Category Archives: Snooker

10 questions for 2015

Lots happened last year – Li Na retired, Sun Yang tested positive, and Chinese soccer continued to suck – but what awaits in 2015? 10 questions for you below…

1. How will China fare at the Asian Cup?

We’ll start with the most pressing questions because China kicks off its Asian Cup campaign on Saturday. Group B – China, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia and North Korea – is a Group of Death only in terms of capital punishment. Alain Perrin has lost just once in 11 games since taking charge last February, but if China fails to progress into the knockout stages, the knives will be sharpened. The days of China finishing 2nd (twice), 3rd (twice) and 4th (twice) in the Asian Cup seem a distant memory, but this tournament will show how much progress has been made under Perrin.

2. Will Zhang Xizhe ever play substantial minutes?

One player who is not in Perrin’s squad is Wolfsburg’s new recruit Zhang Xizhe. The Volkswagen-owned club has already scored a victory following their low-risk, 1.5 million euro signing, with the VW logo on Zhang’s jersey beamed all over China just from a few training sessions. Cynics say that this was precisely the point of the transfer, and the only way to prove them wrong will be if Zhang sees substantial minutes on the pitch – but it won’t be easy to break into a side that currently sits second in the Bundesliga.

3. Who will replace Li Na?

Remarkably, it was less than a year ago when Li Na won her second major title at the Australian Open, but her retirement offers a huge opportunity to whoever is ready to take over at the top of Chinese tennis. Peng Shuai (22), Zhang Shuai (61) and Zheng Jie (95) are the three Chinese players currently in the Top 100, but with another seven in the Top 200, plus youngsters like Youth Olympics singles champ Xu Shilin waiting in the wings, it’s a question of when – not if – we see the next Top 10 player. The men not so much…

4. Which city will be awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics?

Just Beijing and Almaty are left in the running, with the result due to be announced on July 31. Almaty is a stronger bid than it’s given credit for, but Beijing remains a firm favorite in this two-horse race. Sub-question: will the Games clash with the 2022 World Cup?

5. When will Stephon Marbury make the jump into coaching full-time?

He’s made no secret of the fact he wants to coach in China and has already taken up some coaching roles, while continuing to lead on the court. But Marbury turns 38 in a few weeks and can’t play on forever, even though his contract will keep him in the capital until 2017. He’s been named both an honorary and a model citizen of Beijing, so he would seem the perfect role model to lead the Ducks in a more official capacity.

6. Who will be the next major winner from China?

While the tennis scene is looking healthy, it’s more likely China’s next major winner will be a golfer. 25-year-old Feng Shanshan has already won the 2012 LPGA Championship, but watch for teenagers Cindy Feng Yueer, Janet Lin Xiyu and Feng Simin to soar up the world rankings now that they will all be on the LPGA Tour this year.

7. Which male golfer will emerge from the pack?

Guan Tianlang made global headlines by making the cut at the Masters as a 14-year-old in 2013. He may well go onto to have a stellar career, along with a whole crop of other promising Chinese teenagers, but 19-year-old Li Haotong is leading the way at the moment. He won three of the final four PGA Tour China tournaments to top the order of merit and earn a card for the Tour. Keep an eye on him this year.

8. Can Ding Junhui win the World Champs?

While golfers and tennis players have four majors to contest each year, for snooker players it’s all about the World Championships. Ding Junhui set records on his way to becoming world number 1 last year, but until he can win the big prize, he won’t truly have fulfilled his potential. Chinese sports fans will be glued to their TVs in April to see if he can do it.

9. Will Sun Yang remain China’s dominant swimming star?

2014 was not a good year for Sun Yang after testing positive for a banned substance and then appearing to be involved in the mother of all cover-ups. Note I said appearing, because whatever CHINADA and WADA said, it did not look at all good for China’s top sporting star. He has talent to burn, but was overshadowed in the pool by both Ning Zetao and Chen Duo who each won more golds (4) at the Asian Games than Sun (3). Rio in 18 months will still be the main yardstick, though.

10. Will China ever take to boxing?

Listen to boxing promoters (and, unfortunately, western journalists all too happy to print without fact-checking) and you would think that literally hundreds of millions of Chinese sports fans avidly tune in to watch two-time Olympic champ Zou Shiming knock down a series of tomato cans. The truth is more like two million (at a push). This year, though, he will finally fight for a world title, so the stakes will be real for the first time. If he wins, will the sport take off? I’m less and less convinced…

What would you like to see happen in 2015? Feel free to leave your questions or predictions in the comments section below.

Ding dumped out in Crucible shocker

Well that didn’t last very long. Tipped by many to become the next world snooker champion after his record-breaking season, China’s Ding Junhui lost to qualifier Michael Wasley 10-9 in the first round in what World Snooker’s official website called “one of the biggest first round shocks in Crucible history”.

Ding ponders what might have been...
Ding ponders what might have been…

Continue reading Ding dumped out in Crucible shocker

Weekly Wrap: F1 F-up, Becks is back, Ding’s title bid and Perfect Pitch

The World Snooker Championships have begun in Sheffield, UK, with world number 2 Ding Junhui looking to add the only major title missing from his resume. Having won five ranking tournaments already this season, he continued his good form, taking a 6-3 lead over Michael Wasley in their best-of-19 first round match, and making the highest break of the tournament so far (136).  Continue reading Weekly Wrap: F1 F-up, Becks is back, Ding’s title bid and Perfect Pitch



China's Ding plays a shot during his match against Williams of Wales in the final of the 2010 World Snooker China Open in Beijing Continue reading 中国斯诺克选手距离伟大咫尺之遥

Chinese star stands on verge of greatness

Snooker may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s perhaps the best example of the Chinese taking over a sport in a short space of time. Since Ding Junhui won his first China Open title in 2005 as an 18-year-old (he added his second on Sunday), the sport has grown so much here that there are now 13 Chinese in the world’s top 100 players, and five of the season’s 11 full ranking tournaments now take place in China. In TV viewing terms, it’s now firmly established in the second tier of sports (with basketball and soccer the only true Tier 1 occupants). 

Ding Junhui won the China Open in Beijing - his fifth major title of the season
Ding Junhui won the China Open in Beijing – his fifth major title of the season

Continue reading Chinese star stands on verge of greatness

Weekly Wrap: Marbury dominates, and China’s 783-0 streak could end

Stephon Marbury could be in line for a second statue in Beijing. Having missed most of the season through injury, he has inspired the Beijing Ducks in the CBA playoffs, leading them into a finals showdown against the Xinjiang Flying Tigers after a 3-2 series win against the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

Marbury clearly left it (and his clothes) out there on the court
Marbury clearly left it (and his clothes) out there on the court

Continue reading Weekly Wrap: Marbury dominates, and China’s 783-0 streak could end

Ding Junhui breaks new ground

Chinese snooker star Ding Junhui has just managed something that none of John Higgins, Mark WIlliams and even Ronnie O’Sullivan has ever achieved: winning three ranking titles in a row. He completed the hat-trick with a 10-9 victory over Marco Fu in the final of the International Championship in Chengdu, to go with his Shanghai Masters title in September and his Indian Open win last month.

Image Continue reading Ding Junhui breaks new ground

3-year-old snooker prodigy goes viral in China

When you’re featured on the CCTV daily news, it’s safe to say you’ve made it. 3-year-old Wang Wuka from Anhui province plays snooker for five hours a day, under the watchful eye of his father. His claim to fame is that he can pot 15 balls in 10 seconds, though I’m more impressed by some of his long-range potting, given his size. China’s bona fide snooker star Ding Junhui recently talked about wanting to become an alien, due to the pressures that come with representing China, but Mr Wang clearly thinks this is his family’s route to riches. Even China’s golf prodigies aren’t this young. Burnout, anyone?

Tiger Woods: best player never to win a major (again)?

Tiger Woods and Ye Shiwen might make an unlikely couple, but both are prime examples of athletes who have lost their sporting mojos. This week’s Sports Talk column looks at why athletes struggle to get back to their top of their game after losing form:

ImageWe tend to think of sports as being a purely physical pursuit, but at the very top levels, it’s far more about mental strength than anything the body can do. Just as a novelist can get ­writer’s block and be paralyzed for months, once an athlete ­loses their sporting mojo, it can be very hard to retrieve.

Continue reading Tiger Woods: best player never to win a major (again)?