Snooker Returns in August

Snooker’s summer hiatus is almost at an end with just a week until the players return for the inaugural Riga Open in Latvia.

There’ll be no excuses of burnout necessary, instead there may be some who have benefited a little too much from the break before the first European Tour event of the 2014/15 campaign.

Open for BusinessIf it’s not too much snooker then it’s too little and no doubt there’ll be the odd competitor out there who hasn’t picked up his cue as much as he ought to have had over the last number of weeks.

Nobody can really blame them, though, as this has been the longest timeout of its kind in practically five years.

Like all sports, everybody involved in snooker needs some respite at some point in order to refresh, rejuvenate and reinvigorate their interest in the game.

Too much of a good thing can lead to it becoming stale and the reward for this month off could be a better standard of play come the tail end of the season next year – most importantly, of course, at the Crucible in April, where Ronnie O’Sullivan remains bookmaker Betfair’s 15/8 favourite to capture his sixth World Championship crown.

There’s an abundance of silverware up for grabs between now and then, though, while the introduction of the new money-list ranking system offers an alternative perspective as to how each individual treats the various events.

Many of the top players will inevitably apply their attention most to those tournaments presenting the largest pay cheques.

Ronnie O'Sullivan is still the bookies favourite for every event - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos
Ronnie O’Sullivan is still the bookies’ favourite for every event – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos

The International and UK Championships are two lucrative tournaments in the first half of the season and the likes of Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson will be among the heavy-hitters in defending their respective titles.

Despite the form of many of his competitors, O’Sullivan is also the safe number one Betfair pick for York at 3/1, ahead of world champion Mark Selby’s 11/2 tag.

Victory in either of these would almost guarantee a player’s spot near the top of the rankings for the foreseeable future and would take a lot of pressure off them in the minor events, should they even wish to enter.

For the time being, the players will have to jostle for those positions as the early season jitters subside.

August is still a relatively quiet month considering the manic roadshow that will ensue come the latter part of the calendar.

After the Riga Open comes the qualifiers for the Shanghai Masters, one of the few major ranking events left that hasn’t changed to the flat 128 draw format.

This means that defending champion Ding and his top 16 counterparts will have the luxury of knowing that they are already in September’s last 32 draw.

The only remaining action next month sees the return of the Paul Hunter Classic, marking the ten-year anniversary since the event was won by the Leeds legend when it was originally a small pro-am in Furth.

Since 2010 and its inclusion in the Players Championship series, the Paul Hunter Classic has become arguably the biggest and most prestigious of the satellite minor ranking events.

So a relatively easy restart to this campaign then before the action generates pace over the coming months of what will surely transpire to be another enthralling season.

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