Exceptions or a New Norm?

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The renaissance of 1997 world champion Ken Doherty since he was handed an Invitational Tour Card back in April has proven to be one of the most commented upon themes of the season so far, but just how unusual has his start to the campaign been for a player starting from zero points?

Below we take a look at how his results compare to similar players in his position over the past few seasons…

Doherty’s resurgence

With £34,000 already in the bank by the start of October, Ireland’s Ken Doherty is already up to 73rd position on the official two-year world ranking list.

At the very least he has given himself a solid platform from which to build over the coming months and with 18 months of his tour card still to run, the 48-year-old can now realistically be targeting a return to the world’s top 64 by the end of next season.

He has earned over £10,000 more than Switzerland’s Alexander Ursenbacher (£22,600 at the time of writing), the next player to have started this season from zero points following his return to the tour.

Gary Wilson playing snooker


We are now into the fifth season since the world ranking list changed from a points based system to one based upon prize money earned and it is interesting to see how Doherty’s earnings measure up to those of other players who started from zero points during recent seasons.

A third of the way through the campaign, the Irishman’s points tally is already comparable with the season end totals of the best players from 2014-16 in his position:

  • 2013/14 – Gary Wilson – £42,576
  • 2014/15 – Sam Baird – £36,332
  • 2015/16 – Alfie Burden – £30,000

Impressively, Doherty has already surpassed Alfie Burden’s prize total from the entire 2015/16 season, while he is a little over £2,000 behind Sam Baird’s tally from the previous year with more than half of the season still to play.

This is in part due to his semi-final run at the Riga Masters back in June, a result better than Burden and Baird’s best performances of quarter-final and last 16 appearances during their respective seasons.

Added to his impressive consistency in the early rounds of events so far this season with, combined with the continually increasing prize money levels in the early rounds of events and the prize money has quickly racked up.

Exception or a new norm?

So clearly Doherty’s performances have been eye-catching, particularly given his recent struggles, but only last season we saw an even more impressive run from another highly experienced player in Anthony Hamilton. Of course the highlight for Hamilton came in Berlin as he captured his maiden ranking crown, but it was not the only high during his ‘comeback’ season as he accumulated £142,925 in prize money for the year, enough to see him end back inside the top 32 from zero points – unprecedented under the current system.

While the likes of Doherty and Hamilton have years of experience at the very highest level, perhaps what was more significant in 2016/17 was the rise of Yan Bingtao (71,125), Scott Donaldson (59,525) and John Astley (39,125). All players with far less experience, they were able to reach at least one ranking quarter-final, a semi-final in Donaldson’s case and demonstrated that it is possible for players starting at the foot of the list to make an impact.

Already this season we have seen 19-year-old Xu Si match Doherty’s achievement by making it through to his first ranking event semi-final at the Indian Open, while Alexander Ursenbacher today contests his maiden quarter-final at the Dafabet English Open, offering further evidence of the ever-increasing strength in depth across the ranking list as a whole.

No doubt the task of climbing the ranking list for players either new or returning to the tour on zero points remains a challenging one, but as players such as Hamilton and Yan have shown in recent months, it is possible for players of all levels of experience to succeed.

Will we see more players over the coming years being able to make rapid ranking gains by running deep in tournaments, or are these recent runs exceptions to the norm? Let us know via social media @wpbsaofficial.