Ding Junhui leapt from third to first in the latest world rankings to become the first Asian player to be crowned world number one since the system began back in 1976.
Despite his shock 6-5 defeat to teenager James Cahill at the UK Championship’s in York earlier this month, Ding had done enough to overtake both Mark Selby and Neil Robertson, who also suffered early exits at the hands of lower ranked players.
Selby, the previous number one, was ousted in the second-round by David Morris and number two Robertson lost in the last-16 to Graeme Dott.
Junhui, 27, won a record-equalling five ranking titles last season - the Shanghai Masters, International Championship, German Masters, Indian Open and China Open – which has helped his rise to the top of the rankings.
Ding has now followed in the footsteps of some very auspicious names who have graced the game of snooker and become World number one.
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He joins an elite club of just 11 players in a list that includes multiple World champions such as Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Snooker’s previous World number one players;
Can Ding inspire?
The snooker authorities and high-ranking officials, such as Barry Hearn, will certainly hope so as the game in Asia is particularly huge and adding a large amount to the game in terms of quality players, revenue and global exposure.
Gone are the days when Snooker tournaments were just confined to the British Isles and only British players, interspersed with a limited amount of overseas stars, were challenging for the top honours.
It is now a truly global sport and must be encouraged to develop in this way for the good of the game. However, I am also a great advocate for keeping the major tournaments at their original venues, such as the World Championships at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. A mixture of tradition and innovation seems to be the way forward for the sport.
World Championship chances
If not in 2015 then the day is surely edging closer year by year. The growing army of Asian players are becoming more and more visible with every passing year so it is now only a matter of time before the World title makes its way to the Asian continent.
The game at present has a number of players who are capable of winning Snooker’s biggest events now which makes the sport very difficult to predict. The younger players are challenging the more experienced players, who are having to up their performances in order to compete.
The UK Championship final proved this as Judd Trump very nearly produced a fantastic comeback against Ronnie O’Sullivan but in the end The Rocket was able to dig deep enough to clinch the crucial deciding frame.
New ranking system
The new ranking system, which moved to a money list based on a player's performance over the preceding two years and replaced the point tariffs at the start of this season, is adding to the game as there is the likelihood that the world number one could change on numerous occasions throughout a season.
In fact after the Lisbon Open this week Neil Robertson could regain his number one spot from Ding but that should take nothing away from the Chinese player in what could be a defining moment for the sport.
Snooker is awash with talent, such as Ding, and the future looks bright for a game that is trying to embrace change and move forward as a global brand. I fully expect the game to develop and become stronger and even more competitive over the next few years.
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