Snooker returned with its first professional competition since the middle of March in Milton Keynes on Monday.
The Championship League got under way safely and with a familiar outcome – Judd Trump back recording three wins with ease.
The world champion was the last player to capture a title during the 2019/20 campaign when he triumphed in the Gibraltar Open.
That represented a record sixth ranking event success in a single season for Trump, and although this week’s tournament is classified as only an invitational he looks on course to threaten for more silverware again.
The world number one looked a little rusty and couldn’t add to his impressive tally of tons from this term – needing only a few more to reach the 100 centuries landmark.
But Trump outplayed David Grace, Elliot Slessor, and Daniel Wells in his matches to record three wins at the Marshall Arena.
With his 100% record from his round-robin, Trump marches on to the second phase in just over a week’s time.
The 30 year-old will be joined by David Gilbert, who was the other competitor to emerge from one of the 16 groups in the opening stage on day one.
Gilbert scored heavily as he sandwiched 3-0 triumphs over Jackson Page and Stuart Carrington with a 2-2 draw with Jak Jones – the seven points more than enough to see him top the standings and progress.
All eight players on Monday tested negative for COVID-19 – a requirement before being permitted to compete – as well as 35 staff members, including referees and on-site commentators.
Accommodation at the Marshall Arena means that players can adhere to the strict isolation measures that are being enforced for this tournament in order for it to run smoothly.
Trump and Gilbert will either have to stay at the venue until the second phase begins next week, or obtain permission from the organisers to leave – which would result in another coronavirus test upon their return to the venue.
Players were unable to shake hands during the match and it was noticeable to see the referees attempting to maintain the 2-metre social distancing requirement as often as possible.
Aside from that, however, there wasn’t that much difference to spot for the viewing audience on television, especially as the Championship League, which has been run annually since 2008, has always been contested behind closed doors and without fans.
“I felt it was important to set an example, to come here to show my support for everyone that has tried their best to get this event on…everyone behind the scenes has done and amazing job and put us at the forefront of sport at the moment.”
Classy words from @judd147t 👏🏻
— Matt (@ProSnookerBlog) June 1, 2020
There will be two more groups on Tuesday with the likes of Jack Lisowski and Luca Brecel set to participate – negative test pending.
The winner of each group progresses to phase two where four further groups will produce the Tournament Finals group of four on June 11th.
A champion’s cheque worth £30,000 is on offer as the snooker players return to some form of normality, albeit under rather unique circumstances.
Live coverage will be provided worldwide as the sport attempts to capitalise on what is currently a rather barren sporting calender.
ITV4 will provide blanket coverage in the UK and Ireland, Eurosport has earned the rights for the European continent, while new streaming service Matchroom.Live will bring the tournament to fans across Africa, the Americas, and parts of Asia.
Featured photo credit: CLSnooker