Snooker World Cup: None for young players – other sports

In the World Snooker Championships, the older generation once again dominated. When do youth take over?

The “olds” continue to dominate snooker, especially during the World Cup. That was no different in the last issue that ended last Monday night (after the deadline for this magazine) with a finale between Mark Selby and Sean Murphy. Although the six-time winner and world number one, Ronnie O’Sullivan (45), was surprisingly eliminated in the round of 16, as was four-time world champion John Higgins (45), six of the eight made it to the quarter-finals. Previous World Cup winners at The Crucible – for the first time.

The “olds” continue to dominate snooker, especially during the World Cup. That was no different in the last issue that ended last Monday night (after the deadline for this magazine) with a finale between Mark Selby and Sean Murphy. Although the six-time winner and world number one, Ronnie O’Sullivan (45), was surprisingly eliminated in the round of 16, as was four-time world champion John Higgins (45), six of the eight made it to the quarter-finals. Previous World Cup winners at The Crucible – for the first time. Matches between triple world champion Mark Williams (46) and Mark Selby (37). Between Judd Trump (31) and Sean Murphy (38), winner of the 2019 and 2005 titles. Between Neil Robertson (39), world champion 2010, and Keren Wilson (29), World Cup runner-up 2020, and between Stuart Bingham (44), defending champion 2015, and Anthony McGill (30), who abruptly ousted Ronnie O’Sullivan. He and Wilson were also the last to go pro, in 2010. Trump did so in 2005. Robertson, Murphy, Selby and Bingham debuted just before the turn of the century. And Williams, along with O’Sullivan and Higgins, even as early as 1992. So it’s hard for the younger generation to break through. Only one player out of the world’s top 16 started his professional career in the past decade: China’s Yan Bingtao. In January, at the age of 21, he crowned himself as the second youngest-ever winner of the prestigious Masters Tournament, but was eliminated in the eighth World Cup final without a chance. The question is: Why does the older generation continue to dominate? The answer is complicated. After the snooker boom in the 80s, the new generation quickly reached the top of the world in the 90s. O’Sullivan won his first UK Championship in 1993, a year after turning pro. Higgins and Williams had to wait just six years to win their first Triple Crown (World Cup, UK Masters). Partly because of the many high-quality amateur tournaments, which allowed them to train against semi-professionals at a very young age. And they were already “match ready” when they turned pro, ready to put the older generation (Steve Davis, Jimmy White and their buds) on the spot. Neil Robertson, Sean Murphy, Mark Selby and Stewart Bingham quickly followed in their footsteps and have dominated the snooker world ever since, and they continue to raise their level. Some, like Ronnie O’Sullivan, are also on the conditional level. Another aspect is the limited influx of talent into the UK, the birthplace of snooker. The reason: The number of snooker clubs is much lower compared to the 80s/90s, and therefore a smaller pool. Since Judd Trump, no one has made it to the world summit in England. Snooker has lost more and more of its appeal among youngsters, in part due to the monotonous training hours required. Oddly enough, snooker has become more global in the past decade, mainly due to the boom in the East. Since 2011, only Asian players have won the U-21 World Cup, including six Chinese. Teens and young adults in their twenties from mainland Europe are also in the making, such as Belgian promising Ben Mertens (16), or Ukraine’s Yulian Boyko, who became the youngest ever professional player last year, at the age of 15. It is only a matter of time before these players, especially the Chinese, flood the snooker world with fish from a huge pond. In China, even real snooker cities are built. In 2016, Ding Junhui was the first to reach the World Cup final. Yan Bingtao would likely be next. Then many others.

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Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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