Chinese snooker fans won’t know much about Oliver Brown when he turns up for the Wuxi Classic next month.
Many would have preferred to see their hero Ding Junhui, the local favourite and world number two who won a record-equalling five ranking events last season.
But Derbyshire’s 19-year-old Brown is a prime example of a promising young player clutching the opportunities available in snooker’s new structure. His 5-0 win over Ding in the qualifying round last Sunday night in Gloucester sent shockwaves through the snooker world and earned the teenager a place in the final stages in the Jiangsu Province.
Brown doesn’t have a World Snooker Tour card, but in reaching the third and fourth rounds of the two Q School events he finished high enough on the top-up list to earn invites into the first two ranking events of the campaign – and probably several more as the season progresses.
Reflecting on his win over Ding, which came with a top break of 72, Brown said: “It’s definitely my best ever result. My head went a bit after I failed to get through Q School, but then I saw I had drawn Ding in the Wuxi qualifiers and I knew it was an opportunity. I used to practise with him at the Star Academy in Sheffield and I played him in an Asian Tour event a couple of years ago and only lost 4-3 so I knew I could get close to him.
“I played well and put him in trouble all the way through. I just took it one frame at a time and even when I was 4-0 up I wasn’t thinking about winning, I just kept my mind on the next frame. I have been putting a lot of work in recently so I’m please it paid off.”
The trip to the Far East won’t be a first for Brown – he made it to the International Championship last season by beating Nigel Bond 6-3 in the qualifying round. He then ran Mark Davis close in Chengdu before losing 6-4.
“The atmosphere was just incredible out there,” he recalls. “It was an amazing experience. I hope it will be the same this time and I won’t get too much stick for knocking out Ding.”
Brown first played snooker at the age of ten, encouraged by his dad. He visits the Crucible every year to watch the World Championship and practises for seven hours a day at the Star Academy with players from Thailand, China and India.
“There are a lot of chances for amateurs these days in terms of playing in the European and Asian Tour events, and the ranking events if you do well enough in Q School,” added Brown, who faces Andrew Norman in the first round of Australian Goldfields Open qualifying this week. “Hopefully it is giving me a feel for things for when I do turn pro. I will be playing in as much as I can this season and trying to earn a tour card.”