The first ranking event of 2018 gets under way on Wednesday with the start of the German Masters in Berlin.
Ever since its relaunch in 2011, the German Masters has been one of the most popular tournaments on the calendar each year, primarily due to the endearing atmosphere that is generated inside the tremendous Tempodrom arena.
The venue, which by the weekend’s play will boast an audience of around 2,500 people, has built up a reputation of being one of the best on the circuit.
Anthony Hamilton returns as the defending champion, twelve months on from a famous triumph that ended decades of disappointment in ranking events during his career.
Because of a mixture of injury and simply bad form, Hamilton hasn’t been enjoying as strong a campaign as he did last time around, but crucially managed to win his two qualifying matches to reach the last 32 and earn his right to be announced into the circus tent as the reigning champ – which will surely represent a proud moment for the popular 46 year-old.
Hamilton will take on Jimmy Robertson in the first round proper with a potential last 16 contest against 2016 champion Martin Gould to come.
While there are a few notable absences – such as Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, and Neil Robertson – the remaining line-up is a strong one with plenty of marquee names in action, all hoping to bag the £80,000 top prize.
Mark Selby, who has been the dominant world number one ever since his German Masters success three years ago, will attempt to turn his season around after a mostly disappointing term.
The “Jester” will play Xiao Guodong in a tricky opening fixture while recent Masters champion Mark Allen is up against Matthew Selt.
The next few ranking events will be important for the Northern Irishman as he attempts to safeguard his position inside the top 16 in the world rankings in time to secure an automatic berth at the Crucible for the World Championship.
Judd Trump, who continues to struggle with a lack of consistency, faces Ben Woollaston while Shaun Murphy, like Trump a former finalist, battles with veteran Alan McManus.
World number four Ding Junhui, the 2014 champion, will look to rediscover some of his old touch against Michael Georgiou after a dismal spell while another ex-champion in Mark Williams takes on Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien.
In fact, there are five former winners in the draw and so far there has never been a double champion in the German Masters at the Tempodrom.
Ali Carter came closest twelve months ago when he came just short of adding to his 2013 success with his defeat to Hamilton in the Sunday showdown but the “Captain” failed to qualify on this occasion.
Meanwhile, there are a few other intriguing looking ties on paper.
Ricky Walden, who will be looking for a late surge to move back into the top 16 in time for Sheffield, tackles the much-improved attacking force of Jack Lisowski.
Riga Masters champion Ryan Day entertains Thepchiaya Un-Nooh in what will likely be a free-flowing affair while China’s Liang Wenbo has been paired alongside the unpredictable Tom Ford – who compiled a 147 during the 2017 competition.
The German Masters, with its unique setup of one main table on centre stage surrounded by four other outside tables that are in full view of the crowd, has tended to throw up plenty of dramatic weeks of snooker over the last number of years.
The 2018 event promises to be just as thrilling.
Live coverage will be provided by Eurosport.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)