Champion of Champions Preview

We’ve hardly been able to get 40 winks of sleep but it’s onto the next big event on the snooker calendar as the Champion of Champions gets under way today in Coventry.

O'Sullivan beat Bingham 10-8 in last year's final - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
O’Sullivan beat Bingham 10-8 in last year’s final – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Ricky Walden will probably still be mid-flight as he returns to English shores as the International Championship victor, having seen off the challenge of Mark Allen 10-7 in yesterday’s absorbing final.

Quite why anybody thought it was an acceptable idea to schedule these two tournaments, on completely opposite sides of the world, within one day of each other is anyone’s guess.

It was potentially going to prove a major headache for World Snooker but lady luck was on their side and, with many of the higher seeds going by the wayside early on in Chengdu, a minor fiasco has appeared to have been avoided.

The Champion of Champions is of course in its second year, having replaced the now defunct Premier League twelve months ago.

Originally it was hoped that the competition would be contested solely only by those who emerged victorious in tournaments throughout the previous season or year.

However, despite the influx of new events on the snooker scene over the last few years too many of them have still produced a repeating champion – so the desired criteria has proved difficult to meet for the organisers.

This has led to a few players actually gaining an invitation despite having not won anything at all, rather just by playing consistently to be sufficiently high up the rankings list.

This is the case for Marco Fu, John Higgins and Ali Carter, the latter gaining the final spot having had his seeding position of 13 frozen for the remainder of the campaign.

Joe Perry was the unfortunate player who missed out but, in truth, while Carter hasn’t necessarily won anything on the table recently – although he did spectacularly capture the minor General Cup upon his immediate return –  he has certainly proved himself to be a champion off of it following his two battles with cancer in quick succession.

The tournament, in which the prize money awarded doesn’t count towards the world rankings, is a little unique as, rather than the entire first round being played out before proceeding to the subsequent stage, each of the first four days produces a semi-finalist.

So, on day one Ding Junhui plays Dominic Dale and Barry Hawkins takes on John Higgins before the pair of winners duel themselves later in the day for a last four spot.

The inaugural 2013 edition proved to be a nice addition to the calendar while the change in format, while slight, proved a refreshing remodel of a routined formula.

Last year, Ronnie O’Sullivan overcame Stuart Bingham to collect the £100,000 winner’s cheque and the duo return to face each other in the opening round on Wednesday.

All of the last 16 ties are difficult to predict as it’s played over a best of seven sprint, before the encounters are lengthened from the quarter-finals onward, but ‘Ballrun’ has been in excellent form of late and he will fancy his chances of avenging his earlier defeat to the ‘Rocket’.

An interesting, for want of a better word, name in the draw is one Steve Davis, who has been invited to play following his World Seniors success.

Poetically, the 57 year-old must challenge the might of reigning world champion Mark Selby in the first round.

Schedule – There will be extensive live coverage throughout on ITV4

Ding Junhui vs Dominic Dale
Barry Hawkins vs John Higgins

Ding/Dale vs Hawkins Higgins

Mark Selby vs Steve Davis
Judd Trump vs Stephen Maguire

Selby/Davis vs Trump/Maguire

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Stuart Bingham
Shaun Murphy vs Marco Fu

O’Sullivan/Bingham vs Murphy/ Fu

No snooker due to the Europa League

Neil Robertson vs Ali Carter
Mark Allen vs Ricky Walden

Robertson/Carter vs Allen/Walden

Two semi-finals


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