World Snooker today revealed the four players that would be joining the 96 other players on the main tour for the 2011/2012 season. They include Belgian star Luca Brecel and two-tims former Thailand Open champion James Wattana.
The first of these wildcards is given to 16-year-old Luca Brecel from Belgium. Tipped to well at a young age his junior record certainly hasn't disappointed. In April 2009 he became the youngest winner of the European under-19 championship at 14 years of age.
He also became the youngest Beglian national champion in May 2010 by beating main tour professional Bjorn Haneveer 7-4 in the final. Can he live up to the burden of expecation put upon him? We shall see in the next 12 months! See the bottom of the article for an interview with Luca Brecel's dad and coaches in Belgium.
The next wildcard was given to two-time former Thailand Open champion James Wattana who narrowly finished out of the top 64 of the world rankings this season and dropped off the tour. This 90's Snooker star is only one of four players to make more than two maximum breaks in competition and made the top break of 141 in this year's world championship so he can still play to a good standard.
He also ran Crucible last-16 player Martin Gould to 9-8 in the final round of the UK Championship qualifiers last year. What cost him his place on the main tour was his inability to find any form in the PTC events which meant he lost important ranking points. I believe receiving the wildcard will be the motivation James needs to do well and I think he will make a better go of it this upcoming season.
The third wildcard was given to Lucky Vatnani of India who according to Dave Hendon got it because former IBSF world champion Pankaj Advani declined it as he was unable to spend months on end in the UK. Lucky was due to play in the Q School along with the other four wildcards but now he can relax in the knowledge he will get a spot on the main tour along with Aditya Mehta who received the Asian Nomination by the Indian governing body.
The fourth and final wildcard was awarding to one of China's top players Yu Delu, who over the past few years is a regular face in the wildcard rounds of the Shanghai Masters and the China Open. It is a strange choice to pick Yu over fellow Chinese player Li Hang due to Li having the run to the last 16 in the China Open after beating Ken Doherty and Graeme Dott but maybe he got it due to being higher in the Chinese rankings or for some similar reason.
These four players will be joining 96 other players on the main tour for the 2011/2012 season. This is the first time in over a decade that the tour has been expanded like this and according to World Snooker on Twitter an additional round of qualifying will have to be played. Will it be four players from random from the people ranked 65-100 that will have to play each other in this first qualifying round or a different system? All will be revealed in the coming weeks.
Here is a recent interview with Luca Brecel's coach and dad.