qualifying match

Gibraltar Open: Preview and Draw

Gibraltar is the next stop on the calendar as the players head to the Iberian Peninsula for a bit of sun and baize, with the Gibraltar Open set to get under way on Wednesday.

Preview: Gibraltar Open
Murphy lost in the final of the UK Championship this season but won the Champion of Champions. Photo credit: World Snooker

The Gibraltar Open is one of the last surviving events that follows the pro-am guise of the now defunct European Tour, or PTC series, meaning just shy of 100 amateurs have taken the now rare opportunity to mix it with the elite in the game.

Preliminary rounds will thus initially take place on the opening two days of action at the Victoria Stadium before the professional Main Tour players enter the fray from Friday.

With a top prize of what now has to be considered a measly £25,000, not to mention a long trip out to the Rock for some travellers, it’s perhaps not surprising that a whole host of top players have opted out of entering the fourth last ranking tournament of the campaign.

Ding Junhui is the top seed and heads a total of just seven top 16 members who will look to discover some form ahead of the more lucrative season-ending events in the upcoming weeks.

Thanks to the random draw, Ding could face the defending champion Shaun Murphy as early as the second round, with the Englishman hoping to claim his first ranking title in twelve months despite a hat-trick of final appearances in the meantime.

Both Ding and Murphy will likely have one eye on the Players Championship later this month, with both having already guaranteed their invite as one of the highest earning 16 competitors from this season.

One player who is sure to miss out on a place in Llandudno is Barry Hawkins, who required victory in Sunday’s Welsh Open final to have any chance of fighting his way into the qualifying positions.

The “Hawk” will be one of the favourites this weekend, though, following his welcome return to form in Cardiff last week while Luca Brecel, Stuart Bingham, Kyren Wilson, and Anthony McGill are the other top 16ers who will be much fancied to go far.

Yet, considering the fact that the tournament follows the sprint best of seven format right the way up until the final, it’s safe to say that there’s another golden chance for one of the lower ranked cuemen to get their hands on a piece of silverware.

One of the subplots will be the fight for the last Players Championship spot, with Scotland’s Graeme Dott possessing the final ticket in 16th place on the provisional standings but interestingly opting out of the trip to southwest Europe.

The German Masters and Snooker Shoot Out runner-up’s decision is probably vindicated by the fact that only a handful of players can usurp him on the list while each of them can only manage to do so by actually lifting the trophy on Sunday.

Cao Yupeng, Jack Lisowski, Joe Perry, and Li Hang are all in a position to create some drama in this regard but, for three of them, it would mark a maiden ranking event success, so the odds are certainly in Dott’s favour.

Around this stage of the campaign is also the point when many of the players will be scrambling lower down the standings for a place in the top 64 in the world rankings and with it tour survival.

One high-profile name to look out for is Alan McManus, whose prize money for reaching the World Championship semi-finals in 2016 is set to be subtracted from his total, resulting in a plummet way down to just above the cut-off point.

As it stands, even if the former Masters champion falls outside the bracket, he’ll still be well-placed in the one-year Order of Merit that rewards the eight highest earners, not already inside the top 64, with two-year cards.

However, McManus is another who has opted to skip the Gibraltar Open, which could potentially be a decision he regrets come the climax of the campaign.

Of the Irish, Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien, and Josh Boileau are all waiting in the first round to face one of the amateurs who emerge from the early play while Leo Fernandez will face Jamie Curtis-Barrett in the first round.

Live coverage will be provided by Eurosport.

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.