Players Championship

Fernandez in Hunt at Haining Open

The Haining Open has been under way since Monday and Irish amateur Leo Fernandez remains strongly in the hunt in China.

Can Ding get his mojo back? - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Can Ding get his mojo back? – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

In an event which has major implications for the remainder of this season and into next, Fernandez came through the preliminary stage on Monday to join the main draw, where he has since bagged a brace of victories to reach the last 32.

At the start of the campaign we were promised three tournaments on the Asian Tour series but as things stand there’ll only be one.

This means that, should there not be another meet scheduled, the eight quarter-finalists this week will each earn a spot at the lucrative Players Championship toward the end of this season.

In addition, the top two finishers who have not already secured their Main Tour places for the 2016/17 season will be in line for a potential two-year card onto the professional circuit.

For those below the Top 64 cut-off line in the world rankings hoping to stay among the elite, as well as those amateurs desperate to join it, this is a golden opportunity.

What should have been a prolonged scrap across three events has now perhaps turned into a short sprint.

As an aside, it poses a lot of serious questions as to the state of organised competitive snooker in China and why several events are coming to be cancelled.

It’s similarly not ideal that a quarter of the field who will make up the Players Championship line-up will have achieved so by such a seemingly easier manner than those who will be forced to battle it out across six European Tour events.

That said, all the players had the opportunity to enter the Haining Open this week and those who didn’t can only have themselves to blame if their spots on either that tournament or, more seriously, the Main Tour come into doubt.

For ex-pro Fernandez, it is increasingly becoming a possibility that he could play his way into both conversations.

On Wednesday he comfortably overcame Chinese amateur Zhao Hanyang 4-0 but it was yesterday’s 4-3 success over in-form Matthew Selt that will give the 39 year-old the most confidence.

Yet, it’ll only get tougher from here on as the number of amateurs left thin out, with another, this time professional, home cueist in Li Hang his next opposition.

Elsewhere, there are a few marquee names seeking glory with fan favourite Ding Junhui attempting to rediscover some of his old form.

Scotland’s John Higgins, Ricky Walden, Barry Hawkins, Marco Fu and Liang Wenbo are also still in contention, as are several middle-ranked pros hoping to get their hands on some silverware in the absence of the likes of defending champion Stuart Bingham and world no.1 Mark Selby, among others.

Thursday sees the field whittled down further to the last four, before the semi-finals and final take place on Friday.

Click here to view the full draw.

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