The Masters might be considered the premier snooker tournament of the year, but the UK Championship is certainly a close second. And the first round of games has now started, with some of the sport’s biggest names taking to the baize to begin their campaign.
One player not in the tournament is Ronnie O’Sullivan though, who has decided not to defend his title. He is on a long break from the sport, however he has announced that he will be making his return at some point, most probably at the Masters. His absence, while disappointing for fans, will undoubtedly give a boost to the other players though, who will see a good chance to take a title without having to face arguably snooker’s greatest player in history.
One of the favourites for the tournament is John Higgins, and he was one of the players to begin his campaign yesterday. He took on the relatively unknown Leo Fernandez in the first round, and made quick work of his less fancied opponent. The world number 7 won by an impressive score of 6-1, and will now face either Ian Burns or Tian Pengfei in the next round.
The other big name in action yesterday was Ken Doherty, a player who has been runner up in the tournament three times. He took on another of the sport’s veterans, Tony Drago, to win a place in the second round. In the end though, it was a comprehensive victory for Doherty, as the Irishman hammered Drago 6-0. His next match will be a more challenging affair though, as he takes on world number 20 Mark Davis, who easily defeated Rhys Clark 6-1.
Today sees some more huge names enter into the fray – names such as Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy, who take on Hamza Akbar and Ashley Hugill respectively. Other names also in action include Peter Ebdon, Ali Carter and Ricky Walden. Other big names – such as Neil Robertson, Mark Allen and Mark Selby, will enter into the tournament at various stages throughout the week.
Thanks to the relatively new format of the competition – which sees all the seeded players forced to take part from the very beginning – the first round won’t finish until Sunday, meaning that it will last for 6 days. After this though, the tournament pace will quicken, and fans will really start to see which players are looking in good form, and which will struggle to make the later stages of the tournament.