‘Half of top 16 will be from China’

Ding Junhui

Ding Junhui has won 11 ranking titles, including two China Open victories

Half of the top 16 players in the world will be from China one day, says World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn.

At present, there are no Chinese players in the elite top 16, with 17th-placed Ding Junhui the highest ranked.

Liang Wenbo, Tian Pengfei, Xiao Guodong, Li Hang, Zhou Yuelong and Yu Delu are the only others from China currently ranked in the top 64.

“Over the next 10-15 years, China will dominate most sports. The government are pouring money in,” said Hearn.

Of the nine ranking events this season, the Shanghai Masters and China Open are played in China. In 2014, the country built its own Crucible Theatre to try to lure the World Championship away from Sheffield, which is contracted to host the tournament until 2017.

Ding, 29, is their most successful player with 11 ranking title victories, but has dropped out of the top 16 following a poor season. He had to come through three rounds of qualifying to compete at the World Championship.


Ding Junhui and Xiao Guodong contested the first ever ranking final featuring two Chinese players at the 2013 Shanghai Masters

“It is inevitable one day [that Ding Junhui will win the World Championship],” Hearn told BBC World Service Sport.

“He hasn’t had the best of seasons but that may make him the most dangerous player in the field – he has no pressure.

“If Ding happens to win it, it will be a big boost to the game in China and bring in the start of an era with more and more Chinese players.

“Do I want to see the top-16 players all Chinese players? Do you want to see a draw between all Chinese players? The system is there, if they are good enough, to do exactly that.”

Reprimanding Ronnie


Ronnie O’Sullivan failed to attend media duties after his first round win at the 2016 World Championship

In a news conference on Wednesday, Hearn hinted that O’Sullivan’s refusal to talk to the media following his first-round World Championship win could lead to first-time fines for the same offence from next season.

Current rules mean O’Sullivan was just warned after beating David Gilbert 10-7.

In February, Hearn said O’Sullivan is “close” to being bigger than snooker.

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Ronnie O’Sullivan text me after 147 controversy – Barry Hearn

“Ronnie is a renegade so gets headlines for other things, which is all part of character building,” said Hearn. “Snooker is played with self control and players who exercise that don’t become renegades. Ronnie is a one off.

“If Ronnie breaks the rules, he gets punished. It doesn’t matter who you are. You have to understand the frailties of nature and understand everyone is different.”

‘Snooker has never been bigger’

Hearn was also bullish about snooker’s future as a global game, with major tournaments played in 10 countries.

“Some people have written an obituary about snooker before it’s dead,” added Hearn. “The truth is that globally, snooker has never been bigger than it is now.

“The danger from the UK is people asking, ‘where are the 18.5 million people who watched the Dennis Taylor v Steve Davis final of 1985?’ The world has changed. You don’t have three or four TV channels – there are hundreds, which takes people’s attentions. “

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