The fourth ranking event of the 2017/18 season gets under way on Tuesday with the Indian Open in Visakhapatnam.
Anthony McGill is the defending champion, returning to the scene of his maiden ranking event triumph when he beat fellow up-and-coming star Kyren Wilson in last year’s final.
The Scot faces an interesting opening contest, as he’s due to play his held over qualifying round encounter against Indian favourite Aditya Mehta.
Mehta, of course, sensationally reached the final of the inaugural Indian Open back in 2013 but has mostly struggled on the Main Tour since then.
That said, with the matches only a sprint best of seven frames and the 31 year-old on home soil, the former World Games gold medallist could be a potential banana skin for McGill on the opening day.
Several other last 128 games have been held over to the main stages.
Six Indian amateurs have been invited to take part in the tournament, although that half dozen doesn’t include India’s cue sports hero Pankaj Advani.
Shaun Murphy, Alan McManus, and Li Hang are among the competitors who will require one additional triumph this week if they are going to capture the trophy next weekend.
Murphy will be looking for a case of third time lucky as he attempts to bag a first piece of silverware of the campaign following runners-up spots in the China Championship and Paul Hunter Classic last month.
As has generally been the case with the Indian Open over the years, now enjoying its fourth edition on the calendar, the field is a little depleted with many of the marquee names opting out of the trip to the subcontinent.
Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, and Ding Junhui are some of the more familiar faces absent so it could be another opportunity for a surprise champion.
The three ranking events staged this season have already yielded a hat-trick of unexpected winners with Ryan Day, Luca Brecel, and Michael White achieving success.
Only Brecel out of that trio entered and the Belgian will face Gary Wilson in the last 64.
There are still plenty of strong players in the line-up, though, with the likes of John Higgins, Stuart Bingham, Mark Allen, and Stephen Maguire set to be in action.
One would expect that at least one or two of the chasing pack outside the top 16 in the world rankings will reach the latter stages – it’s just a question of who will find their form at the right time.
Irish veteran Ken Doherty will be hoping his turnaround in fortunes continues a little longer, with the 1997 world champion up against John Astley first.
Countrymen Fergal O’Brien and Josh Boileau also qualified and will meet Jimmy Robertson and Sean O’Sullivan in the last 64 respectively.
Boileau, in particular, is in desperate need of a strong week as he wallows near the bottom of the rankings and way outside the top 64 in his second season on the tour.
The total prize fund is lower than the majority of other competitions these days but the £50,000 winner’s cheque is still nothing to be sniffed at.
All rounds will be played over the best of seven frames until the final, which will be the best of nine.
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