Ahead of the upcoming World Championship, let’s have a look at how the top 16 seeds have been getting on during the interrupted 2019/20 campaign.
Yan Bingtao’s season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start as he captured his maiden ranking title with victory in the Riga Masters in July.
The opening ranking tournament, which took place almost a full year ago, had a depleted field after travelling woes forced the likes of defending champion Neil Robertson and many others to withdraw.
Yan took advantage, edging Alan McManus and Li Hang in deciders en route to the final, where he outplayed surprise package Mark Joyce.
The 19 year-old became the first teenager since countryman Ding Junhui in 2007 to claim a ranking title, and it helped to continue his rapid rise that culminated in him joining the top 16 for the first time.
That said, Yan Bingtao’s season has been a little up and down since that triumph in Latvia.
Several early exits followed, and a semi-final appearance at the UK Championship proved too little too late in his quest to gain an invitation to the prestigious Masters for the first time.
However, that performance did signal his intent to finish the term strongly, with further last four appearances coming in the Welsh Open and the Shoot Out.
The money earned throughout the campaign saw him comfortably qualify for the lucrative Players Championship – the second leg of the Coral Series in which invitations are given based on the one-year rankings list.
Yan impressed with victories over Kyren Wilson, Joe Perry, and Shaun Murphy as he reached the final in Southport.
World number one Judd Trump ultimately proved too difficult a task to overcome in the title decider, but Yan has shown that his overall consistency has improved.
Whether or not that remains relevant following months of inactivity remains the obvious question mark.
In his first outing upon the resumption of play in June, Yan lost to Mark Selby in the quarter-finals of the Tour Championship.
Of course, Yan could meet reigning world champion Trump again at the World Championship as soon as the second round if both manage to negotiate their opening hurdles in Sheffield.
Just one of numerous young Chinese competitors beginning to emerge as realistic threats, Yan’s greater tactical astuteness has arguably been the key difference between his separation from the likes of contemporaries Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong so far.
There are some tipping Yan to go far in Sheffield this year, but a difficult quarter of the draw, that not only includes Trump but also the in-form Stephen Maguire, suggests that he might find that tricky on what will only be his second time competing in the sport’s flagship competition.
Still, it would be foolish to write him off completely, and in fact his all-round game could be just the winning formula for the long 17-day slog.
Featured photo credit: WST