After the last week of rest this season, snooker returns to our screens on Tuesday with the Players Championship in Manchester.
32 players make up the field at Event City, in much the same format which shaped the recent World Grand Prix.
It’ll be best of sevens until the semi-finals, before an increase to eleven frames for the last four and a further rise to 19 frames in the final.
The semi-finals will mark the first time in the Players Tour Championship series history – dating back to 2010 – that a match will be longer that the staple best of seven, which is ironic considering this event effectively marks the end of the PTC’s six-year tenure on the calendar.
As always, the line-up will consist of a mixture of the European and Asian Tours’ Order of Merits.
However, as there was only one Asian Tour event this season, reduced from the originally scheduled three at the outset of the campaign, the final field comprises mostly those who excelled in the European standings.
After all was done and dusted following the completion of the seven total tournaments, a lot of the familiar faces managed to qualify for the Players Championship but there are quite a few notable names not featuring.
This includes Stephen Maguire, who by failing has put himself at extreme risk of having to endure the qualifying stages for this year’s World Championship, and world champion Stuart Bingham.
Ronnie O’Sullivan won’t be attending as he didn’t partake in any of the satellite minor-rankers this season while Neil Robertson is also watching from home after entering just one event – when he lost in the opening round of the Ruhr Open.
Mark Selby, though qualified as the top seed, withdrew last week due to personal reasons.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Joe Perry is also absent, unable to defend his maiden ranking event triumph as he failed to accumulate enough prize money in the two Order of Merits, with John Higgins another marquee name not on the list.
With those not in contention, it’s a good opportunity for several of their rivals to gain some valuable prize money and potentially land a big title.
The likes of Shaun Murphy, champion in Llandudno last Sunday, Judd Trump, Mark Allen, Mark Williams and Ding Junhui will be hoping to take advantage.
There are a couple of real humdinger ties straight from the last 32, though, so the competition will be opened up even further for perhaps one of the underdogs to spring a surprise.
Trump faces German Masters winner Martin Gould, Murphy must tackle UK Championship runner-up Liang Wenbo while there’s an interesting battle between two of the game’s most promising youngsters in Michael White and Luca Brecel.
On paper, the draw looks very difficult to predict but perhaps Welshman Williams, facing countryman Dominic Dale in the top half, and Ding on the other side of the draw and coming into some decent form, may have good shouts.
With two ranking events still to play, it’s a bit early to be thinking about the Crucible but, with less than a month now until its start and only a couple of weeks until the qualifiers at Ponds Forge, it’d be understandable if it begins to play on some of their minds.
That should lead to an interesting week then, with coverage on both ITV4 and Eurosport for you to enjoy.