Yuelong and Bingtao rise can signal Chinese snooker dominance
Lee Gormley | November 13, 2015
Start of Chinese snooker dominance?
Snooker has witnessed several great players dominate the sport throughout years in their prime, with Steve Davis overwhelming opponents in the 1980s and Stephen Hendry revolutionising the game itself in the 1990s, but a new commanding influence could be rampantly rising from East Asia.
In the summer’s Snooker World Cup; an event, like the football edition, which is held every four years, was clinically won by talented teenage duo Yan Bingtao and Zhou Yuelong, as China B’s representatives rallied to a 4-1 triumph over experienced Scottish pair John Higgins and Stephen Maguire.
Champion of Champions class
More recently, the World Cup winning duo both secured high-profile victories in Coventry’s Champion of Champions event, with Yuelong impressively dispatching reigning World Snooker champion Stuart Bingham, while his compatriot Bingtao overcame 2015 Masters winner Shaun Murphy. Yuelong is 150/1 with Coral to clinch a Crucible crown next year.
Incredibly, 15-year-old Bingtao and 17-year-old Yuelong showed maturity and talent way beyond their years to outgun some of the sport’s most illustrious and long-serving stars at the World Cup and in the West Midlands, including four-time world champion Higgins, who was blown away by the pair’s potting ability earlier this year.
“Right from the very first shot they were too good, it’s that simple,” claimed four-time Crucible king Higgins. “They’re only young boys and they played unbelievable snooker, so me and Stephen can have no complaints. When you lose like that you hold your hands up and say, ‘the best team won’.”
Future world champions?
Higgins’ former World Cup teammate, On-Fire Maguire, who has been consistently ranked within the world’s top 16 players for a decade, also admitted their summer Chinese conquerors simply outclassed the Scottish contingency, tipping the prolific pair for successful future careers on the baize.
“We didn’t make that many mistakes but we weren’t really allowed to play snooker,” stated the 2004 UK Champion. “They were potting them from anywhere on the table. Fair play to them, I think they’re probably two future world champions.”
Such grand praise from two of the game’s esteemed break-builders clearly boosted confidence within an already highly-regarded couple of young cueists. And such potting promise having been evident from, incredibly, even earlier in their hopeful careers, before bursting onto the Champion of Champions scene, with Bingtao 250/1 for a world title next year.
“Our dream has been winning a world title”
Featuring for China’s second string side, both Bingtao and Yuelong showed class worthy of being the nation’s top pair, with the deadly duo having enjoyed early success before, as they boast World Amateur Championship trophies.
The incredibly talented Chinese youngsters dispatched the Welsh pairing of Michael White and former world champion Mark Williams on the way to victory as well in the summer’s tournament, a remarkable success considering Yuelong has only been on the professional circuit a year, while Bingtao will make his tour debut in the upcoming campaign.
Speaking after such a sensational win, a jubilant Yuelong previously expressed his obvious delight as they became the second successive Chinese pair to taste World Cup victory, after the country’s key snooker superstar Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo went all the way in 2011.
“Unbelievable. Magical. Our dream has been winning a world title. We just did not expect it happened so soon,” declared Yuelong. “I think we were lucky to move past the group stage and luck has been on our side since then.”
Ding the Chinese catalyst
The Chinese pair’s sublime £130k prize-winning performances on home turf makes an even stronger statement of the strength of snooker’s continuously impressive development in Asia, with the demanding sport having grown hugely in recent years.
At the forefront of that rapid surge in popularity and participation is ‘the Chinese Sensation’ Ding, who burst on to the snooker scene in ferocious fashion at a young age, and is 10/1 to claim this year’s UK Championship. The 28-year-old became only the second teenager ever after Scotland’s Higgins to win three ranking titles and the first non-British Isles player to win a UK crown.
Ding’s illustrious career has gradually grown, also equalling seven-time Crucible king Hendry’s record of five ranking title triumphs in the same season during the 2013/14 campaign, but there is still one glaring omission from the ‘Star of the East’s’ trophy collection.
China the future of snooker?
Despite becoming an 11-time ranking title winner, Ding is, somehow, yet to win on the biggest stage of them all, at the World Championship held in Sheffield. With career earnings of over £2m and, having made five professional maximum breaks so far, surely it’s only a matter of time before Ding realises the ultimate snooker goal?
Although, with the emergence of such a talented crop of new Chinese cueists, Ding may find himself battling it out with fellow countrymen for that coveted Crucible crown as he closes in on 30 years of age. Ding may be have been the catalyst for snooker’s rampant rise in his homeland, but Bingtao and Yuelong look capable of emulating his success in years to come, if they can build upon their early promise.
With snooker becoming a key part of PE in schools throughout China, and another World Cup duo securing victory for a demanding nation, we could soon see a whole host of potential world champions bearing from East Asia in the coming years. Watch your back Ronnie O’Sullivan.
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