Last week, Worldsnooker published this article, asking “experts”, members of the press their views on who is going to do what this season.
With the 2019/20 World Snooker Tour season in its embryonic stages, we asked some of snooker’s top journalists and analysts for their predictions for the year ahead…
Most Likely Maiden Ranking Event Winner
Neal Foulds, Former World Number Three and TV Pundit
Jack Lisowski – He will surely win something soon. He was admirably consistent last season and is by far the most gifted player on the tour who is yet to have won anything. Aside from that, almost anyone could win the Shoot-Out so there is every chance there will be another first time winner there.
David Hendon, Snooker Commentator and Journalist
David Gilbert – David is not so much knocking on the door of winning a big title as threatening to remove it from its hinges. We all saw how upset he was in the moments after losing to Higgins in Sheffield but I’m sure he’s since reflected on how well he played there and how well he stood up to the sustained pressure of the World Championship. He goes into this season as a real dangerman and hopefully with a bit more belief if he gets to another final.
Michael McMullan, Snooker Commentator and Journalist
David Gilbert – Last year I went for Jack Lisowski and although he didn’t quite get it done, I still think it may well happen soon. However I’m going to go for another player who also reached two ranking finals in the last campaign. Dave Gilbert had already moved up to a whole new level last season even before his feats in Sheffield. He almost made it in Yushan and Berlin, and didn’t do a great deal wrong in either final to end up losing, so his time may not be long in coming now.
Hector Nunns, Snooker Journalist
Jack Lisowski – Especially in the shorter formats there is always the chance of someone enjoying a spectacular week and coming from nowhere. But the main contenders should be David Gilbert, Jack Lisowski, and the Chinese youngsters (Yan Bingtao, Zhao Xintong, Zhou Yuelong, Lyu Haotian and Yuan Sijun). I’ll go with Lisowski – he is knocking on the door, and his time is surely coming.
Shane MacDermott, Snooker Journalist
Scott Donaldson – The promising Perth potter propelled himself up the rankings last term with his most consistent season to date, ending with a Crucible debut.
Neil Goulding, Snooker Journalist
Yan Bingtao – The Chinese young gun went off the boil a bit last season, but I fully expect him to be back to his best and in the winner’s enclosure this time around.
Jamie Broughton, BBC Radio Snooker Correspondent
David Gilbert – He really impressed last season, and it can’t be long before he wins a tournament.
Surprise Package of the Season
Joe O’Connor – The Leicester cueman certainly surprised me towards the end of last season and there is no reason why he shouldn’t get even better. He seems to have a very sound temperament, as shown when twice beating John Higgins in ranking events. A really good prospect.
Liam Highfield – He has always struck me as a very talented player but hasn’t yet made his big breakthrough. I know he’s had health problems which obviously haven’t helped. He could be a bit like Kyren Wilson, who suddenly broke through in Shanghai a few years ago and hasn’t looked back since. One good tournament is really all it takes.
Louis Heathcote – He has already impressed in the qualifiers by coming through two very different matches. It was a real battle against Ryan Day to get to Riga, then he won a high quality match against Noppon Saengkham in the International Championship. Some good amateurs struggle to make the transition, but he’s off to a flying start and looks set for a very strong first season.
James Cahill – The tag of ‘first amateur at the Crucible’ was always slightly misleading, as a former and soon-to-be pro. The sensational shock victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan shows he loves the big stage, and if he can carry that same swagger back onto the tour and maintain the dedication and commitment occasionally lacking in his first stint as a pro, he could do some more damage.
Elliot Slessor – The youngster has shown he’s got the game with two wins over Ronnie O’Sullivan. If he can find that form consistently then he can be a danger.
Jackson Page – The talented Welsh teenager has been highly rated for the last few years and earned a tour card last season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him do something similar to what Joe O’Connor did last season.
Joe O’Connor – Always a tricky one to answer as there aren’t really many surprises. I’ll go with O’Connor to build on the promise he showed last season and get to a ranking event final.
Star Player Of The Season
Judd Trump – After his dazzling display in winning the world title, there is no reason why Trump shouldn’t go from strength to strength. However, the 2019/20 season will be his biggest test yet, as first time champions don’t always play to the same level during the following season. Saying that I feel that If Judd can keep his feet on the ground, he can establish himself as the man to beat all the season and beyond.
Judd Trump – Judd was my choice last year (just saying) and he goes into this season with the final piece of the jigsaw: the world title. It’s crazy to think how some people had written him off. He’s not yet 30 and has done the triple crown and is now in the perfect position to push on and start winning more titles. You could argue some of the pressure is off him now he’s triumphed at the Crucible. It’s also true that first time world champions often struggle with the added weight of expectation and scrutiny but there are so many tournaments now and a lot of trophies to play for. If he keeps his focus he will win plenty more.
Judd Trump – He looked like a whole different player last season, and obviously he was already exceptionally good before that. Everything about him suggests he’s hungry for much more success, and now that he’s finally landed the world title we’ve all been expecting for so long, I think he’ll kick on very well.
Judd Trump – It is hard to see past Trump. Having finally got the monkey off his back by winning the world title predicted for him since almost before he could walk, The Juddernaut will I’m sure be focusing even more on winning and peaking for the big ones this season. Should be targeting being a multiple World Champion in his career, and no better time to begin that quest.
Judd Trump – The Ace in the Pack really hit his straps last season, hammering Ronnie O’Sullivan in the Masters final, before producing the best ever performance in a Crucible final to land his first World Championship. He has really matured as a player and we could be embarking on a new era of dominance in the sport.
Neil Robertson – The Aussie ace looked back to his fearsome best towards the backend of last season. He’s enjoying his snooker again and that’s ominous for the rest of the field.
Judd Trump – I’m sure we’ll see him continue to win ranking events this season, and he will be determined to beat the Crucible Curse in Sheffield. You wouldn’t back against him doing it given how well he played to win his first world crown.
World Number One at the End of the Season
Judd Trump – Difficult one this as whoever wins the world title (£500k first prize) has a strong chance ending up at the top of the world rankings. If Judd Trump can defy the “Crucible Curse” then surely his points tally would be vastly superior to anyone else, almost irrespective of what the others win in the build up to Sheffield.
Judd Trump – He starts with the advantage of 500,000 ranking points from the World Championship alone. Ronnie O’Sullivan is the perpetual unknown quantity – we don’t yet know which tournaments he will be competing in, and he really needs to get into the Coral series to defend his lead in the rankings. So if Trump is consistent and maintains a reasonably full schedule he can take over at the top. Some people may have forgotten he’s already been world no.1 but I think if he got there again it would feel more significant and potentially more permanent.
Judd Trump – Bearing in mind that he earned more points than anyone last season, and that I’ve tipped him to be the star of the new season, it follows that I expect Trump to be number one soon. It’s been largely forgotten that he’s already been number one when he was 23, but it was only for a very short while. If he gets back there, he could very well stay on top for five or six years this time.
Judd Trump – The huge first prize at the Crucible may once again leave this in the balance until the World Championship, but if Judd Trump enjoys a campaign that is anything like last term, he should soon regain the top spot first last briefly held over six years ago – and be there at the season’s end.
Judd Trump – Judd is only marginally behind Ronnie O’Sullivan in the race for the world number one spot. Ronnie has openly said he won’t be entering much this season, leaving the door wide open for Judd to pounce.
Neil Robertson – If the former world champion carries on his fantastic form then there’s no reason he can’t return to the summit of the rankings.
Neil Robertson – Back to his best last season. He’ll be challenging to win all the major titles again.
Now, most predictions are notoriously there to be unfullfilled, or at least only partially fulfilled. Here is how I feel about the above:
Most likely maiden event winner of the season:
I agree with those who picked David Gilbert. Jack Lisowski has been seen as a “sure” potential winner for so long, and disappointed for so long, that despite his newly found consistency – that is very real – I’m still not sure that he will eventually fulfill his potential. Yan Bingtao had a terrible last season and is showing signs of coming back to form, but I don’t think that a win will come already this season. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if Thepchaiya Un-nooh won a “proper” ranking event this season (*)
Surprise Package of the Season
Like many of the experts, I expect Joe O’Connor to further establish himself as an excellent player on the main tour, but that wouldn’t be a surprise at all. All the signs are there. The surprise could come from Li Hang, a solid pro for many years, but who has never really got a breakthrough. He just signed with Sightright. It will be interesting to see how he fares this season.
Star Player Of The Season
Everyone, except Neil Goulding, is going for Judd Trump. Well … I’m not so sure. Being a World Champion for the first time comes whith a whole lot of new expectations and demands (from the sponsors, from Worldsnooker and from the fans). It also comes with offers to participate in shows, exhibitions, interviews and promotional events in general. It’s bringing both distractions and pressure. How will Judd Trump cope with the limelights? I honnestly don’t know. Some first time World Champions have found it difficult. Instead, in agreement with Neil Goulding, I expect Neil Robertson to thrive this season. He has the form, the ability and the desire.
World Number One at the End of the Season
Judd Trump is at the top of the very early “End of season rankings” by more than £200000, so he’s clearly favourite at this stage. Neil Robertson is second in the list. It will very likely be one of them. Who? A lot will depend on how well – or not – Judd copes with his World Champion status and with “the Curse”.
(*) no the Shoot Out will never be a “proper” ranking event in my eyes!
And, of course, despite what he said a fewweeks ago, I hope that Ronnie will play in most UK based events and have a decent season with a bit of silverware.