PLENTY of young hot-shots are tipped up as the real deal but there are good reasons for believing that Michael White’s major breakthrough cannot be far away.
There is often an intangible quality surrounding genuine prospects when they take to the arena. Far from looking like a rabbit caught in a headlight, they look calm and assured, and give off the aura that this is what they were supposed to do.
Neath’s White, the next big Welsh hope in a country steeped in proud snooker tradition, turned professional at just 15 and lasted only a season but since regaining his tour spot in 2009 the rise has been inexorable.
Now up to a career-high ranking of world No23, White famously made his first century at the age of just nine and his heavy, fluent scoring remains his greatest attribute.
And that was a feature of his run to a first ranking-event quarter-final at the World Championships two years ago. He beat compatriot Mark Williams and Dechawat Poomjaeng at the Crucible before losing to Ricky Walden.
There was another last-eight appearance at the Indian Open last season, where he was edged out 4-3 by Stephen Maguire.
And with White playing as well as at any time in his career in the autumn he twice ran into an inspired Mark Allen in China at the same stage. White was very unlucky to lose 5-4 in Shanghai, and there was a more comprehensive 6-3 defeat in Chengdu.
It seems a matter of when and not if White can break into the semi-finals or deeper in a major tournament, and opportunity knocks once again at his home BetVictor Welsh Open, back in Cardiff after 10 years in Newport.
Two-time world champion Williams certainly believes that White can fly the flag for Wales in the near future, and maybe even in Cardiff this week.
Williams, 39, does acknowledge that the conveyor belt of Welsh talent is drying up to some extent. Ray Reardon and Terry Griffiths of course paved the way with World Championship success, and Williams and Crucible finalist Matthew Stevens carried the torch on.
But ahead of the Welsh Open Cwm’s Williams is looking to White to make his mark.
Neath’s White opens up against Scotland’s Ross Muir on Tuesday and Williams, winner of 18 ranking titles, said: “We have got one of the top youngsters around in my view in Michael White.
“There aren’t too many of his quality and he doesn’t seem to get the credit he should, a lot of players aren’t producing anywhere the level he is.
“He has been getting very close to a big breakthrough and I’m sure it will come, it is when and not if with Michael.
“He has the potential to win any event he plays in, he has been knocking at the door and I hope he can put on a show in Cardiff.
“I honestly believe he can beat anyone the way he is going – and it is important we have a Welsh player coming through and doing really well in an event.
“We haven’t had a player in the Masters for the past two years, the event for the top 16 only, which would have been unheard of in the past.”
Photograph by Monique Limbos