The Paul Hunter Classic gets under on Friday in Furth with world number one Mark Selby returning as the defending champion.
The world champion heads a less than star studded line-up, with only five out of the current world’s top 16 featuring in the draw.
The Paul Hunter Classic is one of the most well-received events on the calendar, what with its name being attributed to the great player from Leeds who tragically lost his life to cancer in 2006.
The Stadthalle is also a popular venue among the players and fans, with packed arenas full of enthusiastic German crowds the norm during the weekend’s play over the last decade or so.
However, the tournament’s prize fund, of which the champion will receive £20,000, is the lowest for a ranking event on the Main Tour.
Added to that the fact that the China Championship only just finished on Tuesday and it’s not wholly surprising that a few of the marquee names decided to opt out of this one with a hectic schedule ahead.
Because of its open draw format, Selby’s top seeding hasn’t provided him with any protection and he has been given one of the toughest first round draws in Michael Holt.
Holt will be one of a gaggle of competitors hoping to follow in the footsteps of Ryan Day and Luca Brecel already this season in bagging a maiden ranking event title.
Day is one of the top players absent but Brecel will see if he can prolong his fine form and the 22 year-old faces amateur Ashley Carty in his first tie since joining the elite club.
Former world champions Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy, who lost to Brecel in the Guangzhou showdown just a few days ago, have entered as well as World Games gold medallist Kyren Wilson.
The pro-am event, which is one of the last to follow the old guise commonly utilised during the European Tour and PTC days, has already technically been running since Tuesday with the amateur preliminary rounds.
In total, 33 amateurs have joined the main stages and the last 128, so it will be interesting to see how many of them, if any, can proceed to the latter stages.
Among them are the likes of 11-time women’s world champion Reanne Evans and former Masters semi-finalist Jamie Cope, as well as ex-stalwarts from the circuit in Barry Pinches and Andy Hicks.
Other players perhaps looking to take advantage of the weaker turnout will be the likes of Martin Gould, Ricky Walden, Mark King, and Dominic Dale.
They are all proven champions of course, but for a large number of the outsiders it’s a unique opportunity to maybe go deep without having to meet any of the more established names.
The format returns to the regular European Tour system with best of sevens contested right up until the final.
Friday and Saturday will see the draw whittled down to the last 16 before the final rounds takes place on Sunday.
Irish trio Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien, and Josh Boileau are all in action with the latter in particular seeking to pull together a string of positive results in order to give himself some hope of surviving on the circuit beyond this campaign.
Dublin duo Doherty and O’Brien have both already started this season well, meanwhile, and will face Ross Muir and Steven Hallworth respectively.
Northern Ireland’s Joe Swail will be challenged by Louis Heathcote while Jimmy White, a quarter-finalist in 2016, faces a tough opener in the opening round in the form of Gary Wilson.
Unfortunately, Eurosport has decided to not air this event on television, which is yet another blow to the event’s dwindling status, although there will be three streamed tables provided on the Eurosport Player with commentary from Neal Foulds.
The Paul Hunter Women’s Classic in the Ballroom will also be covered on Eurosport with the final expected to be streamed on Sunday via the Player.
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