It’s been just over a month since the conclusion of the World Championship but the 2019/20 snooker season is already upon us.
Following the climax of Q School earlier this week, the majority of the cueists that will make up this year’s Main Tour are known.
Action for the new campaign will get under way on Monday at Ponds Forge in Sheffield with the qualifying rounds for both the Riga Masters and the International Championship.
Like in recent terms, there is an abundance of opportunities for players on the circuit to fight for silverware.
Up to 20 ranking events are expected to take place between now and next May, when the outcome of the next Crucible crown is determined.
Additionally, there will be several invitational tournaments for many of the competitors to contest.
There’s another hectic schedule in store and, as always, plenty of protagonists will come in and out of the mix over the next eleven or so months.
The likes of world champion Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, and Ronnie O’Sullivan – when he decides to play – will be expected to feature prominently at the business end of competitions akin to how they shared a lot of the biggest trophies between them during the last campaign.
But let’s take a brief look at some of the supporting cast and try to decipher what influence they might impose on proceedings as well.
Five Players to Watch in the 2019/20 Snooker Season
Ever since winning a third world title in 2017, it’s undoubtedly been a tough time for Selby.
The “Jester” managed to hold onto his coveted world number one ranking for as long as possible before the inevitable happened and he relinquished it to O’Sullivan in March.
Selby has still notched up a few ranking event trophies in the interim – all on Chinese soil – but his overall displays have been significantly short of his peak during 2016 and 2017.
Performances in the UK have been especially woeful and it has been queried whether or not the 35 year-old still maintains the same drive as before.
Known as the master of brinkmanship for his ability to salvage desperate situations, Selby has at times looked a spent force.
Yet, losing the top spot in the ranking, a spot he was very proud of holding onto for so long, may be a blessing in disguise.
Selby will enter a new season without the number one ranking for the first time in eight years and this could be just the shot in the arm that the Englishman requires in order to regain his peak form.
The Leicesterman will still be among the favourites for most tournaments in the outright betting markets, with several offers available for bet365 at bettingbonuscode.com.
It would be foolish to completely write off Selby but this 2019/20 snooker season will go a long way in deciphering whether or not his days as a member of the highest echelons are over or not.
It was a marvellous 2018/19 campaign for Gilbert, who came within a whisker of reaching the World Championship final last month.
The “Angry Farmer” had previously embarked on a brace of memorable runs to the finals of ranking events.
That he fell just short of maiden triumphs in both the World Open and German Masters title deciders were eased somewhat by his rise into the elite top 16 for the first time in his career.
At almost 38, Gilbert is nearing the twilight of his tenure on the pro circuit but peers like Stuart Bingham and Barry Hawkins have proven in the past that it’s not too late at that age to make a hefty mark on the game.
Gilbert was understandably emotional in the moments after he lost 17-16 to John Higgins in a gripping last four Crucible tie.
However, the world number 12’s confidence must be soaring and he’ll be hoping to extend his late rise into the new term.
After the likes of Anthony Hamilton, Ryan Day, Joe Perry, and Martin Gould have all etched their names onto silverware in recent years, Gilbert will be seeking to avoid carrying the mantle of being the best player to never win a ranking event.
What an incredible few months it was for the sport’s budding star, James Cahill.
As if upsetting Selby in the opening round of the UK Championship in December wasn’t enough, Cahill repeated his giant-killing episode in even more staggering fashion when he downed Ronnie O’Sullivan in Sheffield in April.
Both victories came against opponents who possessed the world number one ranking at that time, highlighting Cahill’s lack of fear against members of that class.
That he had been competing as an amateur makes the achievement even more remarkable, and sort of dumbfounding.
The 23 year-old will be returning as a professional player for the 2019/20 snooker season, hoping to do better than his initial four-year stint from 2013 to 2017 when he reached a meagre high of just 76 in the rankings list.
Cahill has underlined his credentials when it comes to facing the marquee names at centre stage on the big occasions.
But the Englishman’s next step is to consolidate those displays with victories over lesser opponents in the cubicles at smaller events.
There have been plenty of one-hit World Championship wonders and Cahill could still revert into that category despite the fact many people are, perhaps rashly, predicting impending greatness from him.
Let’s see what the next few months have in store for the nephew of Stephen Hendry.
Zhao Xintong and Chang Bingyu
A lot has been expected of Chinese snooker in the last decade as many still await the wave of Chinese dominance to produce more silverware.
It’s undeniably surprising that Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo remain the only competitors from China to raise ranking trophies aloft.
It has become a bit of a cliche to chime that it’s only a matter of time before this changes, but the fact is that sentiment is almost certainly true.
More and more Chinese players – most of them teenagers or in their early twenties – are being promoted to the pro ranks.
Any number of them could make the leap at any given moment and it is certainly possible that the success of just one could set a chain reaction into motion.
Two players who could be worth keeping an eye on during the 2019/20 snooker season are Zhao Xintong and Chang Bingyu.
Zhao responded brilliantly from falling off the tour in 2018 by immediately bouncing back via Q School and proceeding to reach the semi-finals of the lucrative China Championship last summer.
A steady stream of results helped the 22 year-old elevate himself into the top 64 and, with no points to defend during this campaign, Zhao should soon be challenging for a top 32 berth or even higher.
The former IBSF World Amateur Championship runner-up qualified for the Crucible for the first time this year and pushed Selby hard in the last 32.
Alongside Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong, the trio has been considered the cream of the emerging crop for about half a dozen years.
That said, such is China’s conveyor belt of production that a fresh wave of talent is already breaking through.
A couple of 16 year-olds in Lei Peifan and Si Jiahui graduated from Q School and another had already earned a spot on the Main Tour via his performances on the China Tour.
Chang Bingyu will make his professional debut with plenty of attention on his back, pressure that he’ll have to come to deal with like the rest of the young and aspiring Chinese contingent.
The teenager triumphed in the 2018 IBSF World Championship and it’ll be intriguing to see what kind of impact he can make on his first attempt on the pro circuit.
Everyone is waiting for, and to a certain degree expecting, a new Ding to just announce himself at a young age and take the game by the scruff of the neck.
Could it be Chang? We’ll learn more as this season begins to gather momentum.