Professional snooker is back so here are six players to keep an eye on during the new 2022/23 snooker season.
What a breakthrough 2021/22 campaign it was for Zhao Xintong.
After years of promise and expectation, the stylish Chinese competitor finally announced himself as a major contender.
A magnificent success in the UK Championship was quickly followed by a second ranking event triumph at the German Masters.
Zhao has risen to number six on the official world rankings list, but surrounding those magic moments were a lot of early exits in competitions too.
It will be interesting to see whether the 25 year-old can replicate the kind of form he demonstrated in York and Berlin on a more consistent basis.
Last season was a disappointing one for Jack Lisowski overall, but there was some promise at the end of it with his World Championship run.
A terrific 13-12 defeat of pre-tournament betting favourite Neil Robertson in the second round saw him properly contest the second week of the sport’s blue-riband event for the first time.
Lisowski then came within a frame of beating four-time world champion John Higgins and what would have been a maiden berth in the last four.
The Englishman is now 31 and in the prime of his career, but a maiden ranking event title still proves elusive.
Will he be inspired by his Sheffield display? With Peter Ebdon in his camp, can he develop the B-game that many feel he needs in order to reach the next level?
Ding Junhui’s capitulation down the rankings list had literally been years in the making, so it wasn’t a surprise when it finally transpired midway through last season.
The Chinese cueist is one of the most decorated in the game, but for too long he was unable to replicate the kind of form that saw him claim the world number one status almost a decade ago.
While on the face of it his ranking position of 32 looks all doom and gloom, there were flickers of hope towards the end of the most recent campaign.
Ding reached the semi-finals of the Turkish Masters, the quarter-finals in Gibraltar, and qualified for the World Championship where he gave Kyren Wilson a good run for his money.
Most fans would love to see Ding back at the top of the game, and one just has to look at the likes of Mark Williams to see what’s possible in terms of comebacks and career longevity.
At 35 years of age, there is still time for Ding to feature at the business end of tournaments on a regular basis and among the most tipped on betting slips again.
There are many welcome sign-up offers for sportsbooks and online casino bonuses available for fans who are keen on backing Ding and others this season.
A former World and European under-18 champion, and the 2019 European under-21 winner, Jackson Page has long been heralded as a star in the making.
The Welshman famously reached the third round of the 2017 Welsh Open on home turf when he was still an amateur teenager.
Now approaching his 21st birthday, Page’s confidence should be high on the back of a strong performance in Sheffield in April.
Okay, the youngster might have been thrashed by his mentor Mark Williams in the second round of the World Championship, but Page performed brilliantly to reach that stage in the first place.
Of all the very young emerging talents from Britain, Page seems to be the most likely to make a sustained breakthrough.
With no points to defend in the second year of his current tour card, Page should be knocking on the door of a place in the top 32 by the end of the 2022/23 snooker season.
By the end of last season, it got to the stage where Si Jiahui had so many avenues onto the professional Main Tour that it was easy to lose count.
The 19 year-old from China generated headlines at the UK Championship after upsetting Shaun Murphy in the first round as a top-up entrant.
That sparked a somewhat bizarre outburst from the Magician regarding the involvement of amateur players in general on the pro tour.
A lesser personality might have been bothered or intimated by the bullish behaviour, but Si continued to strut his stuff – winning the WSF Open and reaching the third round of the Turkish Masters.
It can be hard to keep up with all the Chinese up-and-coming talents, but in Si there is a genuine possibility that this player could threaten the very pinnacle of the game.
The only rookie on this small list, Ben Mertens will make his debut as a professional during the 2022/23 snooker season.
The Belgian isn’t a completely new figure, however, after memorably winning a match at the World Snooker Championship qualifiers in 2020 at the age of 15.
It was always only going to be a matter of time before he graduated to the Main Tour, and that was duly sorted at the recent European Championships in Albania.
By the time Mertens competed in the flagship event, eventually reaching the final before losing to Andres Petrov, the 17 year-old had already claimed glory in the European Under-21 Championship.
It usually takes rookies a few attempts to properly get going on the professional circuit, and with Mertens it may be no different.
But either way, it will be fascinating to see if he can live up to the undoubted expectations surrounding his talent – both during the 2022/23 season and beyond.
Featured photo credit: WST