Next week marks the return of the Home Nations Series with the staging of the Matchroom.Live English Open from the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
Won last year by Mark Selby, who also claimed the season-opening European Masters just a couple of weeks ago, the English Open dates back to 2016 when Liang Wenbo claimed his maiden ranking event title in Manchester. He was succeeded by Ronnie O’Sullivan a year later, before Stuart Bingham lifted the Steve Davis Trophy in 2018.
As with the majority of the remaining events to be staged in 2020, the English Open will be staged in Milton Keynes as the global coronavirus pandemic continues. There will once again be a first prize of £70,000 to be won, although there will no longer be a bonus for winning all Home Nations events during the season.
The seeding structure of the event remains unchanged with the top 32 players seeded apart until the third round, with the remaining players seeded randomly into the draw. Early rounds will be played over the best of seven frames (no interval), increasing for the quarter-finals (9), semi-finals (11) and final (17).
Once again there has been a strong entry, with all but five (Mei Xiwen, Marco Fu, Bai Langning, Stephen Hendry and Steve Mifsud) of the 128 WST professionals in the main draw. Also missing is Andrew Pagett, whose tour card has been deferred until the 2021/22 season as recently announced.
The tournament will have television broadcast on Eurosport, Quest, PCCW (Hong Kong), Truesport (Thailand), Sky (New Zealand), DAZN (Canada), Astrosport (Malaysia), Sportcast (Taiwan) as well as Liaoning TV and online broadcast in China.
In all other territories it will be available on Matchroom.Live
The Top Quarter
The draw is led by defending champion Mark Selby who could come up against Shaun Murphy in the quarter-finals in what would be a repeat of their recent last four clash at the European Masters.
Before then, Selby is set to open his tournament against China’s Fan Zhengyi, with either Chang Bingyu or Aaron Hill – conqueror of Ronnie O’Sullivan last time out at the Marshall Arena – to come in the last 64.
Former English Open winner Liang Wenbo could be a last 32 opponent, with Joe Perry and Ali Carter the highest ranked pair who Selby could play in the fourth round.
For Murphy, he shares his section with ninth seed Stephen Maguire who could be a last 16 opponent, while Zhou Yuelong and Scott Donaldson are the other top 32 seeds who can be found here.
First up for the Magician however will be Robert Milkins, who defeated Murphy two years ago at the last 32 stage of this tournament in their most recent meeting.
The likes of Jamie Clarke and Ashley Carty can also be found in this quarter, with one amateur present in the form of Paul Davison.
The Second Quarter
Neil Robertson and Mark Allen the top seeds to be found in the second quarter of the draw, with the pair both looking to win the English Open for the first time in their careers.
Australia’s Robertson will be looking to extend a 100% record against Lyu Haotian following four previous wins, with either Tian Pengfei or Mark Joyce in wait for the winner. Zhao Xintong is the highest ranked player Robertson could face prior to the last 16, with David Gilbert and Barry Hawkins the established names who could lie in wait at that stage.
For Allen, he faces a tricky opener against former Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King, with the winner due to play either Gerard Greene or Robbie Williams in the last 64.
He could come up against Crucible quarter-finalist Kurt Maflin, or friend and practice partner Jordan Brown in the last 32, while the likes of Yan Bingtao, Alan McManus, Anthony McGill and the in-form Martin Gould are among those who may provide last 16 opposition.
The Third Quarter
Continuing a theme from the World Championship and European Masters, world number one Judd Trump and Crucible finalist Kyren Wilson are once again on course to collide at the quarter-final stages next week in Milton Keynes.
First up for Trump will be a clash with 23-year-old Englishman Louis Heathcote, with Yuan Sijun or Amine Amiri to follow in the second round.
Among his highest-ranked opponents in close proximity in the draw are potential last 16 opponents Mark Williams and Gary Wilson, while Michael Holt is the only top 32 player he could face prior to that stage.
For Wilson, who was runner-up at this event to Ronnie O’Sullivan back in 2017, will begin his campaign against Welshman Dominic Dale, with either Gao Yang or Kacper Filipiak to follow at the last 64 stage.
Potential last 16 opponents include 2018 English Open champion Stuart Bingham, or former world champion Graeme Dott, while a mix of tour veterans including Ken Doherty, Fergal O’Brien and Nigel Bond could also lie in wait.
The Bottom Quarter
As at the recent European Masters, the bottom quarter of the draw is headlined by reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and four-time Crucible winner John Higgins.
First up for O’Sullivan is a clash with talented French amateur Brian Ochoiski, who will be hoping to take inspiration from Aaron Hill’s recent upset of the world number two last month.
Elsewhere, there is a strong Welsh presence in this section of the draw with Ryan Day, Matthew Stevens and amateur Michael White in very close proximity. For Day, he will begin his campaign with a match against English amateur Mark Lloyd, who alongside Connor Benzey, is one of two players nominated to compete in the event by the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards.
Jack Lisowski and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh are the two-highest seeds O’Sullivan could face before the quarter-final round.
Scotland’s John Higgins meanwhile takes on James Cahill in his opener, with either Fraser Patrick or amateur Connor Benzey to follow at the last 64 stage.
Ding Junhui is the other top 16 representative in this section, with the likes of Luca Brecel, Tom Ford and Xiao Guodong (the latter two set to meet in the first round) among the other stand out names who will be looking to run deep next week.
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