t be surprised by it. All the Rocket has been doing recently is telling everyone how sick and tired he is of all the noise around the big tournaments. He doesn’t want to do any media and looks really disinterested in what’s going on in the snooker world.
Having said all that, Ronnie is still sitting at No. 2 in the rankings and already has a title to his name this season. Last season, he entered only 11 events, but won five of them and made two finals. What I’m saying is that if he wants to play, he can still do it. However, we have no clue as to which tournaments he will even bother with.
The Shanghai Masters in which he took part and won is a relatively quiet event, and I guess that’s what Ronnie will be targeting. I still don’t rule out a change of heart here, but until we hear anything about it, I would not make any predictions.
Betting on the Rocket will be really tricky this season, but he’s still a top player. Backing him in the small tournaments he decides to enter is not a bad proposition.
Robertson’s season isn’t exactly off to a flying start. He had to abandon his second-round tie at the China Championship because of illness and wasn’t able to defend his Riga Masters title after his flight got delayed. On top of all that, the Australian had to forfeit his World Open qualifier against Ian Burns, as he somehow managed to take the wrong route to the venue.
Robertson has so far been a good sport in all the calamity, but if he is to improve on his No. 4 position in the rankings, he best get down to business fast. In all seriousness, I think we’re in for another stellar season from the Melbourne potting machine.
He won three ranking titles last year and it seems his personal issues are behind him. Robertson has struggled with gaming addiction in the past, but reports suggest he is in a much better place right now.
We all know what the Australian is capable of when he can fully concentrate on his snooker, so I’m expecting at least a couple more ranking titles for him this season.
I never would have thought that the Welshman would still be in and around the top in 2019. But here he is, still rocking it at 44. He has claimed five titles in the last two seasons, with the obvious highlight being winning the World Championship after a 15-year gap.
This was a resounding statement from the veteran who sits comfortably in the No. 3 spot and doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere. He played some brilliant snooker at the China Championship and was a frame away of claiming yet another ranking title.
Sure enough, at his age, the dip in form will probably come at some point, but there are no indications that it will happen anytime soon. Williams has been as stable as ever and writing him off will be a big mistake.
The thing to keep in mind when betting on Williams is that he seems to be performing better on the big stage and when playing longer formats. I’m not saying he’s in for another World Championship, but I bet he’ll be in the mix when the Triple Crown events come around.
Murphy has not received a lot of attention in the past few years, but he has been making very positive strides lately. He finally broke his ranking title duck and claimed the China Championship trophy in September.
Prior to that, Murphy had last won a ranking event when he prevailed at the 2017 Gibraltar Open. However, during his period of trophy drought, the Englishman made his way to five finals and two semi-finals.
That’s why I believe claiming the China Championship earlier in the season could be huge for him. Murphy undoubtedly lacked a bit of confidence after losing all those finals, but he now looks ready to put this in the past and kick on.
For me, the 37-year-old can be this season’s dark horse. He has all the experience in the world, is still playing top-level snooker, and will be confident heading into the big tournament now that the monkey is off his back.
Gilbert had a brilliant 2018/19 season which saw him reach the World Championship semi-final and break into the Top 16 for the first time in his career. After taking out Joe Perry, Kyren Wilson, and the defending champion Mark Williams, Gilbert was just a frame away of toppling John Higgins and getting to the final.
Despite the disappointing nature of the defeat, this was a momentous achievement for someone who hasn’t won a single ranking title so far.
Gilbert also came close to glory in two other tournaments, the German Masters and the World Open. He couldn’t win any of the two finals, but he can definitely take pride in his performances. He wasn’t outclassed in any of the two encounters which were both narrow losses.
I believe Gilbert has shown great hunger in the past few years and is now playing the kind of snooker that can be a match for any player. He already had some decent showings in the China tournaments this season, so I would definitely back him to win his first ranking title this year. Never write off a 38-year-old who doesn’t want to be labeled as the best player never to win a ranking event.
“Yan the Man” became the third Chinese player to win a ranking event by claiming the Riga Masters earlier this season. This made the 19-year-old the youngest player to claim a ranking tournament since his compatriot Ding Junhui did the same in 2006.
In 2017, he could’ve even broken Ronnie O’Sullivan’s record for the youngest ranking title winner ever, but he narrowly lost to Mark Williams in the final of the Northern Ireland Open.
The signs are all there for Yan to enjoy a breakout season in snooker this year. He is extremely disciplined, can handle the pressure, and now has the confidence of a ranking title winner.
A typical product of the ever-growing Chinese snooker academy, the boy definitely has a bright future in the game. The Ding comparisons are inevitable, but he would be wise to stay away from them and concentrate on his snooker. If he does that, I don’t see a reason why he won’t add to his tally as early as this season.
Lisowski has seen some steady progress in the past two seasons, climbing up to No. 11 in the rankings. Last year, he contested two ranking event finals and made it to the semi-final of the International Championship in China.
There’s no doubt that Jack is a very talented player. He’s already an established Top 16 pro, but I believe the fact that he’s never won a ranking title is what’s stifling his leap to the very top.
The player tends to think too much about it. In both his finals last year, his form was nowhere near the level he was showing in the early rounds. There’s definitely a mental problem there and, so far, Jack hasn’t found the solution.
That being said, the boy is highly ambitious and always plays with a purpose. He will probably need a bit more experience in crunch games against the elite, but he still has time on his side. We’ve seen established players like Joe Perry and Ryan Day win their first titles well into their 30s.
Lisowski is more talented than any of them, so I’m backing him to break his duck sooner rather than later. Of course, there’s always the chance that Jack will remain just a decent player in the Top 16.
However, he has every chance to reach the top if he develops the ability to be ruthless when it matters most.
Cahill is the lowest-ranked player on my list and one that surely has a long road ahead before we can consider him a pro. He first turned professional in 2013, but was unable to hold on to his status and returned to being an amateur four years later.
However, during the 2018/2019 season, things started to pick up for the young hopeful. He managed to qualify for the main UK Championship event and defeat the world No. 1 at the time, Mark Selby. Admittedly, Selby wasn’t exactly playing his best snooker then, but beating him was still a huge achievement for Cahill.
After his heroics at the UK Championship, the player was handed a wildcard invitation to the World Championship qualifying rounds. Cahill managed to progress through all three qualifying rounds and became the first amateur ever to enter the main World Championship event.
Then came his real shot to fame. Cahill was drawn against five-time champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the first round. However, this did not faze the youngster and he prevailed with a 10 – 8 scoreline. Cahill’s victory was proclaimed as the biggest shock in Crucible history, and his status as a giant killer was truly confirmed.
Although he’s still carrying an amateur status, Cahill will be given the chance to qualify for all ranking events in the next two years due to his performances last season.
As I said, this kid certainly has a long way to go. He is still very much inexperienced, and there are questions regarding his training attitude. After beating both Selby and O’Sullivan, there’s always going to be hype around him. But he needs to show consistency against lesser opponents as well.
I wouldn’t be quick to jump on the bandwagon just yet. Let’s see how the boy performs in the next two years. Turning professional in this period will be the first step. If he manages to do that, it will be down to how hungry he is for success. The talent is obviously there, but he needs to put the work in.
This wraps up my take on which players you should look out for this season. As always, there are lots of interesting developments to look forward to. Will Ronnie O’Sullivan indeed miss the Triple Crown events or are those all mind games on his part? Will Gilbert and Lisowski finally claim their first ranking titles?
Are Yan Bingtao and James the future of the sport, or was this all a fluke?
Be sure to leave a comment below and share your thoughts on how things will pan out. In the meantime, enjoy the snooker season and visit our blog regularly for all the latest news, updates, and predictions!