15-Reds Returns in Oz

Tomorrow sees the return of regular snooker to the calendar after a week of 6-Reds action in Thailand.

A quick word on that and the brilliant 8-4 success for Mark Davis in the final over countryman Shaun Murphy.

The shorter format is obviously one that agrees with Davis, who added a second world title to the one he claimed in Killarney three years ago.

Davis probably wishes that there could be more tournaments played under the six reds guise but the likelihood of that happening any time soon is pretty slim.

Still, the 39 year-old will surely be content in the knowledge that he can lay claim to being the world’s leading player under the format – an honour that is not to be sniffed at for someone who has never even broken into the elite top 16 in the world rankings.

With that in mind, the next seven days serves as a good opportunity for Davis, and others, to make a rise up that list.

Almost half of the top 16 have decided to opt out of the trip to Bendigo for the second edition of the Australian Open and it has ensured a tournament that promises to be wide open.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, who hasn’t signed the players’ contract, John Higgins, 2011 runner-up Mark Williams, Stephen Maguire, Judd Trump, Mark Allen and Graeme Dott have all decided to stay at home – something that is well within their rights to do.

With so many events now, it is understandable for some of the top players to pick and choose the events they enter, particularly if they are not too bothered about where they are ranked – so long as they remain in the top 16 bracket of course.

With the significant cost in flights, accommodation and the counter balance of a relatively small prize fund Down Under, the reasons for the absence becomes more apparent.

However, what it does do is considerably lessen the pedigree of the event, especially in the eyes of sponsors who will be unhappy to have lost so many of the sport’s biggest attractions.

Whether this will have a detrimental impact for the future of the Australian Open remains to be seen but put it this way, it wont exactly leave a positive residuum.

As said, though, it does offer plenty of lower ranked players the chance to get their name in the winners enclosure and there is every chance last year’s surprise triumph for Stuart Bingham could be repeated by another qualifier.

Bingham himself is in red-hot form at the moment and could mount a decent challenge at a defence while there are still plenty of big-time players involved with world no.1 Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Ding Junhui and local favourite Neil Robertson all contesting.

You would think the champion would come from one of those four names but, with the season still in its infancy, a few shock results similar to those at the Wuxi Classic a couple of weeks ago should be expected.

Ken Doherty reached the semi-finals last year and, having qualified for both of the opening two ranking events, the Dubliner will be hoping for a similar, if not better, run this time.

The former world champ faces Martin Gould in the opening round, which is probably one of the best draws he could have hoped for given Gould’s suspect sequence of results since Christmas.

Bingham gets his defence under way against Matthew Selt while the match-ups between Matthew Stevens and Liang Wenbo, Barry Hawkins and Xiao Guodong and Ricky Walden and Jamie Cope probably serve as the most intriguing first round clashes.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.

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