Sunday, 10 June 2012

My players to watch: 2012/13

The start of a new season is all about looking ahead of predicting what might happen.

There are bound to be plenty of movers and shakers in the snooker ranks as the twists and turns of long, busy season play out.

With the campaign still in its infancy, take a look at my players to watch... 

Luca Brecel. There's a sense of inevitability about naming Brecel in a 'players to watch' list, but it is difficult not to echo the views of many in the game. The young Belgium's talent has never been in question. He shows maturity around the table way beyond his years and has as many different shots in his locker as an established top 16 professional. The test now is ensuring he uses them at the right times. His fairytale run to the Crucible showed massive progress and will without doubt become a milestone of his early career and a great building block to greater success. His age affords him to play with a care-free attitude and I expect him to consistently win matches at the qualifiers and rise the ranks and be comfortably among the top 64 by the close of the campaign. 

Jack Lisowski. Ready to get back to business. This is Jack's third season as a professional. After taking to the tour by storm in 2010/12, he won Rookie of the Year. This prompted many snooker enthusiasts, including myself, to tip him for a rapid rise to the top. He kicked off in the same manner last season to qualify for the Shanghai Masters and reach the semi-finals of PTC5, but his progress stalled in the second half of the season as he struggled for the first time. Some people say you learn more on a bad run than a good one and this sticky spell only really came under scrutiny because of his previous success. In a way, he was a victim of his own success. Professional snooker isn't easy and you'd be silly to doubt him now. Jack is an immense talent and a great player to watch. He'll kick back on this season and remind us why we love watching him. I believe he'll break into the top 32. 

Tom Ford. The Leicester man is my tip for a crack at the top 16. Ford enjoyed great success last season. He qualified for the Australian Open, UK Championship, Welsh Open, World Open and German Masters, won a second PTC title and got as far as the semi-finals of the Shoot Out. This showed as good as consistency in the professional ranks from Tom as ever before. I expect him to be a regular at the venues again at the minimum this season. I think he's reached the stage of his career where he knows what he wants to achieve and is ready to put in the work and reach the goals his talent would justify. 

Jamie Jones. His run to the quarter-finals at the Crucible suggest he's a future top 16 player in the making. The taste of success and snooker stardom in Sheffield should be just the motivation he needs to develop from a formidable qualifier into a household name. He seems to enjoy playing in front of the bright lights, big crowds and television cameras. He lit up the Crucible with some excellent break-building. The big challenge for the Welshman is continuing to shine in the drab qualifiers now he's had a taste of the big time, but his attitude is so good that shouldn't be a problem. 

Michael White. Another fine Welsh potting machine. An effortless break-builder who excites a lot of snooker fans. I'm adamant that this season will be his breakthrough. White hasn't qualified for a big venue before this season but is expected to do so a few times this year. He sits comfortably inside the top 64 of the rankings thanks to some impressive runs last season, especially in the PTCs. His biggest achievements last season were playing in the Shoot Out, reaching the semi-finals of PTC7 and getting to the final qualifying round for the UK Championship. Expect to see him spring up on your TV screen this season.

And, no list of 'players to watch' would be complete without an entry from the top 16. With the sheer volume of tournaments in the calendar this season, you can expect to see more than half of top 16 players win a trophy, but who do I think will come out with the most? 

Neil Robertson. The Australian seems to be getting better and better as his all-round game continues to evolve. He's fast becoming the kind of player who equips himself well throughout the season and is always in the running. Last season he won the Masters, but this time I think he'll win multiple ranking titles. It would be particularly special to see him crowned champion in his homeland...

At the end of any 'players to watch' list, there's always a feeling that you could have mentioned many more but, of course, this season is bound to be a good one for more than just the names above. So, here are a few other players I believe will also move up the rankings and enjoy spells in the snooker headlines this term. Joe Perry, Yu De Lu, Michael Holt, Robert Milkins, Liang Wenbo, Peter Lines, Mark Joyce and Tian Pengfei.... 

Let me know your players to watch. Drop a comment below with your six to watch...

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