After a rare seven days of respite, ranking event snooker returns next week with the World Grand Prix set to get under way in Preston on Monday.
The top 32 money-earners from this season have been invited to take part in a lucrative tournament at the Guild Hall.
The majority of the marquee names have qualified with only two out of the current batch of top 16 competitors not in the draw – the injured Marco Fu, as well as the reigning champion Barry Hawkins.
Hawkins required a run to at least the final of last week’s Snooker Shoot Out in order to rise above the cut-off point in the World Grand Prix Order of Merit.
But it was Michael Georgiou who was the surprise late runner after the Cypriot became only the second European from outside the UK and Ireland to capture a ranking crown.
Georgiou’s unexpected triumph in the quickfire competition propelled him into the top 32 just in time to join the list of heavy-hitters who’ll be in action over the coming days.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is the top seed having accumulated almost half a million pounds in prize money from ranking events already this campaign. thanks in large part to the hat-trick of trophies he bagged at the end of 2017.
The draw has a straightforward system with the no.1 seed playing the no.32 ranked player in the first round, the no.2 seed facing the cueist at no.31, and so on.
Then, while favourite O’Sullivan faces Robert Milkins in his opening hurdle, second seed Mark Williams has been paired in arguably the tie of the round against fellow former world champion Stuart Bingham.
The latter just about held on to grab one of the final spots despite missing three months either side of the New Year due to a ban for betting.
Bingham finished runner-up in the 2016 World Grand Prix after a tense battle that went all the way to a decider with Shaun Murphy, who is also tasked with a tricky initial challenge this year in the form of a semi-resurgent Ricky Walden.
In truth, though, most of the 16 fixtures are difficult looking on paper with only the form players from this season competing for the £100,000 winner’s cheque.
Judd Trump, winner in 2015, faces Paul Hunter Classic champion Michael White while recent Masters champion Mark Allen is up against Xiao Guodong.
World number one Mark Selby will be hoping to kickstart his campaign, which other than his International Championship success has been mostly a disappointment, against Jimmy Robertson.
Among some of the other intriguing early clashes are John Higgins’ date with Ali Carter and Martin Gould’s encounter with the recently turned 18 year-old Yan Bingtao.
As for Georgiou, his reward as the lowest ranked qualifier from the official world rankings is a match up against Luca Brecel – who funnily enough earlier this season became the first player from mainland Europe to win a ranking event.
The opening two rounds will be contested over the short best of seven frames format before a gradual increase in each of the subsequent three rounds, ultimately concluding with a best of 19 final next Sunday.
Last 32 Draw:
Ronnie O’Sullivan (1) vs Robert Milkins (32)
Martin Gould (16) vs Yan Bingtao (17)
Mark Allen (9) vs Xiao Guodong (24)
John Higgins (8) vs Ali Carter (25)
Shaun Murphy (5) vs Ricky Walden (28)
Ryan Day (12) vs Jack Lisowski (21)
Stephen Maguire (13) vs Li Hang (20)
Luca Brecel (4) vs Michael Georgiou (30)
Judd Trump (3) vs Michael White (29)
Graeme Dott (14) vs Joe Perry (19)
Neil Robertson (11) vs David Gilbert (22)
Mark Selby (6) vs Jimmy Robertson (27)
Ding Junhui (7) vs Mark King (26)
Kyren Wilson (10) vs Mark Joyce (23)
Anthony McGill (15) vs Cao Yupeng (18)
Mark Williams (2) vs Stuart Bingham (31)