ZHAO AMONG LATEST BATCH OF 2018 Q-SCHOOL QUALIFIERS
Jordan Brown, Zhao Xintong, Craig Steadman and Lu Ning are the second quartet of players to have graduated from the 2018 Q-School at the Meadowside Leisure Centre in Burton. All four players now have a guaranteed professional tour card for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 campaigns.
Brown was the first player to make it through on Friday afternoon. He secured a return to the top tier after defeating Jamie Cope 4-1 in the last qualifying round. This will be his second stint on tour after a one-season spell in 2009/2010.
During his route through he eliminated 11-times World Women's Champion Reanne Evans and in the penultimate round former World Championship Semi-Finalist Andy Hicks.
It was pretty much 'third time lucky' for Brown who narrowly missed out on a tour card when losing in the last round to Jak Jones a few days ago in Event 1, where he led 2-0 before seeing his opponent win four in a row. During February he was also defeated in the final of the European Amateur Championship in Bulgaria by Harvey Chandler, in what was another avenue onto the circuit.
The current Northern Irish Amateur Champion will join fellow countrymen Mark Allen, Gerard Greene and Joe Swail next season.
Lu makes a professional return after an absence of two seasons. Having lost in the Last 16 last Saturday, he opened up his bid with a 4-3 win over Andy Marriot - the only time up until his last match where he dropped more than one frame.
The former World Under 21 Champion sealed his passage with a 4-2 success against Mitchell Mann and was the last player to go through.
Straight back into the Big-Time
Exciting young Chinese talent Zhao immediately bounced back from his relegation last month following a 4-1 victory over Thailand's Dechawat Poomjaeng. For the excitable Poomjaeng it was the second event in succession in Burton where he was denied at the final gate.
Zhao has shown glimpses of his natural ability over the last two years, most notably when he knocked in a brace of centuries against Ronnie O'Sullivan on television at the 2016 English Open. Ultimately, though, his results were not good enough and he was relegated straight away.
His attacking and free-flowing approach makes him a popular member of the tour for many fans. Perhaps he can look at recent Crucible qualifier and countryman Lyu Haotian, who had the same fate after his opening two seasons.
Steadman is another player returning to the big-time straight away – he saw off David Grace and Lucky Vatnani in the Last 32 and 16 respectively before stopping Adam Duffy 4-0 in the final round.
It is the third consecutive time that Steadman has been successful in Q-School having graduated in 2014 and 2016 too.
All four join fellow graduates Sam Baird, Sam Craigie, Jak Jones and Hammad Miah from Event 1. It means all eight players who have got through so far are returning to the professional circuit, with six of them only relegated during April (Brown and Lu being the exceptions).
The third and final event takes place between Saturday-Thursday. Once again, the four semi-finalists will secure tour spots, although this is their last opportunity.
Immediately following this at the venue will be the first of ten World Snooker Challenge Tour events where the top 64 players who didn't graduate will be invited to take a spot on this new second tier of the sport.
A ranking list will determine these 64, with a point gained for every frame won across all three events at Q-School. This list may also come into play as a 'top-up' list next season where World Snooker events are not fully subscribed by professionals.
Image above is courtesy of World Snooker
Written and published by Michael Day on the 25th May 2018