Mark Williams expects a serious match with ‘big player’ Yan Bingtao in the World Snooker Championships quarterfinals, believing that he and Zhao Xintong are leading a Chinese takeover of the top 32, which he originally predicted over a decade ago.
Williams has so far excelled at Sheffield in this tournament, comfortably watching Michael White and Jackson Page reach the top eight.
Yan has also not been sluggish as he played brilliantly to beat Chris Wakelin and then defending champion Mark Selby to get into the neighborhood for the first time.
Still only 22, Yan has been on Williams’ radar for years already, with the Welshman beating Tiger in the final of the 2017 Northern Ireland Open. The decisive defeat for Yan means he narrowly missed out on being the youngest winner ever.
The triple world champion believed that Ding Junhui’s first success in 2005 would quickly launch a huge amount of Chinese players to the top of the snooker, and although that has not quite happened yet, he feels that Yan and Zhao’s big victories on the tour. will make it happen.
“He’s really good,” Williams said of Yan. ‘I think I only stopped him by being the youngest winner of tournaments ever, he’s a great player.
“The same is Xintong, which is a bunch of Chinese players coming through now.
‘I know I said maybe 10-15 years ago that we could soon have half of the top 32 as a Chinese player, 10 years later we do not have it, but they are coming through in massive numbers now, and they’re all brilliant. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. ‘
Former Masters champion Yan, current British champion Zhao and European Masters winner Fan Zhengyi all train at Victoria’s Academy in Sheffield, which Williams credits for much of their success.
“The training facilities they have have to help them,” he said. ‘Victoria has eight or nine star tables. They are all brilliant players and all practice with each other for six, seven, eight hours a day.
‘If you can not get better at playing up there with Yan and Xintong, play against them and eight or nine others, well, you have to get better.
‘More young people are coming and they will all get better. There are plenty on tour now and they are all excellent players.
‘Years ago, when they used to come in as wildcards, they were pretty much warming up for the best boys out there, but now anyone could lose to one of them.’
Williams and Yan get their quarterfinals started at. 10 Tuesday, April 26 in Crucible.
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