Former snooker professional Craig Edwards @EdwardsTips_ releases his part 2 of “Five to Follow” for the 2022/2023 snooker season for BetWithUs
With the emergence of Zhao Xintong and Yan Bingtao at the top of the snooker world, it’s easy to forget that at the end of 2020, Zhou Yuelong was the young Chinese player making waves on the professional snooker tour.
At the time, he had just lost in the UK Championship semi-final to Neil Robertson, the same player that had beaten him at the start of 2020 in the European Masters final. Yuelong was on the brink of making the Masters in January 2021 but due to Covid missed out on a couple of events that proved costly.
Fate played its hand, as Yan Bingtao won the Masters followed by Zhao Xintong in the UK Championship at the end of 2021. Meaning Zhou Yuelong has slipped off the radar somewhat.
I don’t think, I was on my own in believing at the end of 2020, Yuelong would be the first young Chinese player to break through with a major ranking triumph. A second unlucky Covid withdrawal from events the following season also cost him a Masters debut in 2022.
The twenty-four-year-old with two maximum 147 breaks to his name could be forgiven for thinking the universe was conspiring against him. With a clean slate this season, Yuelong has the perfect mix of attack and defence in his game and is a prodigious break builder. Unsurprisingly, Zhou Yuelong has comparable and slightly favourable break-building statistics to his better-known contemporaries if you take into account their exceptional 2021/2022 seasons.
Zhou Yuelong is one of my five to follow and I will be following his progress in 2022/2023 keenly intending to turn a profit from the inevitable upswing his talent should bring.
Nineteen-year-old Belgian Julien Leclercq managed to avoid a pressurised trip to Q-school at the eleventh hour having won the Qtour play-off. The event was a culmination of the Qtour series with the top 16 players playing off for one place on the professional snooker tour. The style with which the young Belgian won the event was breath-taking, as he took the bull by the horn from the start of the event. His last 16 encounters with Alfie Lee saw him produce three-century breaks in winning 4-0. The quarter-final saw him beat the former professional and Shootout winner of 2018, Michael Georgiou 4-3 on the black. The semi-final saw him dispatch another former professional, Harvey Chandler 4-1 followed by an impressive win in the final over Alex Clenshaw 5-2 having lost the opening couple of frames.
Leclercq first landed on my radar before the 2021 World Championship pre-qualifying round against Soheil Vahedi when he was given a wild card. The YouTube videos I watched showed me the talent I was looking for, particularly in his break-building choice of shot. He was available at 9.00 (8/1) and he duly obliged when he won 6-5 from 3-5 behind, making a century break in the process.
Luca Brecel has led the way for Belgium in the snooker world for many years and I know from personal experience, that they love their snooker. It looks like Brecel is about to get company from Julien Leclercq and with Ben Mertens another promising youngster also on my radar, the future looks bright in continental Europe.
Julien Leclercq is improving at a rapid rate of knots and he’s a player, I’m going to watch keenly in his rookie season on the World Snooker Tour.
The most eye-catching and surprise performance at Q-school was Jenson Kendrick coming through event 3 at 101.00 (100/1). Kendrick had served notice in event 1 that he had improved markedly from the 2021 Q-school when he beat the 2018 Scottish Open semi-finalist, Daniel Wells.
Even so, his run to his professional playing privileges for two seasons in event 3 was a surprise as he beat a slew of more experienced hardened amateur players. The twenty-one-year-old from Stoke will still be relatively unknown as he embarks on his professional career. At Kendrick’s tender age, improvement can come thick and fast and he stepped up markedly on his previous offerings at Q-School.
Looking at the interim between years at Q-School, Jenson Kendrick kept himself busy on the amateur circuit racking up 70 matches. Going through an apprenticeship with that much determination will stand him in good stead and will account for his arch in improvement. Not only has Kendrick improved year on year but in losing in six semi-finals and winning the 2021 EPSB Open Series 2 at Breakers when beating Luke Simmonds in the final, he’s increasing his self-belief and confidence.
I don’t intend on betting Jenson Kendrick at the start of his professional career but that performance at the hardest ever year’s Q-School is worthy of the utmost respect. For that reason, Jenson Kendrick is undoubtedly a player to follow in the 2022/2023 snooker season