The fourth ranking event of the 2021/2022 campaign takes place this week.
Snooker will draw crowds at the Marshall Arena for the first time with the return of the 2021 English Open on Monday in Milton Keynes.
The venue was an important factor in keeping the sport active during a strange 2020/21 term that was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Behind-closed-doors action became the norm as the players frequently competed amid a bubble atmosphere, but the arena will finally now be able to welcome fans.
Prize, History, and Format
An annual fixture on the calendar since 2016, the English Open remains part of the Home Nations series that also includes tournaments in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Although the early incentive of a million pounds to win all four events in a single season has now been taken away, the English Open and its sister tournaments have instead been added to the BetVictor European Series for the 2021/22 season.
The player with the highest earnings after all eight events on the series will pocket a useful bonus worth £150,000, and like the other Home Nations competitions there is an individual top prize of £70,000 on offer for the English Open champion this year.
Judd Trump won the event in 2020, beating Neil Robertson 9-8 in a close battle, while the likes of Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stuart Bingham, and Liang Wenbo have also managed to get their hands on the Steve Davis Trophy.
Trump and Selby have been embroiled in a see-saw duel at the top of the world rankings list in recent months that has resulted in the number one spot interchanging on a couple of occasions.
World champion Selby usurped Trump after the British Open only to return to second place following the recent ranking event in Belfast, but the former will definitely return to the summit once more regardless of what happens during this week’s tournament.
The reason is the two-year rolling rankings system that is implemented at present, with Trump losing a lot more ranking points compared to Selby from this period in 2019.
The English Open format follows the usual guise with four rounds of seven-frame action followed by three latter rounds in which the matches gradually get a little longer, culminating in a best-of-17 final.
2021 English Open Draw
Most encounters from the opening round of the 2021 English Open draw have already taken place in the form of “qualifiers”, as the World Snooker Tour seems intent on calling them.
The top 16 from the world rankings start at the same stage as everyone else but have all had their matches held over to the venue, meaning they too must negotiate this preliminary round before technically joining the main draw.
The entire process is significantly more confusing than it has to be, and it gets more and more ludicrous as time goes by that an elite sport forces its marquee players to compete in qualifying rounds.
Anyway, Trump begins the defence of his title against Matthew Selt in what looks like a tricky initial hurdle on paper, while Selby is in action against amateur top-up Sanderson Lam.
O’Sullivan entertains David Lilley, Robertson meets Andy Hicks, and Northern Ireland Open winner Mark Allen begins his attempt at capturing back-to-back Home Nations crowns against Luca Brecel.
Most of the other star names are in the 2021 English Open draw, except for Mark Williams who was forced to withdraw having contracted COVID-19 last week.
Current and former women’s world champions Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee have difficult challenges in Barry Hawkins and Stuart Bingham respectively.
The likes of Championship League winner David Gilbert, British Open runner-up Gary Wilson, and former world champion Graeme Dott are among those already through to the last 64.
This tournament also serves as the penultimate opportunity for players in and around the top 16 to force their way into contention for a place in January’s prestigious Masters at the Alexandra Palace.
Yet as is generally the norm with these Home Nations events, it won’t be until around the quarter-final stage that a greater understanding of who might emerge with the silverware becomes known.
Selected Upcoming Matches
Judd Trump vs Matthew Selt
Stephen Maguire vs Mark King
Kyren Wilson vs Noppon Saengkham
Barry Hawkins vs Reanne Evans
Stuart Bingham vs Ng On Yee
Neil Robertson vs Andy Hicks
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs David Lilley
Jack Lisowski vs Mark Joyce
Mark Allen vs Luca Brecel
John Higgins vs Zhao Jianbo
Ding Junhui vs Andrew Pagett
Yan Bingtao vs Aaron Hill
Mark Selby vs Sanderson Lam
Alexander Ursenbacher vs Tom Ford
Xu Si vs Zhao Xintong
Gary Wilson vs Ben Woollaston
Mark Davis vs Graeme Dott
Sunny Akani vs Ricky Walden
Li Hang vs Ali Carter
Martin Gould vs Scott Donaldson
Martin O’Donnell vs David Gilbert
Stephen Hendry vs Chris Wakelin
Click here to view the full 2021 English Open draw (times: CET)
Where to Watch the English Open
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on Quest TV in addition to blanket Eurosport coverage provided across all of Europe.
Various broadcasters around the world will be offering coverage (information here), while fans in territories without another service can access the event through Matchroom.Live.