The first world ranking staged in China was in 1990. The second was in 1999.

But in the 2000s, China’s place as a central powerbase for snooker was cemented, largely due to the exploits of one of its own sons.

Ding Junhui was invited to the 2002 China Open in Shanghai as a 14 year-old wildcard. He had been identified as a promising up-and-comer in the Chinese junior ranks and took two frames off Mark Selby.

Peter Ebdon described him as “the finest 15 year-old I have ever seen” and a huge amount of hype began to swirl around him.

It increased when, in 2002, he won the Asian under 21 title, the Asian amateur title and then the IBSF world amateur title.
In 2003, he was given a wildcard to compete on the main tour. Talk about a culture shock, from China he came to play full time in the UK where, like so many, he found the qualifiers tough.

Inevitably the knives were almost immediately out for him but Ding put up a good showing when, at 16, he became the youngest player ever to compete in the Wembley Masters, beating Joe Perry before losing in a decider to Stephen Lee.

Due to financial problems afflicting the sport, the China Open was not staged for three years until returning in 2005 on a one year deal.

Ding was excused having to qualify and selected instead as a wildcard so that his home fans could see him up close.

His performance in the event was sensational. He turned 18 that week but played like an experienced old hand, not a relative rookie.

Ding defeated Marco Fu, Peter Ebdon and Ken Doherty to reach the final and then, in front of an estimated viewing audience of 110 million in China, beat Stephen Hendry 9-5 to win the title.

Because he was a wildcard he did not, officially at least, bank any prize money and actually went down in the rankings.

But Ding’s victory was worth plenty to snooker. It lit the blue touch paper for a bona fide boom that has seen millions of Chinese take to the green baize.

When people ask me what the best event I’ve ever attended is, I would name this 2005 China Open.

It was wonderful to see the reaction of the home crowd to Ding’s success and there was a feeling, justified as it has transpired, that it would be very important to the future of snooker.

There are now two ranking tournaments in China, both financially underwritten by the Chinese.

Players are treated like Hollywood film stars, walking the red carpet on tournament launch days and pursued relentlessly by autograph and photograph hunters.

More tournaments will surely follow, particularly as Chinese players improve.

Liu Song reached the 2007 Grand Prix quarter-finals, Liu Chuang qualified for the Crucible in 2008 and, at that same event, Liang Wenbo reached the quarter-finals.

Liang was also runner-up this year in the Shanghai Masters and it is very likely China will have two players in the elite top 16 alongside Hong Kong’s Marco Fu next season.

Ding remains the standard bearer for a nation, even though his form went off the boil after he added the 2005 UK Championship and 2006 Northern Ireland Trophy to his ranking tournament tally.

Efforts to take the World Championship to the Far East were repelled in this decade.

But if China continues to make inroads into snooker, it may be harder to avoid in the next one.


Anonymous said...

It's about time this growth in China was nipped in the bud. If it's not it won't be long before the World Championship is lost to them and that will be snooker finished in this country. We've got to make sure that all ranking events are staged within Britain and Ireland where the sport is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

re 3:39

You better directly tell this to Sir Walker other than post it here.

jamie brannon said...

I think the game is crying out for more events in other countries, but we can still expand the Chinese market. However, I'm still opposed to the World Championship leaving the Crucible and if it did it would purely be for money. I know people say that's business, but if a decision is based purely on money then I think that is a little sad to be honest. I would not opposed to the Masters going there though. I actually believe the Masters should go on an international roadshow.

Anonymous said...

Snooker The Fine Art Method
A secret is wasted if not shared
Hi Dave
There are two interesting subjects topping your blog just now with the same answer to cover both.
The first is Patrick Wallace winning 9-0 and the other about the Chinese lads taking over the game and snooker tournaments.
What makes them the same is it will never happen and never happen again.

Patrick has no idea what happened nor has he the least idea HOW it happened. The fact that Patrick had two breaks over 90 and would have beaten Ronnie O at least twice if Ronnie had let him in. Patrick has no idea what he done right or wrong to make him play well.

The same applies to the Chinese players, when they are playing good they don’t know what the are doing right and when they are sitting down watching they can’t figure what they have done wrong. Snooker is still in great mystery after nearly one hundred years.
Mr hey you

Anonymous said...

The stupidest post i have ever read 3:39PM the sport is very well
appreciated in central Europe.

Janie Watkins said...

The Asia market just has such massive growth potential.
Not just China. As ever Thailand are churning out very good players, if not in such large numbers as China.
Young lad from Thailand here in the IBSF World Champs, Yuttapop Pakpoj. He really is a superb player, with an excellent temperament and brilliant break building skills. So he's another one to watch for the future.
As it turned out Supoj of Thailand knocked out pre event favourite Tian Pengfei but China's Yu Delu is just starting his semi final match at this minute.
Despite their love for billiards, here in India they've loved the snooker, shown it live non stop on their sports channel (with a few interruptions for a big table tennis event) and all the players and officials are determined to get far more Indians into snooker.
The Indians supplied several late reserves due to gaps in the draw and every single one of them was good enough to have justified their place in the draw.
They have a couple of new youngish players I hadn't seen before. Kamal Chawla and I H Manudev. It will be interesting to see how they progress in a billiards mad country.

Anonymous said...

more absolute nonsense from mhy

Anonymous said...

Mr Hey You may talk a load of weird crap but nothing deserves to be panned more than the opening comment in this thread. It can only be a wind up.