With under two months to go until the end of the 2014/15 season, inevitably much attention will be placed upon next month’s World Championship and before that, the race for players to make it to the Crucible Theatre without having to qualify at Ponds Forge.
Further down the rankings however, there are a number of players looking to gain enough money between now and the end of the World Championship to be sure of remaining on the main tour for the 2015/16 season.
Who stays on tour?
Of the players currently on the main tour, those finishing inside the top 64 places on the main two-year ranking list at the end of the season will remain on the professional circuit for 2015/16.
They will be joined by approximately a further 64 players, including eight from the Kreativ Dental European Tour Order of Merit and four from the Asian Tour Order of Merit.
Who looks safe?
If we are to look at a ‘provisional’ end of season ranking list (that is a list discounting prize money that is set to be deducted before the end of this season and including that already guaranteed to by won by the end of the World Championship), we can identify which current professionals will be looking for a strong finish to the season, if they are to be sure of retaining their status for next season.
Looking at those sitting just above the all-important top 64 cut-off on that list, the likes of Nigel Bond, Tom Ford, Alfie Burden and Jamie Cope are far from certain to remain inside that group at the end of the season.
All however would most likely be safe via other routes (ie their positions on the European and Asian Orders of Merit), but if they were to drop outside of the top 64 would see their points totals reset to zero at the start of next season, rather than retain their money won.
Similarly, Joe Swail, Stuart Carrington, Jimmy White, Noppon Saengkham, Chris Wakelin, Fraser Patrick, James Cahill, Ross Muir, Allan Taylor and Cao Xinlong are all provisionally set to end the season outside of the top 64, but would also be assured of remaining on the tour at the end of the season as it stands via other lists.
There are however players who are currently set to finish outside of the top 64 at the end of the season and who are not in contention to retain their place via one of the other lists. These players will therefore need to enter Q School in May if they are to have a chance of being on the tour next season, if they stay in that position.
Of those in this group, experienced duo Marcus Campbell and Robin Hull have the most realistic chances of doing so, needing to make up over 7,000 and 10,000 points respectively to the top 64 if they are to avoid having to re-qualify through Q School.
Beyond them however, it is a tall order for the remaining players in this position, who will need to reach at least the quarter-finals of the World Championship, or even further in Beijing at the China Open, if they are to finish up inside the top 64 and avoid having to come through Q School to remain on tour.
These players include Dave Harold, Lyu Haotian, Alex Davies, John Astley, Andrew Pagett, Elliot Slessor, Igor Figueiredo, Hammad Miah, Alex Borg, Andrew Norman, Lee Page, Chris Norbury, Ratchayothin Yotharuck, Jak Jones, Ahmed Saif, Alexander Ursenbacher, Ryan Clark and Khaled Beleid Abumdas.
The remaining ranking events this season are this week’s Indian Open, the Players Championship Grand Finals, the China Open and of course the World Championship.
Importantly, a first round win at the World Championship qualifiers is worth £6,000 to the players, so much can still change between now and the end of the season.