The title of this post might be slightly misleading, as I don’t intend to look into those players who I expect to make a break through by winning a tournament in the 2018/19 season. Instead I want to look at what could happen ranking wise and who might break into the top 16, or be in danger to drop off the tour, early as it is to do such exercise.
The new season is about to start next week, with the Riga Masters Qualifiers in Preston. Matt Huart, of course, is on the ball, or should I write on the numbers, as he has published the current provisional seedings and the provisional end of season rankings .
The first thing to notice is that Alan McManus is currently holding the 64th place with 86900 points, so I expect that a player will need about 90000 points to stay on tour at the end of the season. This means that everyone in their second year from place n° 68 (Gerard Greene) and below will need to improve massively to stand any chance to keep their tour card by breaking into the top 64. Only three “second-year” players currently not in the top 64 are in a good position to do that, provided they keep their standard at the level of the 2017/18 season: Ken Doherty, Sunny Akani and Martin O’Donnell. All three are well inside the top 64 in the current provisional end of season rankings.
Ken Doherty is an interesting case as he’s looking to regain his professional status “proper”, not an “invitational tour card”. If he does, he will lose the right to play on the World Seniors Tour unless rules change. Ken has been a pillar figure when it comes to promoting the newly created Seniors tour so it will be interesting to see what happens there.
Looking at the ones currently in the top 64, and based upon a 90000 points target, Rory McLeod, Daniel Wells, Scott Donaldson, Fergal O’Brien, Dominic Dale, Stuart Carrington, and Marco Fu are in serious danger if they don’t improve on their 2017/18 results. Marco Fu is currently n°18, but he has 239625 points to defend and, with ongoing eyesight problems, that’s a huge challenge.
Veterans Rod Lawler, Anthony Hamilton, Joe Swail and Nigel Bond are in almost desperate positions and will almost certainly drop off the tour come May 2019. I can see Joe and Rod taking on the Seniors tour though.
Looking at the young ones in their second year, for me, Alexander Ursenbacher, Xu Si and Yuan Sijun are the most likely to improve and stay on tour, if not by breaking into the top 64, at least by earning a new tour card via the one year list.
Amongst those in their first year, I believe that Luo Honghao, Elliot Slessor and Sam Craigie have the best chances to build themselves a significant “points cushion”, putting them in a good position to break into the top 64 next season, or maybe even this season (Luo and Elliot in particular).
That’s for the survival battle.
What about the top 16, and qualifying by right for the Crucible 2019?
Pushing things to the extreme, I’ll say that currently only four players are guaranteed to be at the Crucible by right (provided they enter the tournament): Mark Williams, Ronnie, Mark Selby and John Higgins. All the others could mathematically fall short although it would take something very unfortunate and unexpected for Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, Kyren Wilson and Shaun Murphy to find themselves outside the top 16 come April. The others are in a battle and that’s particularly true for Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham who are n°21 and n°25 respectively in the provisional EOS rankings.
The ones who are not currently in the top 16 but have a very good chance to be there come April, provided they keep the standard they had in 2017/18 are Graeme Dott, Jack Lisowski, and Yan Bingtao.