Ranking event snooker returns this Friday as the professional rounds of the 2017 Jojobet.com Gibraltar Open get underway. With much to play for up and down the ranking list, today I look at some of the key themes to follow during the course of the weekend.
Despite this year’s event coming ahead of a busy schedule in the run-up to the World Championship at the Crucible, a strong field heads to Gibraltar, with 12 of the worlds top 16 including world number one Mark Selby looking to succeed the absent Marco Fu as champion.
Looking at the draw, the first point of interest to note is that as with both the Riga Masters and Paul Hunter Classic earlier in the season, the draw is completely unseeded, meaning that we could have some heavyweight encounters relatively early on. This is most apparent with the opening round clash between Liang Wenbo and Ricky Walden, who are seeded 9th and 13th respectively, while the winner could then face Selby as early as the last 32.
Also catching the eye is a potential match-up between top ten players John Higgins and Mark Allen, who would meet in the last 64 if both are able to win their opening matches against Dominic Dale and Ross Muir respectively.
Adopting the old ‘PTC’ format, the professional rounds will be played over three days, with all matches including the final to be played over the best of seven frames with no interval.
Race to Llandudno
As outlined within my recent blog, the Gibraltar Open marks the final counting event before the line-up is confirmed for this month’s Players Championship in Llandudno.
In short, 15 of the 16 players were confirmed following Anthony McGill’s victory at the Shoot Out on Sunday, but Ryan Day must wait for confirmation, with both Joe Perry and Mark Williams still mathematically able to pass him by going deep this weekend.
As a side point, it is also interesting to note that the draw for the tournament will be determined by the final finishing positions on the one-year ranking list after this event, with the top seed set to face the 16th seed in the opening round, second to face 15th and so on.
Follow the live standings throughout the weekend here at WPBSA.com
Race to the Crucible
The tournament also represents another step closer to the World Championship, with players looking to earn as much prize money as possible, if they are to climb up into the top 16 prior to the Crucible and avoid having to come through three qualifying matches at Ponds Forge if they are to make it to snooker’s biggest tournament.
Recent runs from the likes of Anthony McGill and Ryan Day have seen them surge up the list and into contention for places ahead of more established names like Joe Perry and Ricky Walden, but with three tournaments still to go there is still time for others among the chasing pack to secure a Crucible spot.
With the exception of Martin Gould, all of the players currently in and around the top 16 will be in action this weekend and looking to improve their positions.
Follow the latest standings in the Race to the Crucible.
Already underway following the start of the amateur rounds yesterday in Gibraltar, together with the results from last August’s Paul Hunter Classic, the event will determine the eight qualifiers from this season’s EBSA Order of Merit, who will compete in a play-off event at the end of the season with two main tour places up for grabs from the start of the 2017/18 season.
Confirmation of the final eight qualifiers will follow the conclusion of the event.
Last but not least, as the season approaches its climax, for some of the players battling to retain their professional status, who have not qualified for either the upcoming Players Championship or the China Open, the Gibraltar Open will be their final chance to add to their prize totals prior to the decisive World Championship qualifiers next month.
A full and detailed analysis of the standings following Gibraltar will follow next week here at WPBSA.com, however you can view the updated latest provisional end of season ranking list here. The top 64 players on that list, plus the best eight players from the 2016/17 one-year list, will join those currently on the first year of a two-year card in remaining on tour next season.
The professional stages of the Jojobet.com Gibraltar Open runs from 3-5 March 2017 – follow all of the latest news and action at worldsnooker.com