World Grand Prix Preview

A new tournament gets under way today in Wales with the inaugural staging of the World Grand Prix. World Grand Prix logoThe invitation event features the top 32 players who have earned the most money since the 2014 World Championship.

In short, it is a just reward for all those competitors who have performed consistently over the course of the last year or so.

With 100,000 pounds up for grabs for the winner next Sunday, the reward is handsome.

All of the big names are obviously in attendance – even China’s Ding Junhui who has endured a nightmare 12 months since winning the China Open at the back-end of last season.

The 27 year-old just made the cut in 28th place and because of that has a tricky opening bout with Indian Open runner-up Ricky Walden.

With just over one month until the start of the World Championship in Sheffield, finding form at the right time is quickly becoming a case of now or never.

Ding will be desperate to salvage something from what has so far been a desperate campaign by his own very high standards.

Another who will be in a similar mindset is Scotland’s Stephen Maguire, who has found himself drawn back into the fight for top 16 places in the world rankings ahead of the upcoming cut-off for the Crucible.

Money earned in Llandudno doesn’t equate to ranking points but Maguire will still be seeking to find some form – not that he has been particularly bad of late having reached the semi-finals of two out of the last four ranking events as well capturing the Lisbon Open title in December.

The 34 year-old takes on China’s no.2 Xiao Guodong and will face one of two former world champions in Shaun Murphy and Peter Ebdon in the next round should he get through.

Top seeds Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan are in action on the first day with encounters against Michael Holt and Rod Lawler respectively.

O’Sullivan had a stranglehold on U.K. based tournaments in 2014 but was unable to defend both his Masters and Welsh Open crowns so far this year so it’ll be interesting to see how well he is able to perform this week.

Australian Neil Robertson, who denied the ‘Rocket’ at Alexandra Palace in January, also plays today and is involved in one of the ties of the round with Belgium’s Luca Brecel.

Brecel recently turned 20 and will no longer be referred to as the talented teenager, though his future remains as bright as ever after his excellent run to the last four in Cardiff last month.

Other standout ties include an all-Scottish affair between John Higgins and Graeme Dott, while Michael White’s hunt for a hat-trick of trophies begins with a clash against Robert Milkins.

As seems customary these days with new tournaments, the format is sadly a short one – best of seven frames up to the semi-finals.

There’s not much that can be done about this as host broadcaster ITV calls the shots and there probably wouldn’t even be this event if it wasn’t for them – who do, to be fair, provide stellar coverage.

The last four increases to a best-of-11 format at least, while the final will be played over a meaty 19 frames.

You can follow the action on ITV4 throughout the week and, as ever, there will be daily reports right here on SnookerHQ.

The full draw can be viewed here.

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