Less than 24 hours after the thrilling climax to the Wuxi Classic, the Australian Goldfields Open got under way in Bendigo today.
Many, including myself, were surprised when this tournament’s contract was renewed for another term on the annual calendar.
In its first three years the event certainly wasn’t a failure, drawing in decent enough crowds and suitably entertaining snooker.
However, the fact that many of the top players decided against entering coupled with the low prize money on offer and a less than desirable location led many to believe that the competition Down Under had run its course.
But it’s back again and good on World Snooker for sticking with it because the only way the sport is going to grow in newer territory is if the development is sustained over a suitably long period of time.
Somewhat surprisingly, defending champion Marco Fu has chosen to opt out of this one which is unexpected considering the Hong Kong player is usually one of the most dedicated competitors in the game.
It would be interesting to learn what his reasons where for this decision, especially as it would have marked only the second time in his career he would have started a ranking event as the reigning champ.
The man he beat in last year’s final, Australia’s own Neil Robertson, is the favourite to capture glory in 2014 with both the bookies and the local fans.
And the Melbourne man will be in confident mood following his success in Sunday’s Wuxi Classic final that earned the 32 year-old his 10th ranking event trophy.
Robertson doesn’t get his challenge under way until Wednesday when he takes on Andrew Higginson, who today was one of the two players who overcame amateur wildcard opposition with whitewash scorelines.
Higginson ousted Matthew Bolton while Dominic Dale set up a meeting with Mark Davis after a similarly one-sided 5-0 trouncing of Johl Younger.
Six encounters took place in the last 32 proper as well.
Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien turned in arguably the performance of the day as breaks of 102, 74 and two runs of 72 provided him with a 5-2 victory over Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen.
The Dubliner will do battle with Matthew Stevens for a place in the quarter-finals after the former Masters and UK champion overcame talented teenager Luca Brecel 5-3.
Four-time world champion John Higgins and Gloucester’s Robert Milkins also recorded 5-3 scorelines over Tom Ford and Liang Wenbo respectively while Ryan Day suffered the same fate in a shock defeat to Mark Joyce.
Finally, Ricky Walden was lightly tested in a 5-0 drubbing of Marcus Campbell.
Even though the tournament is lacking the star attraction of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui and world champion Mark Selby, the inclusion of the likes of Robertson, Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire should ensure another highly competitive week in Oz.