Snooker in September

Traditionally, the month of September, or even as late as October in some years, would see the commencement of a new snooker campaign following a long summer break.

But times have changed since the introduction of the Barry Hearn era with an almost overwhelming influx of new tournaments – some big, others small – and a near full-cycle, all-year round calendar.

That meant that it was only a matter of weeks following the conclusion of the 2012 World Championship in Sheffield that most of the pros were back slugging it out on the baize for the new season.

With two main ranking events already completed, the Wuxi Classic won by Ricky Walden and the Australian Open claimed by Barry Hawkins, and four of the satellite Players Tour Championship tournaments also done and dusted, the 2012/13 is already moving well through the gears.

September then, is now not a month where players can simply just be content with finding their feet.

It was not totally unexpected to see two new names engraved on the opening brace of ranking events as many of the top players, safe in the knowledge of their top 16 place being safe, will save a lot of their mental reserves for more important tournaments later on in the season.

It was the same last year when Stuart Bingham claimed his maiden title Down Under but thereafter the old reliable group of top-class winners returned to the fore.

Mark Selby, fresh off his defence of the Paul Hunter Classic last week, will be hoping to make it a successive victories double when the players fly back to China in a fortnight for the Shanghai Masters.

The world no.1 has been labelled by some quarters as being fortunate to boast the most prestigious ranking given his lack of major championship success but if the Leicester man is one thing he is consistent and there is no doubting the 29 year-old’s capabilities to steadily add to a growing trophy cabinet.

Before that trip, the penultimate UK PTC event of the season – and possibly ever – takes place in the South West Snooker Academy this weekend with the preliminary amateur rounds getting under way tomorrow.

Last month, having felt ill-treated by both World Snooker and a certain segment of the players, owner Paul Mount decided that this would be the last season professional tournaments would be staged at SWSA.

To say this is an unfortunate set of circumstances is an understatement as Gloucester clearly appears to have the best facilities available to stage these kind of multi-round, quick-fire competitions – although, the venue being somewhat out-of-the-way was possibly of genuine concern both in terms of the players themselves and for any potential crowds.

The thing is, though, with the likelihood of any future PTC tournaments in England returning to the World Snooker Academy in Sheffield, there will be no room for an audience anyway as it does not boast such a facility.

Nevertheless, there are still two more to be played out this season in SWSA and I, along with a few other writers and bloggers, will be taking the opportunity to attend.

Most of the big names will be there, most notably world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan who returns to the scene after a few months hiatus.

The Irish representation will once again be dominated by Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien, who have both enjoyed encouraging starts to this season, with Dessie Sheehan disappointingly being the only amateur from Ireland competing.

On the other side of the Shanghai Masters, the second Asian PTC event will take place in Yixing.

Stuart Bingham emerged victorious from the inaugural tournament that kick-started the campaign in June and with it guaranteed his place in the Grand Finals next March – which has twice been held in Ireland.

The champions of the other two APTCs and the top four from a separate Order of Merit table will also gain their places in the Grand Finals.

Intertwined in all of that are three Premier League nights – one this Thursday, one next week and another on the 27th.

The season has felt a little stagnated until now with a lot of stop-start action, but September is generally the month where the calendar comes alive again and there is certainly plenty of snooker to keep you entertained over the next few weeks.

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