And We’re Back…

But did we ever really go away?

The World Championship ended just three weeks ago and in the meantime there was the highly competitive Q-School that saw a dozen newcomers join the Main Tour.

On Monday, the 2013/14 campaign officially got under way with the first day of Wuxi Classic qualifiers at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

This season begins under a new guise – a fresh flat format that sees all the professionals come in at the round of 128 for the first time.

The only ranking tournaments where this will not be the case will be the Australian Open, Shanghai Masters and the next World Championship, which will all use the old method of seeded tiered qualifying.

However, for the other eight main rankers everyone must start at the same place whether you are ranked as high as the world no.1 or a lowly 128.

This is what Barry Hearn has been striving for since he became chairman of World Snooker just over three years ago.

It ensures that there is a more level playing field and the opportunity is there now for anybody who is good enough.

Before, there was significant protection for the top players – particularly those ranked inside the elite top 16.

That bracket is still important, especially in the sense that it remains the ticket to gain an invitation to the prestigious Masters.

But none of those players will now be exempt from the qualifying cubicles for one match at least.

The new system has ensured that there will be 64 qualifiers for most of the venue stages rather than the prior 32.

It will be interesting to see how this will be enacted at the arenas because it will become increasingly difficult to divide TV time.

But it is impossible to argue against the fact that right down through the ranks this is a fairer system.

In the short term, those in the top 16 will bemoan the fact that they have worked so hard to get there and are now told they have to return to doldrum-like conditions.

In the long-term, though, this will transform the state of the sport into a much healthier one – and one that inspires youngsters to take the game up professionally.

Generally, no matter what the format the cream of the crop tend to overcome whatever obstacle – the PTC series is testament to this – but the new format will of course conjure up a few more shocks than normal, especially in the beginning.

And there was none bigger on the opening day than world no.1 Mark Selby’s 5-3 loss to Welshman Andrew Pagett.

If anything, that result will have sent a sure-fire warning sign to the rest of the field as to how seriously every competitor on the circuit needs to be taken.

So there’ll be no ‘Jester from Leicester’ at this year’s first ranking event but most of the other scores went to form.

Amateur Gareth Greene, who gained entry to make up the numbers for the 128 needed after several withdrawals and through the Q-School Order of Merit for those who didn’t qualify automatically, edged Liu Chuang 5-4 while Scott Donaldson schooled Tom Ford 5-1.

Apart from that, there were wins for the likes of Barry Hawkins, Stuart Bingham, Mark Williams, Jack Lisowski, Jimmy White, Graeme Dott and defending champion Ricky Walden – who needed the final black in the decider to see off a spirited challenge from Pankaj Advani.

Unsurprisingly, five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan pulled out at the last-minute due to “personal reasons”.

Given the fact this event is to be played in China, I don’t think anybody truly believed that the ‘Rocket’ was going to attend.

The one round of qualifying continues until Wednesday with Fergal O’Brien in action against Ben Harrison, Ken Doherty welcoming the return of Joe Swail and Davy Morris up against Michael Holt.

The full draw and list of results can be viewed by clicking here

No Comments

  1. Eugene Caulfield

    Good article. I enjoyed the comment and the small divergences of opinion and also the significant unanimity.

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