Preview: Home Nations Scottish Open

Ronnie O’Sullivan might have just completed his record-equalling sixth UK Championship victory, but it’s straight on to the next ranking event in Scotland from Monday.

Fu beat Higgins to lift the Stephen Hendry Trophy last year. Photo credit: World Snooker

Hong Kong’s Marco Fu returns to Glasgow as the reigning champion of the Scottish Open, the third event of four in the Home Nations series.

The million pound bonus for capturing the quartet of titles is safe for another season after English Open champ O’Sullivan’s premature demise in the subsequent Northern Ireland Open, but the “Rocket” is still scheduled to compete at the Emirates Arena this week as he chases an incredible fourth ranking event crown in two months.

O’Sullivan’s dominance of late has been well-documented but is perhaps more remarkable considering he has relied more on his ability to graft out many of his wins despite often performing under par.

That is, of course, not including the final session of his success in the York final against Shaun Murphy on Sunday night, when the 42 year-old produced a scintillating display of trademark attacking brilliance to see off the challenge of the “Magician”.

O’Sullivan has had spells where he has looked invincible in the past but that usually has been followed by a period of lull as his focus generally wanes, which makes his sustained run of late even more remarkable.

The Englishman is approaching half a million pounds in earnings from ranking tournaments alone during this campaign and he has plenty of time to challenge the record tally of five trophies for a single term – set by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, and Mark Selby.

In Scotland, O’Sullivan is expected to open his account against Michael Georgiou, who he beat en route to a sixth UK title at the Barbican Centre, on Tuesday afternoon.

Champion of Champions Murphy, meanwhile, will look to put the disappointment of his third defeat in a ranking event final this season behind him as he immediately takes on Daniel Wells on the opening day of action.

Fu, who produced arguably the performance of his career last year to claim his third ranking glory while compiling 11 centuries in the event, opens his defence with a clash against Duane Jones.

World number one Selby, Belgian hotshot Luca Brecel, and Belfast’s champion Mark Williams – who has decided to withdraw as his wife Jo continues her battle with illness – are the main stars who will not be competing but, all in all, it’s a high-quality field assembled.

Judd Trump and Ding Junhui will seek to reignite their campaigns with the pair starting off with encounters against Robin Hull and Jak Jones respectively.

John Higgins, the runner-up twelve months ago and who negatively suggested after his loss to Mark King in the UK Championship last week that it was the beginning of the end for his illustrious career, faces Jack Lisowski in one of the ties of the last 128.

Elsewhere, Neil Robertson will look to bounce back from dropping outside of the top 16 in the world rankings and missing out on a place in the upcoming Masters as he tackles Rod Lawler, while Ryan Day has been drawn with Anthony McGill in a high-profile clash.

Other eye-catching fixtures include Ali Carter’s battle with Anthony Hamilton and Mark Allen’s pairing with Ben Woollaston.

Chinese 17 year-old Yan Bingtao, who narrowly missed out on becoming the youngest ever ranking event champion last month at the Waterfront Hall, meets struggling Australian Matthew Bolton, while in-form countryman and fellow teenager Lyu Haotian faces Gary Wilson.

From an Irish point of view, Ken Doherty will look to continue his positive run of form from this season against Craig Steadman, with fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien up against Zhang Yong.

Josh Boileau, who can’t buy a win on the Main Tour at the moment, duels with home player Scott Donaldson while Leo Fernandez, who claimed the headline scalp of Ding in the UK Championship, entertains Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar.

After the joys of the longer guise last week, the Scottish Open will revert back to the shorter format of best-of-sevens for the first four rounds, before increasing steadily with each subsequent stage until the best-of-17 final that takes place next Sunday.

For all the players on the circuit, this tournament will represent the last opportunity in 2017 to attain some silverware so they’ll all be hoping to bag an early Christmas present to round off the year in style.

Live coverage will be provided by Eurosport and Quest TV.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)

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