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Victoria Bulgarian Open

The fourth European Players Tour Championship event of the season gets under way tomorrow in Sofia as professional snooker arrives in Bulgaria for the first time.

The south-eastern European nation has become a force in the sport in recent years as snooker continues to grow in new and exciting places.

Amateur snooker is beginning to excel in the country, so much so that Sofia has played host to the last two European Championships and is due to stage the upcoming World Amateur Championship at the end of the month.

Its emergence has now culminated in a maiden professional tournament and it will be interesting to see if the crowds can live up to the now high expectations garnered from events staged in continental Europe following the successes in Germany, Belgium and Poland.

It is fantastic to see top class snooker being played in new realms and continues the trend in the Barry Hearn era of bringing the sport to communities that have expressed a keen interest.

Tournaments in countries like Poland and Bulgaria could open up the possibilities of others being staged in the likes of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Russia in the future.

Earlier tonight, the solitary amateur round was completed with a few Bulgarians and other European players making it into the first round proper.

Of course, they have benefited from the absence of some of the pros and high-profile rookies but, even still, it will be a great learning experience for them to be mixing it under high-pressure stakes.

In the last 128, there are a lot of ties to look forward to.

Martin O’Donnell, champion of the inaugural Snookerbacker Classic and Q-School qualifier, has a second crack at world no.1 Judd Trump following his narrow defeat to the International Championship winner earlier in the week at the Kay Suzanne Memorial Cup.

Exciting youngsters Michael White and Aditya Mehta meet each other while Stuart Bingham and Peter Ebdon battle in a clash of ranking event champions.

In a round where most of the professionals are faced with the, what some will call easier, challenge of amateur players, veteran Jimmy White will be ruing his luck after being drawn against up-and-coming Chinese sensation Cao Yupeng.

White doesn’t stand too far outside of the top 25 players who will qualify for the Grand Finals on the Order of Merit list but needs a couple of decent runs in the final three events to break in.

Recent World Seniors champion Nigel Bond takes on World Billiards triumphant Pankaj Advani.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.