European Masters to Kick Start Romanian Romance

The inaugural staging of a ranking event in Romania begins on Monday as the European Masters gets under way in Bucharest.

A massive crowd of around 2,000 people watch O’Sullivan play Bingham last November – photo courtesy of World Snooker.

Professional snooker has been successfully introduced to many new countries over the last half dozen seasons – Latvia, Bulgaria and Poland to name just three.

Romania is the next stop on the European continent and it’s safe to say there is plenty of excitement as several of the sport’s biggest names descend on its capital city this week.

The likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Stuart Bingham have contested amazingly attended exhibitions in the country recently so it is expected that the Circus Global will be packed with an enthusiastic crowd over the coming days.

Out of that quartet of competitors, Bingham fell short in qualifying for the latter stages of the tournament, losing a decider to Scott Donaldson in the preliminaries last week.

The other three are in attendance, though, along with an array of other marquee names.

Star attractions O’Sullivan and Selby had the luxury of having to contest just one qualifying encounter in Preston, with their last 64 ties held over to the venue, but that means that they’ll require one more victory than everyone else in the field this week to emerge with the trophy.

O’Sullivan is up against Daniel Wells while world champion Selby faces what ought to be a tricky obstacle in Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien – particularly as it’s over the sprint best of seven frames.

The remainder of the cueists have already assured their spots in the last 32 and there are several intriguing ties to look forward to already.

In a battle of two of this season’s ranking event champions, World Open winner Ali Carter takes on Anthony McGill, who claimed his maiden triumph of such status when he lifted the Indian Open trophy near the outset of the campaign.

Meanwhile, in a repeat of the 2010 World Championship final, Australia’s Neil Robertson tackles the ever-dogged Graeme Dott while Michael Holt will seek to continue his hot streak of form in a tough clash against former world no.1 John Higgins.

The likes of Judd Trump, Shaun Murphy, Ricky Walden, Mark Allen and Barry Hawkins are also in contention.

In contrast to those regular crowd-pullers, amateurs Zak Surety and Daniel Womersley will be desperate to upset the odds after they took full advantage of their invites by winning the two rounds necessary to reach this stage.

With the format played over a mere seven frames until the semi-finals, the norm would perhaps be to complain about the shorter guise.

However, one good thing about the decision to hold two rounds of qualifiers at the Guild Hall a few days ago was that now, with a two-table set-up inside the arena, there’s more chance of getting to watch a variety of different players throughout the competition.

Who will be able to take advantage and collect the €75,000 winner’s cheque next Sunday remains to be seen.

But the sport is once again being spread to new lands, and it’ll be fascinating to see if its success can extend the recent sustained development across eastern Europe.

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