On the up…but for how long?

Having spent the last few days updating my player profiles (will update the main page once the 96 are officially confirmed), it just made me realise again how on the tour a player can have one good season, but unless they string together two consecutively, in reality it can count for very little…

Andy Hicks, Jin Long, Michael Holt, Li Hang and Dave Harold are just a few of the players who enjoyed a fabulous 2008/9 campaign, consistently winning matches and climbing up the rankings. Just one poor year on however and both Harold and Hicks are in effect back where they started, needing a strong campaign to retain their respective positions while both Long and Hang have now been relegated.

Is this fair? I think that it can be argued both ways as given the lack of events on the calendar it is probably fairer to rank players based on a two-year period, but at the same time it generates a huge amount of pressure for the players during a season which sees just six ranking events staged, particularly if they get off to a bad start.

So who were the ‘over-achievers’ of 2009/10 and can they maintain their form for a second successive season? Both Ken Doherty and Mark Davis are two who finished much higher on the one-year list than on the two-year list last season, although particularly in Ken’s case I can certainly see him maintaining his form given that his previous season was well below his usual standard. Mark has it all to prove up inside the top 32 for the first time in his career, can he continue to win matches consistently at this level with a tougher opening round match in prospect? I would expect so, but you never quite know.

How about Robert Milkins, up in 22nd on the one-year list after a fabulous season highlighted by an appearance in the Grand Prix quarter-finals? Ranked just outside the top 32 I would be surprised to see him lose too many opening round qualifiers, more so than if he had managed to break into that group last season.

Another couple of players who excelled last season are Tom Ford and Tony Drago, the latter winning at least two matches during each of the six tournaments staged and qualifying for two venues. Knowing Tony I would not be all that surprised to see him struggle a touch this season in comparison to last, although ranked in the 48-64 bracket his opening match is likely to be against one of the tour newcomers and on paper at least there is no reason why he should not continue to be able to use his experience to good effect against those players. With the pressure off round one winners to some extent however, they may be more of a threat than they were last season.

For Tom it will be interesting to see how he handles being back inside the top 48. Given his improved performances during 2009/10 I would expect him to maintain the positive results, but can he make an impact at the venues and progress beyond the last 32? That is the question mark for him and something that he is yet to prove.

Matt Selt and Peter Lines meanwhile are both players that enjoyed a superb start to 2009/10 before fading slightly as the season went on. In Peter’s case particularly it looked as though he might be able to crack the top 32 following his brilliant run to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship but following three consecutive defeats after that match question marks will be raised as to whether it did him more harm than good. Selt meanwhile is now up amongst the top 64 for the time, uncharted territory for the man who qualified for two venues early last season. Can he continue to perform well and rise up the rankings?

Click back tomorrow for a piece looking at the other side of the coin, those who experienced a particularly poor 2009/10 campaign…