A lot could potentially change in the next nine or ten months.
With the 2021/22 snooker campaign set to commence on Sunday, let’s take a look at some of the potential rankings stories that could develop this term.
The Championship League launches the new season, and so far there are 17 ranking events in total scheduled between now and next May.
That means there will be plenty of opportunities for the players to shift their rankings momentum, but there are still some early indications as to what may transpire.
World Number One
At one point during the last campaign, Judd Trump led at the top of the world rankings list by almost £1 million.
But with defeat in the quarter-final stage of the World Snooker Championship, the 31 year-old failed to defend the majority of the enormous ranking points he earned from his 2019 conquering at the Crucible.
Mark Selby’s success in Sheffield thus saw him dramatically narrow the gap, and at the end of the season the Jester finished just over £100,000 shy of Trump’s target.
Selby was a dominant world number one for several years during the last decade and has been open about his desire to return to the helm of the sport.
Having accumulated more prize money than Trump throughout the 2020/21 campaign – £820,500 to Trump’s £573,500 – and with the latter having to defend his record-breaking haul of six ranking titles from the 2019/20 term, Selby is well placed to usurp his fellow Englishman at some point during this upcoming campaign.
Despite having failed to acquire any silverware during the last term, Ronnie O’Sullivan could potentially threaten the world number one position on the rolling two-year standings if he manages to return to winning ways, albeit the Rocket would probably have to do it before the 2022 World Championship where he’ll be defending £500,000.
Australia’s Neil Robertson is also in the conversation and not too far behind his rivals after a season in which he triumphed in two lucrative events, the UK and Tour Championships.
There are three established players who will have work to do during the 2021/22 campaign if they are to avoid dropping outside the top 16 in the world rankings.
Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire, and Mark Allen may all currently boast top 16 status, but there is no guaranteeing they will be ending the new season within that elite bracket.
Ding’s current place among the top eight is completely reliant on his surprise 2019 success in the UK Championship, points that he’ll have to defend in December.
The Chinese number one has rarely featured at the business end of events since then and was only 25th on the one-year list of rankings from last season.
Northern Ireland’s Allen, whose problems off the table have been well documented, didn’t fare much better despite being the last man standing at the invitational Champion of Champions.
Allen’s only quarter-final appearance in a ranking event was in the Gibraltar Open, and the former Masters winner has quite a lot of earnings to defend in the first half of this upcoming season.
Maguire, meanwhile, had the worst season of any of the top competitors last time around, suffering early exits in the majority of tournaments he participated in.
The Scot remains in ninth place on the official rankings list thanks to his triumph in the lucrative 2020 Tour Championship, but having only tallied £45,000 during the last campaign, the former world number two seems to be in a spot of bother.
Other than his breakthrough major glory in the non-ranking Masters, Yan Bingtao didn’t have the strongest of campaigns last year either, so the 21 year-old, tenth in the official rankings at the moment, could equally be looking over his shoulder if he doesn’t improve quicky.
By contrast, there will be chances for several newcomers to make their way into the top 16 for the first time in their careers.
China’s Zhou Yuelong was unfortunate to conclude the last term just outside the section in 17th place, but the former European Masters finalist was 12th on the one-year list and will definitely threaten for a maiden berth at the Masters in January.
Elsewhere, Jordan Brown began last season outside the top 64 and on a fresh tour card with zero ranking points, but his shock victory in the Welsh Open catapulted him into the top 40.
The Northern Irishman finished last season in 13th on the one-year list, and a few deep runs in ranking events during this campaign could see him challenge for an automatic spot at the Crucible.
Jamie Jones is in a similar position, and despite being currently ranked as low as 55, the Welshman similarly has no points to defend and should be much higher up the pecking order come the climax of the 2021/22 term.
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It’s very, very early to be discussing the top 64 race and the potential tour survival talking points come the end of the 2021/22 snooker season.
But in terms of the notable players who have been struggling for form, former UK and Masters champion Matthew Stevens sticks out as one of the obvious to keep an eye on.
The Welshman is officially ranked as number 36, but his earnings of a mere £27,000 from last season were good enough for just 66th on the one-year list.
In addition to Gary Wilson, former ranking event winners Mark King, Michael Holt, and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh all failed to amass many points during the 2020/21 campaign.
Of course, a single improved performance in any of the rich ranking events over the course of the upcoming term would be enough to see any of these players bolster their ranking positions.
With the action imminent, it will be interesting to see how some of these rankings stories develop over the course of the campaign.
Featured photo credit: WST