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Five promising prospects to look out for on the World Snooker tour in 2017

Chinese teenager Bingtao looks on (credit: Getty Images)

With 2016 drawing to a close and the New Year fast approaching, we pick out five promising prospects to look out for on the World Snooker tour in 2017.

While the standards continue to rise in the upper echelons of Snooker, the gap is closing all the time from the players further down the rankings.

The vast increase of events are providing more of a level playing field across the tour with new opportunities opening for those looking to really kick on and make their breakthrough.

Here are our five promising prospects to keep an eye on in the New Year...

Zhou Yuelong

Having regularly featured as a Wildcard during the Chinese events before turning professional following his victory in the 2013 IBSF World Championship, the 18-year-old came to prominence during his surprise success alongside Yan Bingtao for China B at the 2015 Snooker World Cup.

That victory earned the Chengdu cueist a place in the popular Champion of Champions the following November, where he continued to surprise by recovering from 3-1 down to stun reigning World Champion Stuart Bingham 4-3 in the opening match of the tournament.

His calmness and embracing of the big stage was evident during that event and he has since reached the Last 16 of three ranking events, including the UK Championship at the end of November.

Already up to number 40 in the provisional world rankings, the future certainly looks bright for the man who turns 19 in January.

Oliver Lines

One of the UK's hottest prospects, Lines has already underlined his potential by climbing into the top 64 and beating the likes of Mark Selby and Judd Trump during his short career.

The 20-year-old has enjoyed runs to the last 16 of the UK Championship and Indian Open so far this season and risen to a career-high 54th in the world rankings.

Now fairly established in the top 64, the Leeds cueist will be looking to really kick on in the New Year.

And, with father and former professional Peter in his corner, that will give him plenty of motivation to do so.

Yan Bingtao

This season, 16-year-old Yan became the first active professional born in the 2000s after becoming the youngest-ever winner of the World Amateur Championship in 2014.

He also gained global recognition alongside Zhou during that World Cup success and, like his partner, claimed a huge scalp at that year's Champion of Champions by beating Shaun Murphy in the opening round.

After being forced to wait a year before picking up his tour card after being unable to obtain a UK visa, Yan has made up for lost time - already reaching the Last 16 of four ranking events on the way to rising to 70th in the world rankings, while he beat former world champion Murphy again to qualify for the German Masters..

Having done all of this by the age of 16, should be continue to progress in the right direction with the correct guidance, it is frightening to think what the future may hold for him.

Akani Songsermsawad

Thailand has produced some very good players over the years - most notably, James Wattana, who reached number three in the world rankings and is still holds an invitational tour card.

Another one to possibly match Wattana's achievement is 21-year-old Akani, nicknamed 'Sunny', who reached the quarter-finals of the Indian Open earlier this season.

He gained recognition for his unique method of using the rest - effectively using the implement as his bridge hand while maintaining the traditional grip on the cue - and it took world number 16 Kyren Wilson to stop him in his tracks in the Last Eight.

Ranked 82nd in the world, another couple of similar performances during 2017 could well see him climb into the top 64.

Zhao Xintong

Born in Shaanxi, Zhao gained a reputation as a bogey player for the scalps he claimed as a Wildcard in the Chinese ranking events.

He earned the nickname 'The Wildcard Menace' after thumping 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty 6-0 at the 2012 International Championship, before comfortably sweeping aside six-time Crucible King Steve Davis 6-1 the following year.

Davis would later say: "This boy was astonishingly good and better than anybody I have ever seen at that age - and that includes Ronnie O'Sullivan!"

Following several near-misses, including losing to Duane Jones on the black during the final 2015 Q School event, Zhao qualified for the main tour as the runner-up of the 2015 IBSF World Championship Final.

The 19-year-old claimed a huge scalp as he consigned the in-form John Higgins to a thumping 5-1 defeat on the way to qualifying for the German Masters. Could that have been the first sign of him living up to Davis' prediction?

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Five promising prospects to look out for on the World Snooker tour in 2017

With 2016 drawing to a close and the New Year fast approaching, we pick out five promising prospects to look out for on the World Snooker tour in 2017.

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