Snooker news – March, 3, 2020

At the time of writing, the Championship League Snooker 2020 Group 7 is underway, with the play-offs to be contested between John Higgins, Graeme Dott, David Gilbert and Mark Williams.

Earlier this week, the last two events of the Challenge Tour 2019/20 were played. Ashley Hugill topped the rannking list, but, as he already got his tour card back by winning the WSF event in Malta, it’s the runner-up, Lukas Kleckers who gets the first tour card avzailable through the Challenge Tour.

Here is the WST report:

Germany’s Lukas Kleckers has earned a place on the World Snooker Tour for the next two seasons thanks to his performances on the 2019/20 Challenge Tour.

Kleckers, age 23 from Essen, finished second in the Challenge Tour rankings after ten events, behind only Ashley Hugill. Englishman Hugill had already secured a tour card by winning the World Snooker Federation Open in January. So Kleckers was next in line to earn the automatic tour place available from the Challenge Tour.

Players ranked third to tenth in the Challenge Tour rankings will qualify for the Play Off tournament on March 29th in Clacton. The winner of that event will also earn a World Snooker Tour card for the 2020/21 and 2021/22 seasons.

Kleckers won Challenge Tour event eight in Tamworth in January. He also reached the semi-finals of three other events and has now been rewarded for his consistency.

At the age of just 17, Kleckers won the German national Championship. He turned pro in 2017 after coming through Q School and competed on the pro tour for two seasons. He has reached the last 32 of five ranking events, including the Riga Masters three times, and scored wins over the likes of Neil Robertson and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “On behalf of WPBSA and WST I’d like to congratulate Lukas for his superb performances on the Challenge Tour this season. He fully deserves his place back on the World Snooker Tour and we look forward to seeing him compete at the top level over the next two seasons.

“Snooker has grown dramatically in Germany over the past decade and we are delighted to see young talent like Lukas coming through and enjoying success. I hope his achievements will be an inspiration for young players across Germany and further afield.

“The standard of play on the new Challenge Tour this season has been outstanding and it provides a platform for developing talent to thrive and chase their dreams. The Play Off event later this month will feature eight fantastic players with a huge prize at stake. Let the best man win!”

Lukas’ first experience as a pro was quite disappointing and it will be interesting to see if competing in the Challenge Tour has helped him to make the improvements he needs.

Good luck Lukas!

A second tour card will be given to the winner of the play-offs event. The eight players competing in this one are Andrew Pagett, Dean Young, Rory McLeod, Oliver Brown, Ka Wai Cheung,  Alan Taylor, Jake Nicholson and Patrich Whelan, in order of Challenge Tour rankings.

Meanwhile, Desmond Kane (Eurosport) has published his thoughts abot Ronnie’s chances at the Crucible

Why O’Sullivan remains a serious contender to win sixth world title

There is one thing in this article I fully agree with: coming to Sheffield with no expectations on his shoulders could help Ronnie massively. The last two World titles came when nobody expected him to win. In 2012 he only just had avoided the qualifiers and his whole season had been marked by ilnesses (hence withdrawals) and a number of early defeats in the major events. In 2013 he had only played one match all season, in a PTC, and had lost it. The last two seasons have been the complete opposite: they were outstanding, with record breaking performances … until the Crucible. That said, I’m not overly optimistic.

Regarding the other contenders, and Trump in particular, it could play the other way around. All the media attention will be on Judd Trump, all the hype and pressure. If this season UK Championship and Masters are anything to go about it might be his undoing. The early rounds will be telling.

9 thoughts on “Snooker news – March, 3, 2020

  1. Maybe Ronnie can play himself into form in the WCS after a few wins in the earlier rounds.We all know how quickly things can turn for Ronnie.The more and more frames he plays,the more his confidence can go up. You never know with Ronnie: fingers crossed and let us hope for a good draw for him.

  2. Is it even sure Ron is going to play the WC tho?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he is to give it a by. Why? Just :). Because he can. When you cross the psychological Rubicon once, i.e. the Masters, or even twice (the entire season 12/13), it’s not that hard anymore to do it again. Anyway he would be and is unique even in that regard. Every other player in the history of snooker you needed to scrap them off of the table in anything and everything. Ron is just Ron. He’s won enough, no need to prove anything anymore. Maybe he is just about to pronounce he won’t enter the WC thus becoming the first one deliberately not to play it when eligible and still top of the game :). The thing is, and I can speak for myself, I want Ron to play for my selfish needs bc I love him, but he is not obliged anything to anyone but himself.

    • There’s no guarantee that Ronnie will play the WC and he never ceases to surprise, but it’s worth noting that he has never skipped the WC in his entire career, and he even made a point of playing in it the year he took the entire rest of the season off. It’s the only long-running even that he has never skipped.

      He has played in it every year since 1993, which is 27 years in a row now.

  3. Gibraltar is a bit notorious for travel problems, so even if the flight isn’t long, it can seem like a trip not worth making. There is no real incentive for Ronnie to play there except some match practice. I suspect he’d be better off arranging some exhibitions – I’m sure most of the top players would be keen, given the lack of China Open.

    Well done to Lukas Kleckers. It’s a tough haul to play on the Challenge Tour, especially for someone not British. We know that for most mid-level players, it takes at least 4 seasons to get comfortable playing on the Professional Tour. There are also some decent young players in the play-offs.

  4. Desmond essentially says what I’ve been saying for much of this season. The tricky part, though, is that the more articles get written about how Ronnie might be better off at the WC this season because expectations are relatively low, the higher those expectations actually get because everyone starts to expect him to perform better.

    The best thing that could happen for Ronnie is the one thing that never really happens to him, i.e., to be overlooked and underestimated.

    • You are right: I don’t think it ever happens that Ronnie is not regarded as one of the favourites. But with a little bit of luck the current Trump-loving atmosphere might let him pass under the radar.

      But first I’d like to see him actually confirm that he’ll play.

    • Not exactly Mark, because Desmond doesn’t suggest that the poor season was a “plan” by Ronnie or his team in any way to be in the position where he is now. And I certainly don’t believe there ever was such a plan. I’m afrzaid that Ronnie will actually come to the Crucible low in confidence and without expectations. Which isn’t great because he doesn’t love the rather claustrophobic environment of the place in the early rounds, nor does he loves the “17 days long” format.

      • The World Championship would be a fitting title for the 37th ranking event. Apart from that, could someone please explain (for those of us who have never visited Gibraltar) the dislike Ronnie has for the Gibraltar open (is he speaking from experience, having played it before)?

      • As far as I know he has never played there. It’s a tournament with very low prize money, although, this year, the winner and runner-up get more than in previous years. And Ronnie doesn’t like flying…

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