After each tournament this season, we’ll be taking a brief look back at three things learned from the concluded action on the calendar.
So without further pause, let’s dissect three things learned after the climax of the Riga Masters on Sunday.
Yan Bingtao’s Moment has Come
It’s incredible to think that Yan Bingtao is still only 19 years-old.
The teenager has been around for several seasons now following his initial success in the 2014 IBSF World Championship at amateur level.
A year later, the Chinese superstar partnered Zhou Yuelong to an unexpected glory in the World Cup.
At the Northern Ireland Open in 2017, Yan came within a single frame of eclipsing Ronnie O’Sullivan’s two-decade long record of being the youngest ever ranking event winner.
As it is, his Riga Masters triumph means he’s the first player under the age of 20 to win a ranker since compatriot Ding managed to claim three by that time in 2005 and 2006.
Yan is at the forefront of a new wave of Chinese competitors who look set to finally live up the huge expectations laid on their shoulders.
The impatience of some critics is mind-baffling, with many on social media chiming that the Chinese contingent are underachievers and bottlers.
The fact is that the majority of these players are still young – under 30 or in the case of Yan, Zhou, Zhao Xintong, Luo Honghao, and Yuan Sijun hovering in or around the 20 years of age mark.
They’ll be around near the top of the game for many years to come and it’ll be interesting to see what immediate impact Yan’s victory will have.
Okay, most of the stars weren’t there in Latvia but that hardly matters now with Yan’s name etched on the silverware.
The future is looking brighter again for Chinese snooker.
More Opportunities for Maiden Ranking Event Winners
A lot of factors came into play in allowing Yan to win his maiden ranking title and become only the third Chinese to achieve the feat.
The likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, John Higgins, and Mark Allen not entering obviously played a role.
Numerous other players failing to show up due to shoddy flight plans helped too – but more on that later.
After several years of hardly any first-time champions, there have been more than ten since 2015.
Your 2019 @kaspersky Riga Masters champion, Yan Bingtao!
He’s the first teenage ranking title winner since Ding Junhui in 2006 👏
A 5-2 win over Mark Joyce makes him the third Chinese player to win a ranking event #RigaMasters pic.twitter.com/1AEw5MXG9t
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) July 28, 2019
This is in part due to more playing opportunities but also because the lower ranked contenders are getting an increased chance to compete with so many of the elite picking and choosing throughout the campaign.
There were no top 16 players in the quarter-finals in Riga, which won’t happen too often.
But it does help to prove the point that these smaller events could continue to produce debut winners, with young stars like Yan, or journeymen like runner-up Mark Joyce, gaining their chance to shine in the sport’s limelight.
Last Minute Madness
There were more than five weeks in between the early-season batch of qualifiers in June finishing and the opening day of the Riga Masters on Friday.
Even for those who took part in the World Cup, like England’s Kyren Wilson, there was a period of almost four weeks to sort out travel plans to the Latvian capital city.
But no, leaving it to the last minute seemed to be the best idea for a handful of clever clogs.
Sometimes there are events that are run back-to-back and it’s impossible to organise the trip to the next destination in any other way but on the eve of a tournament.
However, this was far from the only option for the 2019/20 season opening competition.
Why the likes of defending champion Neil Robertson thought that it was a good idea to book a flight to Riga so late, when there was an enormous amount of time to play with, almost defies belief.
There’s no questioning the fact that these players were unlucky to suffer delays and ultimately flight cancellations from Luton Airport on Thursday.
But these things can happen and it’s hard to have much sympathy for them when there was such little reason to be taking the risk in the first place.
Perhaps a valuable lesson has been learned for some.
Yes it was still an interesting tournament in some ways. We will see how the other Chinese players react to Yan’s win: his friends will want one! Let’s not forget Lyu Haotian who never seems to get recognition he deserves, who nearly won in India. It also sends a message to Ding Junhui. At least it means there will be a Chinese representative in the Champion of Champions.
Also notable were the players who were not able to take the opportunity to win a tournament: Selby, Lisowski, Maflin, Thepchaiya.
Although there have been these opportunities for less well-known players to win, with the demise of the Indian Open, European Masters, and PH Classic, these chances may not come up so often in the future. I can’t help thinking that Barry Hearn’s appearance in Riga was more about hoping to keep the tournament from falling off the end of the tour.
Captain hindsight here,
When you travel do you book a flight 3 days prior just in case.
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