From the ‘Class of 92’ of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams through to young guns like Judd Trump and Kyren Wilson, the depth of talent at the top of snooker has never been greater.
Behind the current golden generation, there are teenage talents waiting for their moment in the spotlight. Here are six of the best amateurs aged under 20 who could be making a name for themselves in years to come.
Page stepped into the limelight at the Welsh Open in 2017 when, playing as an amateur, he reached the last 32 with wins over Jason Weston and John Astley. At the age of just 15, he battled Judd Trump in a live television match, and though he lost, Page had established himself as a potential star of the future. His mentor Mark Williams certainly believes in Page’s potential, describing him as one of the best players he has seen at his age. At junior level Page has excelled, winning titles including the World and European under-18 Championships. In 2017 he narrowly missed out on gaining a place on the World Snooker Tour via Q School. Page is now competing on the Challenge Tour and hoping to make the step up to the pro game.
Liverpool’s Maddocks hit the headlines in February this year when he became the youngest player ever to make a 147 break in an event open to senior players, earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records. At the age of 15 years and 90 days he compiled the maximum at a Pro-Am tournament in Leeds, beating a record set by Ronnie O’Sullivan 27 years earlier. Just for good measure, he made another 147 in a league match in September. Maddocks is playing on the Challenge Tour this season, building experience on the secondary circuit. Coach Neil Johnson said: “I have trained Sean from the age of 10 and could see he had something special from the very beginning.”
One of several promising potters coming through in South Wales, Emery proved his talent in 2017 when he won the World under-16 title and the Romanian Open. Coached by former world number eight Darren Morgan, he has proved to be one of the stars of the Welsh national junior team at various age levels. He reached the last 32 of a Q School event earlier this year. Emery is now playing on the Challenge Tour and has recorded some impressive wins.
At the age of 13, most budding young snooker players can only dream of playing in the final stages of a ranking event. But Mertens did just that at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany in August. After winning two matches in the amateur stages to earn a place in the main draw, he stunned professional Adam Stefanow with a 4-1 victory. Mertens knocked in a break of 62 in the opening frame and never looked back. He lost against Andrew Higginson in the last 64, but we will surely be seeing much more of the Belgian prodigy. He has won a range of junior events and reached the quarter-finals of the European Under-18 Championship this year before losing to Jackson Page.
One of a small army of gifted players emerging from China, Chang leapt into the spotlight at the China Championship this season. Competing as a wild card, he scored superb wins over Jimmy Robertson and Robert Milkins, both ranked inside the world’s top 40. Up against Mark Selby in the last 32, Chang took the first frame with a fluent break of 60, but eventually lost 5-1. The 16-year-old got to the semi-finals of both the under-21 and under-18 category at the IBSF World Championship earlier this year, and has also won an event on the Chinese amateur tour. Widely recognised in the Far East as one of the best of the new wave, he looks sure to follow the likes of Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong by making an impact in the coming years.
Sykes, from Hampshire, made his EASB Premier Junior Tour debut in September this year, becoming the youngest player on that tour. In the same month he made his highest break in competition – a 96 en route to winning his first Cuestars Under-21 Gold Tour event. He has also made centuries in practice matches. Coach Tim Dunkley said: “He has a lot of natural talent and has progressed faster than the other youngsters. It was obvious from the age of eight that he was going to be a very good player. His temperament is excellent, he always keeps the same attitude. He has the focus of a professional at the age of 12. If he keeps progressing he can go a long way, but he just needs to keep looking towards the next stage.”