​MD's BLOG - 5 TO WATCH OUT FOR IN 2016/17 (HOW DID THEY DO?)


Last June I picked 5 players, from outside the top 32 in the World Rankings, who I felt could make an impact over the upcoming 2016/2017 campaign. With all 5 now out of the World Championship, I thought I'd revisit my selections and see how they did.


To read the original article, please click on this link here.



JIMMY ROBERTSON

In truth Jimmy had a bit of an indifferent season, but it certainly finished on a high when he qualified for the Crucible for the third time in his career where he severely tested Mark Allen before being ousted 10-8.


Whilst Robertson didn't make the real latter stages of events this year, he remained consistent in picking up wins and prize money. Of the 17 tournaments he was involved in, he failed to cash in just 4 of them.


During his clash with Allen in Sheffield, Jimmy made 9 breaks of 50 or above. This proves how he can score handsomely.




MARTIN O'DONNELL

Unfortunately the season didn't go to plan for Martin who finished 74th in the World Rankings and 13th on the One-Year List, therefore relegating him from the professional circuit.


His term didn't start too bad after cashing in both the Riga Masters and Indian Open. However, in 9 of his next 10 events he lost in the opening round, giving himself a mini-mountain to climb in the end stretch.


O'Donnell very nearly achieved it though. He won a match at the Gibraltar Open and then made the Last 32 in Beijing at the China Open. He went to Ponds Forge and ousted Jackson Page 10-9 before going down to Hammad Miah 10-7 in the penultimate qualifying round.


The extra £4,000 he would have claimed if he'd won that match would have put him just inside the top 8 of the One-Year List and thus rewarding him with a guaranteed fresh 2 year card.


Still only 30, though, O'Donnell has time to achieve his dreams. I believe he will be entering Q-School in Preston next month. Surely he will be one of the favourites to get back on.




ZHOU YUELONG

Wow! What a campaign for the Chinese teenager who looks set to finish inside the World's Top 32 after just his third season on the top tier.


A former World Amateur Champion and World Cup winner for China, Zhou has continued to gradually improve and achieve new personal bests. The key to his success is really his consistency - this season he won 25 matches and banked over £81,000 in prize money.


He appeared in his maiden major ranking Quarter-Final at the Welsh Open and made the Last 16 in the International and UK Championships. To top it off he then won a trio of matches to qualify for the Crucible for the first time.


The most encouraging aspect is that Zhou is definitely improving with experience. How high could he go next season?




HOSSEIN VAFAEI

After so many setbacks and frustrations during his short career with visa problems, this very talented 22 year old from Iran has made himself a name on the professional stage this past season. 


There had been signs before this could come, but this was the first time Hossein has had a long, uninterrupted spell on the pro circuit. His impressive results have firmly put him inside the world's top 64; preserving his professional status for next season - and you should imagine, for a long time to come.


His breakthrough was at the Northern Ireland Open back in November when he reached the Quarter-Finals before going down to eventual champion Mark King. However, his highlight was in Beijing when he went one better in making the Semi-Finals. On route he eliminated the in-form Judd Trump in the Last 8.


​What makes Vafaei's achievements more remarkable is that he still had to withdraw from events at the start of the season, and suffered opening round defeats. He also very nearly qualified for the Crucible, but lost 10-8 against Tom Ford in the final round at Ponds Forge. The £12,000 he earned there allowed him to finish 59th in the rankings.




AKANI SONGSERMSAWAD

AKA 'Sunny', Songsermsawad has been a bit of a revelation on the circuit this season.


With a very particular, rhythmic cue action, according to Alan McManus, Akani practises more than anyone else on the tour. He is starting to reap the rewards already.


This was actually Sunny's second year on the circuit, although his rookie year saw him enter just the World Championship because of funding issues. The 2015 Asian Under 21's Champion from Thailand has kept his professional status for at least the next two years, though, courtesy of finishing top of the One-Year List with £37,500 in prize money.


In just his second event as a professional at the Indian Open, he sensationally got to the Quarter-Finals before losing to Kyren Wilson 4-2. He also had Last 32 finishes at the Northern Ireland Open and German Masters, as well as a string of other match wins.


However, his most notable victory was against this season's Masters finalist Joe Perry during World Championship Qualifying 10-9. Akani nearly joined fellow Thai Noppon Saengkham in making a Crucible debut, but lost to David Grace 10-3 in the last qualifying round.



Some of the pictures above are courtesy of World Snooker.




Written and published by Michael Day on the 24th April 2017


Our Friends...