Three-time former runner-up Ronnie O’Sullivan has withdrawn from next week’s Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.
The Rocket was due to face Ahmed Aly Elsayed in a first-round fixture on Sunday at the Waterfront Hall.
A finalist in 2018, 2019, and 2020 where he lost on each occasion to Judd Trump, O’Sullivan will be replaced in the draw by Rory McLeod.
It marks the fourth time this season already that the world number one has withdrawn from a ranking tournament.
O’Sullivan pulled out of the campaign-opening Championship League and repeated the no-shows at both the European Masters and the British Open.
On each occasion, a medical issue was the reason provided by the World Snooker Tour for his absence, with the 47 year-old previously citing his repeated struggles with tennis elbow.
O’Sullivan, however, was performing in a series of exhibitions in Shanghai this week, the same city in which he won the prestigious Shanghai Masters in September.
The only ranking events the Englishman has participated in this term have been the English and Wuhan Opens.
He reached the last 16 in Brentwood before embarking on a run to the quarter-finals in China, losing to Zhang Anda and Lyu Haotian respectively.
While Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on top of the official world rankings that are based on a rolling two-year tally, he is quite far down the pecking order on this season’s one-year standings.
Indeed, a provisional ranking of no.39 on the one-year list means that he is in jeopardy of missing out on a spot at the World Grand Prix in January.
O’Sullivan’s absence at the Waterfront Hall, meanwhile, represents yet another blow for the Home Nations series event in 2023.
The controversial saga involving the so-called Macau Five has already left the field decimated of marquee names.
World champion Luca Brecel, four-time Crucible kings Mark Selby and John Higgins, Wuhan Open runner-up Ali Carter, and Thai star Thepchaiya Un-Nooh all didn’t enter.
They had planned to take part in a lucrative exhibition event in Macau during the same dates in late-October.
But a threat of legal action, fines, and worse from the World Snooker Tour – as a result of an alleged breach of their players’ contract – led to the Macau event ultimately being postponed.
Ding Junhui has also opted against entering the sixth ranking event of the campaign, in which the Alex Higgins Trophy is up for grabs.
That means six competitors from the top 16 in the world rankings will not be entertaining the fans in Belfast.
The venue stages of the Northern Ireland Open commence on Sunday, October 22nd with the final being played the following week on October 29th.
Antrim’s Mark Allen is the defending champion and will bid to capture his home event for the third time in a row.
Judd Trump is the pre-tournament favourite, though, with the 34 year-old on a hot streak of form of late.
The Englishman is the 7/2 outright betting favourite having claimed the last two ranking titles this month at the English and Wuhan Opens.
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The preliminary phase of the Northern Ireland Open, comprising matches from the round of 128, was held at Ponds Forge between Tuesday and Friday.
Among those to have already reached last 64 are Stuart Bingham, Stephen Maguire, Ken Doherty, and Marco Fu.
The tournament boasts a top prize worth £80,000.
Northern Ireland Open qualifying results
Tuesday, October 17th
Fan Zhengyi 4-2 Liu Hongyu
Long Zehuang 1-4 Anton Kazakov
Andy Hicks 2-4 Jiang Jun
Allan Taylor 1-4 Dominic Dale
Alfie Burden 4-3 Mostafa Dorgham
Reanne Evans 0-4 Hammad Miah
Liam Graham 0-4 Jackson Page
Andrew Higginson 2-4 Sean O’Sullivan
Andrew Pagett 3-4 Lukas Kleckers
Dylan Emery 4-3 Martin Gould
Joe O’Connor 2-4 Zak Surety
Rod Lawler 4-0 Baipat Siripaporn
Wednesday, October 18th
Mohamed Ibrahim 2-4 Dean Young
Scott Donaldson 0-4 Mark Davis
Victor Sarkis 2-4 Ross Muir
Jamie Clarke 4-3 Alfie Davies
Liam Highfield 3-4 Ken Doherty
James Cahill 4-1 Duane Jones
Jordan Brown 4-2 Stuart Carrington
Adam Duffy 1-4 Julien Leclercq
Liam Pullen 1-4 Robbie Williams
Chris Wakelin 4-0 Anthony Hamilton
Manasawin Phetmalaikul 3-4 Barry Pinches
Matthew Stevens 4-2 Stephen Hendry
Thursday, October 19th
David Grace 0-4 Xing Zihao
Xu Si 4-2 Alexander Ursenbacher
Xiao Guodong 1-4 Yuan Sijun
Marco Fu 4-2 Jamie Jones
Pang Junxu 2-4 Ian Burns
Noppon Saengkham 4-0 Himanshu Jain
Matthew Selt 4-1 Andy Lee
David Lilley 1-4 Aaron Hill
Jimmy Robertson 4-2 Sydney Wilson
Graeme Dott 4-0 Oliver Lines
Martin O’Donnell 4-3 Daniel Wells
Joe Perry 4-2 Ishpreet Singh Chadha
Friday, October 20th
Zhou Yuelong 2-4 Stan Moody
Mink Nutcharut 2-4 Michael White
Peng Yisong 4-1 He Guoqiang
Stephen Maguire 4-3 Fergal O’Brien
Si Jiahui 1-4 Zhang Anda
Lyu Haotian 4-1 Ashley Carty
Andres Petrov 4-3 Sanderson Lam
Stuart Bingham 4-3 Ashley Hugill
John Astley 0-4 Thor Chuan Leong
Jak Jones 4-0 Oliver Brown
Held over fixtures
(to be played at the venue)
Sunday, October 22nd
Robert Milkins 3-4 Cao Yupeng
Ryan Day 3-4 Ma Hailong
Neil Robertson 4-1 Wu Yize
Ricky Walden 4-2 Ben Woollaston
Judd Trump 4-1 Jenson Kendrick
Kyren Wilson 3-4 Sam Craigie
Jack Lisowski 4-1 Rebeccan Kenna
Robbie McGuigan 4-1 Muhammad Asif
Mark Williams 4-1 Tian Pengfei
Mark Allen 4-0 Ben Mertens
Shaun Murphy 4-2 Ryan Thomerson
David Gilbert 4-1 Joel Connolly
Gary Wilson 4-3 Louis Heathcote
Anthony McGill 4-3 Jimmy White
Rory McLeod 4-0 Ahmed Aly Elsayed
Monday, October 23rd
Hossein Vafaei 4-1 Mark Joyce
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Elliot Slessor
Tom Ford 4-0 Haydon Pinhey
Featured photo credit: WST