The new Home Nations series kicks off with the Coral English Open in Manchester on Monday.
The English Open is among three new tournaments alongside similar fresh ventures in Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the trio joining the already well-established Welsh Open on the calendar.
Each event offers an individual winner’s cheque of £70,000 but if somebody can somehow manage to collect all four trophies there will be a cool £1 million bonus paid out.
When thinking of players who could possibly achieve such a rare feat, Ronnie O’Sullivan is the obvious candidate who springs to mind.
To the delight of his legion of fans, the Englishman is in the 128 man draw and is understandably excited at the prospect of cracking the sport’s newest, and most lucrative, major challenge.
“It’s a fantastic carrot to be dangled in front of us,” said O’Sullivan. “If anyone can win 28 consecutive matches in this format they deserve more than £1 million, that’s how hard it would be.”
“But it’s great for snooker that there’s talk of that kind of money. It’s a hot ticket and I’d recommend anyone to go and watch it.”
The five-time world champion begins his quest with a tricky opener against Jimmy Robertson on Tuesday.
Despite missing the first few months of the campaign, O’Sullivan maintains his usual favourite tag to become champion next Sunday and bookies provide plenty of free bet offers if you fancy a punt over the coming days.
In truth, the English Open, along with the other tournaments which make up the Home Nations, is a very difficult event to predict with the first four rounds being the short best of seven frames.
The format will receive the usual barrage of bemoaning on social media and afar, but it’s actually quite a balanced schedule with the quarter-finals increased to nine frames, 11 for the semi-finals, and a two-session final consisting of 17 frames wrapping proceedings up.
The other exciting aspect of the series is that it sees snooker return to the countries which would be considered the traditional homes of the sport.
England has had a steady influx of new events over the last couple of seasons but Scotland and Northern Ireland have waited several years for their opportunity to host a ranking event again.
A nice touch last week was the announcement that the English Open trophy would be named after legend Steve Davis.
The former world no.1 said: “It will be a proud moment when I see the trophy being handed out for the first time and it’s very flattering to have been given this honour.”
“It’s fantastic to have a new tournament in England and having the trophy in my name will make it special for me.”
Meanwhile, aside from O’Sullivan, who on Saturday features in the last four of the European Masters, all the usual suspects are in contention at Event City – which somewhat surprisingly stages the event despite a disappointingly attended Players Championship at the same venue back in March.
Reigning world champion Mark Selby faces Gary Wilson while Ding Junhui, the player who Selby lost to in the final of the recent Shanghai Masters, is up against Mitchell Mann.
Other ranking event winners this season Neil Robertson, Anthony McGill and Ali Carter respectively tackle Hamza Akbar, Jamie Cope and Luca Brecel at the first hurdle.
Young Irish rookie Josh Boileau will be seeking to gain some momentum after his first professional victory last month as he meets Zhang Anda.
Elsewhere, 1997 world champion Ken Doherty has an intriguing outing against Judd Trump while fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien takes on Robbie Williams.
The question on everybody’s lips throughout the series will be whether anybody can land the million pounds bonus.
The chances are minimal, and by the end of next week there’ll only be one player left capable of achieving the feat.
The English Open will be live on Eurosport with coverage also provided on Quest TV for Freeview viewers, as well as via online bookmaker websites.
Categories: Snooker News