The World Under-21 Championship has been going on in Belgium over the last week and four players remain as junior global glory is in sight.
Two Europeans and two Asians face off against each other in the semi-finals, safe in the knowledge that a couple more victories will all but assure them a ticket onto the Main Tour next season.
Swiss Alexander Ursenbacher already knows what it feels like to compete on the professional circuit having previously qualified during Q-School in 2013.
To emerge into the pro ranks in this manner, though, by capturing a world title at the expense of all of his peers, would arguably be an even greater feat.
The 20 year-old faces Ka Wai Cheung of Hong Kong for a berth in the final.
Ka only squeezed into the knockout phase by winning two out of his initial round-robin encounters but has since rarely been threatened.
In five winning matches since, only Malta’s Chris Peplow took him the distance in the last 32.
On the other side of the draw, 18 year-old Xu Si is hoping to rekindle Chinese dominance in the event after consecutive all-Chinese finals in 2012 and 2013 were followed by triumphs for Iran’s Hossein Vafaei Ayouri and Boonyarit Kaettikun of Thailand.
Xu’s impressive run, with a high break of 135, has included defeats of England’s Joe O’Connor and Pole Kacper Filipiak.
He’ll face another eager European in the last four in Germany’s Lukas Kleckers, who once again finds himself featuring in the latter stages of these international underage competitions.
Kleckers has been on the cusp of amateur stardom for the last two or three years, and how fitting would it be if he could finally move up a step onto the winner’s podium on the same weekend that the Paul Hunter Classic is taking place in his native land in Furth.
German fans have been among the most enthusiastic supporters of snooker during the last decade and are crying out for a player of their own to support – can Kleckers step up to the plate?
Unfortunately, Irish players weren’t able to contest the business end of proceedings with Adam Fitzgerard’s loss to Ben Fortey in the last 32 ending Irish participation.
Out of seven RIBSA players who entered, which seems like quite a lot to send, three failed to make it out of the round-robin stage.
Josh Boileau carried the Irish flag strongly over in these junior international events over the last number of years, mostly alone, so his rise onto the Main Tour following victory in the European Under-21s has left a gaping void to be filled.
A lot of work clearly needs to be done to ensure that Irish snooker remains competitive at this level and isn’t left behind.
Categories: Snooker News