Snooker returns after another of its many summer breaks with the World Open starting on Monday in China.
The competition is back for the first time since 2014, with Shaun Murphy finally getting the chance to defend the title he won in Haikou more than two years ago.
The tournament moves to Yushan for the latest edition and most of the heavy-hitters are in attendance for the biggest event of the campaign so far.
£90,000 is on offer for the winner, and only Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen from the stable of stars decided against taking part.
The former’s absence doesn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise given the fact that O’Sullivan rarely plays outside of the UK these days, but Allen’s no-show is a little more peculiar considering he emerged victorious in this event for each of his first two ranking event successes in 2012 and 2013.
The rest all entered qualifying in June with German Masters champion Martin Gould the highest-profile casualty in Preston.
Murphy’s preliminary round, along with the qualifying encounters involving world no.1 Mark Selby and top Chinese duo Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo were all held over to the main venue.
Murphy’s defence then begins with an opener against fellow Englishman Sanderson Lam while world champion Selby is up against legend Jimmy White.
Ding features in his first match since his Crucible defeat to Selby in early May, and is up against Michael Georgiou.
Aside from those held over clashes and the unfortunate quartet who have been thrown into the wildcard round to play the home-grown amateurs, six wins will be necessary in order to achieve victory next Sunday.
The format is back to the traditional best of nine frames up until the semi-finals, which will be played over 11, before the best of 19 frame final.
Neil Robertson and Anthony McGill have been the two champions in the couple of ranking events so far during this term and it will be interesting to see whether either can carry that form forward in this early juncture of the season.
Robertson first plays Ian Burns before a potentially interesting match-up with Belgium’s Luca Brecel in the second round.
Scotland’s McGill, whose triumph in the Indian Open was the 25 year’s maiden win at this level, faces Lee Walker.
Ireland Fergal O’Brien qualified by beating Craig Steadman and his reward is a meeting with Riga Masters runner-up Michael Holt.
With the stop-start nature of this summer curtailing any degree of momentum, it’s a little difficult to predict what way this tournament will go.
One would reliably still punt for the big names such as Selby, Murphy, Robertson, Ding or Judd Trump, but there were unexpected competitors featuring in the latter stages in both Latvia and Hyderabad so there are a whole host of players who will surely feel confident of making a run.
With it being the last opportunity to earn money and silverware for another month, they will all certainly be hoping to make the most of the long trip to Asia.
Eurosport will have extensive coverage of the World Open throughout next week.
Categories: Snooker News