With the 2021/22 World Snooker Tour season getting underway at the BetVictor Championship League, we asked three of snooker’s top analysts and journalists to give their predictions for the year ahead…
Most Likely Maiden Ranking Event Winner
Neal Foulds, Former World Number Three, TV Pundit and Commentator
Pang Junxu – He had an impressive first season on tour back in 20/21 and I expect him to do very well this season. It was a massive shock to see Fan Zhengyi win the European Masters and I think Pang is actually a better player. He practises very hard and I know that he really puts the effort in. I think that he is going to take a big step forward and I am going to back him to land a first title.
David Hendon, Snooker Commentator and Journalist
Jack Lisowski – I know someone tips him every year, but it felt like he’d turned a corner at the Crucible. His victory over Neil Robertson was well earned and he came very close to beating John Higgins. He’s such a nice guy but you need that inner steel once you get into the arena, and the self-belief. He demonstrated that in Sheffield. That’s what he needs again if he reaches another final. He is good enough, he just really needs to believe it.
Michael McMullan, Snooker Commentator and Journalist
Tom Ford – Ford is one of those players whose best performances are so good that you end up wondering why he hasn’t crossed this barrier yet. I had a really long chat with him earlier this year and he was talking about the things he has been doing to get himself in the right place mentally. He also said that he sees himself as a ranking event winner because of the PTCs he has already won. It’s a fair point, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if he put it beyond debate by winning a full-scale tournament soon.
Surprise Package of the Season
Aaron Hill – I’m going to go for youth again. Hill beat Ronnie O’Sullivan at the European Masters a couple of seasons ago and showed his potential. He then experienced a problem that a lot of youngsters have. It isn’t about what happens when you win, it is what happens when you start losing. He went to a difficult place and his results went downhill. This is a little bit of a leap of faith, but now he is back on the tour, I think this will be a bit of a second coming for him at a young age. I know he is very hungry and I’m not saying how far he will go, but I think he is a lot better than where he is ranked. With two seasons under his belt, he can improve off the back of that experience.
Chris Wakelin – He’s much improved. He produced an incredible display against Stephen Hendry at the English Open last season, making two total clearances. 30 years ago the world number 60-something would never have been capable of that. These players ranked 32-64 are far better than they used to be. They are all dangerous.
Chris is one of the players who has made a conscious effort to work on his fitness, to try and make changes which will help give him an edge. I think a long run in a tournament is coming.
Aaron Hill – Anyone who gets on to the tour and reaches a ranking last 16 within a few years of taking up the game clearly has talent to burn. What followed after that great start was a big disappointment, but after dropping off the tour he seems to have benefitted from good advice and guidance from the right people. Now he has come through Q School to get straight back on, I can see a lot more consistency ahead for him.
Star Player Of The Season
Yan Bingtao – I think Neil Robertson was clearly the star player last year. This year I am going to go a little bit away from that. I thought Yan was one of the top three or four players in Sheffield this year at the World Championship. It took an inspired Mark Williams to beat him. I think he is going to have a very good season and he is capable of winning one of the big ones, he has already won the Masters of course. He is another young player who I think will step forward.
Judd Trump – It depends on your definition of star player as winning the World Championship is the greatest achievement in the sport. In terms of who will win the most trophies, I expect Judd Trump to challenge strongly again. People said he had a bad season last year, but he won two titles and reached the world final. It was just that in comparison to the stellar three previous years he’d enjoyed, it wasn’t quite as good.
Trump has that single-mindedness that multi-champions possess. If he starts winning again early in the season it could set a pattern for the rest of the campaign.
Judd Trump – Winning two big events and getting to the World Championship final would be a great season for almost any other player, so the fact that it was seen as disappointing for Trump just underlines what we’ve come to expect from him. He seemed to get into a bit of a rut, but had a lot of good tournaments towards the end of the season, and after a few months’ break from the tour I can see him coming back refreshed and ready to step things up further.
World Number One at the End of the Season
Ronnie O’Sullivan – It’s got to be O’Sullivan. I think he will pick and choose a bit more this season, but to keep things simple I cant see any reason why he won’t be number one at the end of the season. Mark Selby has a lot of points to come off, so I don’t think he will be challenging him.
Ronnie O’Sullivan – He has all those World Championship points and on top of that he rarely loses early in tournaments – he’s never lost in the first round of a Home Nations event since the series started in 2016. It’s hard to imagine he won’t be in more finals this season so I think he’ll do enough to remain at the top.
Ronnie O’Sullivan – Quite simply, the way the system is structured now, the world number one is nearly always going to be one of the last two winners of the World Championship. O’Sullivan will definitely still fall into that category come the end of the season, so it seems an even money bet he’ll finish as he starts, at number one.