Belgium is the next stop on the 2018/19 snooker roadshow as the season gathers momentum with the start of the European Masters draw on Monday in Lommel.
No sooner has the China Championship concluded, with Mark Selby emerging from a titanic tussle with John Higgins to land the title in Guangzhou on Sunday, there’s another ranking event for the players to compete in.
Selby has only a day to fly back to Europe and prepare for his opening round fixture against Sam Craigie on Tuesday and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of energy the world number one possesses after a gruelling 10-9 success over the four-time world champion.
Judd Trump is the reigning champion having won this tournament in each of its two editions on the calendar and he’ll begin his bid for a rare hat-trick of consecutive crowns when he takes on Martin O’Donnell in a held-over qualifying round tie on the opening day.
Trump, ever the inconsistent force, again flattered to deceive last week when he produced some strong displays against lower opposition before ultimately coming up short against Higgins in the last eight.
The 29 year-old seems to have an affection for this event, though, and will undoubtedly enter the European Masters draw as one of the favourites again.
A player the home fans will be hoping can rediscover his winning touch is Luca Brecel, the Belgian 23 year-old who has struggled for form since collecting a maiden piece of silverware in last year’s China Championship.
Brecel’s preliminary clash has also been held over to the main venue so he must first overcome Daniel Wells in order to set up a potential meeting with young Chinese talent Luo Honghao.
World champion Mark Williams and Higgins, who had already qualified after winning his qualifying encounter in Preston, have both withdrawn and there’s no Ronnie O’Sullivan in the European Masters draw either so the fabled members from the Class of 1992 have left the door ajar for somebody else to prevail on this occasion.
Of course, as well as Selby and Trump, there are a number of obvious candidates to land the £75,000 top prize come next Sunday evening at the De Soeverein.
Riga Masters champion Neil Robertson plays Andrew Higginson in the last 64 while Jack Lisowski, who the Australian pipped to glory in Latvia at the outset of this term, will look to maintain his positive run against Welshman Duane Jones.
Yuan Sijun and Zhao Xintong, fresh from career best performances in China last week, face Ryan Day and Mark King respectively while Paul Hunter Classic winner Kyren Wilson commences against the unpredictable Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.
Ali Carter faces Peter Ebdon and Marco Fu entertains Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien in two games featuring a pair of highly experienced competitors, with O’Brien’s fellow Irishman Ken Doherty in action against Zhou Yuelong.
Mark Allen, the reigning Masters champion, and Barry Hawkins will also be among the main crop of contenders as they open up their accounts against Ashley Hugill and Craig Steadman respectively.