The first round of European Masters qualifying has resulted in a number of high-profile casualties at the Barnsley Metrodome so far this week.
In the last act of 2019, the players are tasked with two final sets of preliminaries to contend with.
As many have already pointed out on social media, it seems a peculiar way to end the calendar year in the sport, as opposed to a trophy being handed out for instance.
After both stages of the European Masters qualifying are completed on Thursday, it will be the opening exchanges of the German Masters over the weekend.
The calendar is tight but there is a possible opening in January that might have been better suited to hosting these matches.
With a hectic period behind them and the holiday season in sight, it appears that many of the game’s top stars have already somewhat switched off.
World number one Judd Trump was among the biggest stars to exit, with the world champion suffering a 5-3 reverse against Ian Burns.
UK Championship runner-up Stephen Maguire, David Gilbert, Joe Perry, and reigning European Masters champion Jimmy Robertson have also crashed out.
However, several others survived by the skins of the teeth with Scottish Open winner Mark Selby, Jack Lisowski, Mark Williams, Kyren Wilson, and Barry Hawkins all taken the distance before ultimately outlasting their opponents.
The likes of UK Championship winner Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy, and Stuart Bingham were thankful for easier passages through to the second qualifying round.
China’s Yan Bingtao produced arguably the performance of the week so far, compiling four century breaks in a 5-2 triumph over Sam Baird.
The European Masters qualifying will conclude on Thursday with a lot of intriguing battles in store and an opportunity for some of the lower ranked players to challenge for the £80,000 top prize.
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The majority of the marquee names have matches that they would usually expect to come out on top in, but more upsets could be in store.
After edging Ken Doherty in a nail-biter on Wednesday, Selby has another legend for company as he next takes on Jimmy White, who recorded his first win of the season courtesy of a 5-4 victory over Hammad Miah.
Agree It’s unfortunate that the qualifiers for an event in 2020 are played in 2019 IMO.
— Neal Foulds (@fouldsy147) December 18, 2019
We are tired for 2 reasons.
1. We’re unfit.
2. We’re drained due to being at the end/winning events in the last few w/m
1. Get fitter.
2. Heart bleeds. Its a privilege most pro’s strive for. Enjoy.
Let’s hope I’m on my arse in March.
I’m off to bed. Tired. 😴
— Michael Holt (@hitmanholt) December 18, 2019
Ding, meanwhile, will similarly look to extend his recent run of form when he faces former world champion Peter Ebdon.
Other standout fixtures see Bingham in action against Liang Wenbo, John Higgins meeting teenager Yuan Sijun, and Luca Brecel in battle with Martin Gould.
The players in Barnsley are competing in the European Masters qualifying in order to compete at the venue stages in Austria next month – the first time a ranking event will be staged in the country.
Alongside the German Masters, Shoot Out, and Gibraltar Open, the European Masters is included in a new European Series that offers a £150,000 bonus to the player who performs the best across the four tournaments in the series.