Antwerp Open Preview

The tournaments are coming thick and fast and the next stop is Belgium for the third annual Antwerp Open.

Mark Allen is the defending champion and enters the event in good form having captured the last two Players Tour Championship titles on the European Tour – in Ruhr and Gloucester.

China’s Ding Junhui recently earned several plaudits for becoming the first player in 20 years to be triumphant in three consecutive ranking events.

While winning a PTC event does not carry as much weight in terms of importance, officially given a minor-ranking status, were Allen to complete a hat-trick of his own it would still be a distinctly impressive achievement.

Indeed, one could argue that the difficulty is just as high given the fact one has to remain at the top of their game for seven, albeit short, best of seven encounters over a two-day period.

Allen and Ding have been kept apart and are in opposite sides of the draw this week so is there any chance of a final clash between the two most in-form players right now?

History of late would suggest so, as the Northern Irishman actually defeated Ding in Germany to collect the first of his current brace.

It will be interesting to see how Ding performs having understandably taken a week off to recuperate.

The 26 year-old will no doubt be focussing more on the upcoming trio of major events – the inaugural Champion of Champions, the UK Championship and the Masters – but that is not to suggest he will not take his snooker seriously this weekend.

After all, winning is a habit, and Ding is certainly hooked on success at the moment.

The professionals get going on Friday but first will be the amateur preliminary rounds today.

There should be no repeat of last week’s disastrous planning when a shortage of tables, coupled with high entry numbers, resulted in the final qualifiers being decided at around 5am.

Although the Capital Venue is a brilliant facility it is still relatively small, but size will not be an issue at the superb Lotto Arena where no fewer than 18 tables will be in use on Thursday.

Belgium has been one of the lynchpin countries that has helped oversee the dramatic rise in popularity across Mainland Europe in recent seasons.

Like its sister events in Germany, Poland, Bulgaria and more recently the Netherlands, the Antwerp Open has been well supported with big enthusiastic crowds who are eager to watch top-level snooker.

Moreover, they have not been disappointed. Allen overcame Mark Selby last season and in 2011 Judd Trump pipped Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-3 in what was one of the best matches since the PTC series’ inception back in 2010.

These tournaments tend to give great opportunities to the lower ranked players to gain some invaluable table time and perhaps go on a confidence boosting run to a quarter or semi-final.

However, the eventual champion has predominantly come from the typical group of ten or so players who are capable of winning any championship.

The only key player from that selection missing this weekend is world no.1 Neil Robertson, who will no doubt be preparing strongly for the big Christmas and New Year stretch. 

The Antwerp Open will be broadcast live on Eurosport.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here

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