Name: Liang Wenbo
DOB: 5th March 1987
Turned Pro: 2004
Highest Ranking: 16th (2010/11)
Highest Break: 147 (2008 Bahrain Championship Qualifying)
Career Highlights: 2008 World Championship quarter-finalist, 2009 Shanghai Masters finalist, 2015 German Masters semi-finalist, 2013 International Championship quarter-finalist, 2008 Northern Ireland Trophy quarter-finalist, 2014 AT3 champion, 2014 AT4 finalist, 2013 World Games finalist, 2005 World under-21 Champion
Having reached the semi-finals of the World under-21 Championship in 2004, Liang Wenbo was to go further the following year when he won the tournament, defeating countryman Tian Pengfei 11-9 in Bahrain. As well as being a significant victory on the international stage, this also gained him a spot on the main tour for 2005/6 where he has remained ever since.
For a rookie, his début season as a professional was to prove quietly impressive as he was able to qualify for the final stages of the 2006 Welsh Open. Having made it this far he then defeated veteran Nigel Bond 5-0 before narrowly losing out to Graeme Dott 5-3 in the last 32. He had though done enough to retain his place on the tour for another year by virtue of finishing 7th on the one-year list of players outside of the top 64.
His second season was to be consistent, Liang winning at least one match at each ranking event to secure a strong amount of points on the one year list once again. His most impressive results came in qualifying for the final stages of the Grand Prix by finishing top of his qualifying group, as well as qualifying for the Welsh Open for a second successive season.
World Championship breakthrough
2007/8 appeared to be much of the same for Liang, a few qualifying wins but no real standout result along the way.
This was to change however as he qualified for the final stages of the World Championship at the Crucible for the first time at the end of the season. Along the way he defeated Ben Woollaston, Rod Lawler, Dave Gilbert and former top 16 player Ian McCulloch to earn his place in Sheffield.
Liang was not just happy with this however as sensationally he defeated former world champion Ken Doherty 10-5, ending the Irishman’s long stay in the top 16 in the process. In the second round he held off a courageous fightback from another Irishman Joe Swail to take the match 13-12, though this match was not to be without controversy.
Either way Liang was through to the quarter-finals where he would meet champion-elect Ronnie O’Sullivan, eventually losing out 13-7. By reaching this stage however he had not only guaranteed his place on the tour for another year, but rocketed up 26 places in the rankings to 40th place.
Recent form and 147
Many wondered whether this run would be a one-off or whether Liang could repeat such performances at the start of the 2008/9 season. The early signs were promising though as he reached the last 16 of the season opening Northern Ireland Trophy and the Shanghai Masters.
Though he was not to qualify for the final stages in Bahrain, Liang produced a sensational performance against Martin Gould early on in the competition, not only making two breaks of 139, but in the fourth frame making the first maximum 147 break of his career.
He was to maintain a consistent level of performance for the rest of the season, losing just once in his opening match and although he lost out 10-8 (having led 8-7), to friend and countryman Ding Junhui back at the Crucible, still managed to do enough to comfortably move up into the top 32 for 2009/10.
Liang got his 2009/10 season off to the perfect start in July’s Beijing International Challenge as he managed to overcome the likes of Stephen Hendry, Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire to take his first professional title. In particular the manner of his final victory against Maguire from two down with three to play showed that he can be resilient as well as exciting.
The best was yet to come however as he continued this form into the first ranking event of the season in Shanghai. There he defeated Peter Ebdon, Ali Carter, defending champion Ricky Walden and world number three Shaun Murphy to reach the first ranking event final of his career. Although his fairytale run was ended by the vastly experienced Ronnie O’Sullivan, he had broken new ground and put himself well inside the top 16 provisionally for the first time.
He reinforced this at the UK Championship with a run to the quarter-finals and despite a poor finish to the season which saw him win just one further match, he had done enough to secure his top 16 status for 2010/11 at the expense of Stoke’s Jamie Cope.
Like countryman Ding Junhui, Liang began the 2010/11 season in poor form, losing his opening match in both the Shanghai Masters and World Open qualifiers and ultimately his place in the top 16 as a result, showing just how cut-throat the new mid-season seedings changes could be.
A brief revival followed as Liang reached the semi-finals of the PTC6 event before making the final of the EPTC3 event in Russelsheim just days later where he lost out to Scot Marcus Campbell.
Liang could not sustain this improved form however and by the end of the campaign had lost his opening round during each of the season’s seven major ranking event tournaments, meaning that he would drop to 30th in the rankings.
While Liang initially struggled for wins during the early PTC events in 2011/12, he made a strong start to the full ranking event season, wins against Ben Woollaston and Matthew Stevens taking him to the last 16 of the Australian Goldfields Open where he would lose to Ken Doherty in a deciding frame.
A last 32 appearance at the Shanghai Masters followed before his results improved during the PTCs, last 16 runs in PTC6 and PTC7 followed by a quarter-final at PTC10 which he again lost in a decider, this time to Dominic Dale.
Due to the points coming off his ranking from his strong start to the 2009/10 season however, Liang was to lose his top 32 status at the first seedings revision in October 2011.
Liang’s best performances during the second half of the season were to come at the Welsh Open and World Championship tournaments of which he made the last 32 on both occasions before losing out to John Higgins. The latter match in particular was to prove particularly close as up against the defending champion at the Crucible, he took him all the way to a deciding frame before eventually losing 10-9.
Liang was to make a reasonable start to the 2012/13 season, his best results in the PTC events being three last 16 runs at the UKPTC2, ET4 and ET5 events before the turn of the year.
His form in the full-ranking events was to be more difficult, last 32 appearances at the Australian Goldfields Open and UK Championship events representing his deepest runs.
The second half of the season was to prove a similar story as he was able to qualify for the venue stages of both the Welsh Open and China Open tournaments, without being able to progress any further in either event.
The 2013/14 season was to see noticeable improvement from Liang as he consolidated his position inside the world’s top 32.
His strongest showing at a full-ranking event came at the International Championship, where he defeated Ryan Clark, Li Yan, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Davis to reach his first quarter-final since the 2009 UK Championship, before losing to Scotland’s Graeme Dott.
He was to also enjoy success at the season’s Asian Tour events, winning the third before reaching the final of the fourth, while he also finished as runner-up at the invitational World Games tournament in 2013.
Liang was to achieve his best ranking event finish in nearly six years at the German Masters as he defeated Ian Glover, Stuart Carrington, Li Hang, Stuart Bingham and Ryan Day to reach the semi-finals, before he suffered a 6-4 defeat at the hands of newly crowned Masters champion Shaun Murphy.
Otherwise, his best result at a full-ranking event would be a last 16 run at the Wuxi Classic, while he also made it through to the final qualifying round of the World Championship, losing narrowly to countryman Zhang Anda in a deciding frame.
Non-Ranking Event wins (1)
|Beijing International Challenge||2009|