IT’S BACK to work for snooker’s great and good as the Wuxi Classic qualifiers get underway at the Capital Venue in Gloucester on Saturday.
Mark Selby will play his first match since becoming world champion earlier this month when he faces John Astley next Wednesday night.
Neil Robertson, the defending champion, starts his campaign against Steven Hallworth on Saturday night.
China’s Ding Junhui, who won five ranking titles last season, including three on home soil, plays on Sunday against Oliver Brown, an amateur.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Allen and Mark Davis are the top 16 players who have decided not to enter the tournament.
With non-entries, the field of 128 is made up using top-ups from the Q School order of merit. It was announced at the World Championship that places would be offered to multi-ranking event winners, with Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and James Wattana in the frame, but none of these are listed in the draw.
Considering there is only one round to be played, five days for a qualifier seems like a long haul. It’s only two days fewer than the entirety of the final stages.
It does little for snooker to have its top names playing low key qualifiers but the flat draw system last season showed that almost all of them qualify, so for most this round is a bit of a pain but ultimately worthwhile.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.