The third European Players Tour Championship event of the season gets under way today as professional snooker returns to Belgium for the third successive year.
Bruges was the original destination in the PTC Series’ inaugural year in 2010 before Antwerp became the host last year, and it is to the Lotto Arena again where the players will return following a hugely successful outing last time around.
The tournament itself was an exciting one with attendances, as has become the norm in mainland Europe, excellent throughout.
But it will undoubtedly be remembered for a final that was one of the best in recent memory – played between two of the game’s most recognisable stars in Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump.
In front of a packed audience of more than 1500 people who generated an electric atmosphere, two gifted talents conjured up a thrilling encounter with a flurry of quick-fire, enthralling snooker.
After an early bout of safety in the opening frame – pretty much the only tactical exchange in the entire contest – O’Sullivan landed a 63 break to establish an early advantage.
However, an unexpected missed black off the spot in the second allowed Trump in for his first meaningful chance and before long the then China Open champion was 3-1 ahead.
Breaks of 68 and two 69s brought Trump to within one of victory as he effortlessly strode around the baize potting balls off lampshades.
However, if Trump’s play was effortless the next two frames from his opponent were simply sublime.
The ‘Rocket’ fired in back-to-back century breaks of 118 and 132 to tie the match up at 3-3 and force a decider.
By this stage, the match had become more of an exhibition rather than a big final carrying ranking points as both cueists showed off their talents in suitably artistic fashion.
O’Sullivan potted a long red to grab the first chance in the final frame but failed to get nicely on the black and two breaks of around 40 from Trump – the only frame that didn’t boast at least a half century from either player – were enough to seal a memorable triumph.
Of course, shortly after Trump would go on to lift his first major at the UK Championship in York while O’Sullivan would end the season as a four-time world champion – highlighting their stature at the top of the sport.
There’ll be no Ronnie in this year’s event as he doesn’t make his full return from his summer hiatus for another few weeks but Trump, who was somewhat hesitant to promise to the crowd in his victory speech last year that he would return, is in the high-quality field – his first round match against Thailand’s Passakorn Suwannawat.
The tie of the last 128 is Ding Junhui’s outing with Shaun Murphy but there are other intriguing clashes in the making – in particular Matthew Stevens’ challenge of Graeme Dott while Dominic Dale faces Peter Ebdon.
As with all the PTCs, not all of this round is known yet because two preliminary amateur rounds are to be contested before Friday.
A significant number of Belgians have entered and it will be interesting to see if anyone can show signs of an impending emergence following Luca Brecel’s recent progress in the sport.
Irish eyes will once again be focussed on Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien, who will both be desperate to finish inside the top 25 in the Order of Merit this season in the hope of gaining the opportunity to play on home soil in the Grand Finals – although nothing has been officially announced whether the series finale will indeed be returning to the Emerald Isle for a third time.
17 year-old Josh Boileau did have his name down but has decided not to make the trip to the continent, which is a huge shame given the fact he is evidently in good form subsequent to an appearance in the final of the first Irish ranking event of the season in Carlow last weekend.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.