This is only the second year this tournament has taken place and although last years event seemed to go down well and served up a nail biting finale ,the build up to this year has been overshadowed by controversy.For the first time in my memory we have a full ranking event where seven of the Top16 have for various reasons decided not to enter..These range from the distance they have to travel, to the large tax bill foreign players would face on prize money as well as it been so early in the season.Of course these may all be valid points and players are under no obligation to enter any tournament,but if this sport is to become truly global we need to get to a place where everyone is pulling the same way..
Anyway thats enough about those who are not not playing lets look at some of those who are.
Stuart Bingham for one will never forget the Australian Open as it was here last year he lifted his first ranking title coming back from an 8-5 deficit to beat Mark Williams 9-8.Unfortunately for him he didn't really kick on from that point as his form seemed to trail away as season progressed.That was last season though and he has once again started this season well having already lifted the Pink Ribbon Pro/Am and the first Asian PTC as well as finishing runner up to Ricky Walden in the Wuxi Classic.This recent form together with the extra confidence you surely get from trying to defend your title will make him a hard opponent for anyone this week.
Neil Robertson would of course be the most popular winner om home soil and will be eager to make up for the way he snatched defeat from jaws of victory in his match with Dominic Dale last year.Without wishing ill on anyone else it would give the tournament a major boost if the Melbourne man could have a good run this week.
Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy are definitely two player who have fully embraced the new era with a "have cue will travel" attitude.Both these stars have been ultra consistent in recent seasons but despite this they will both feel they haven't won the amount of tournaments they should have.They will be looking at this week as a chance to set maybe lift a title and set a marker for the rest of season.
Ricky Walden will be attempting to make it back to back ranking titles following his success in the Wuxi Classic last weekend. When he won his first ranking event in 2008 he didn't go on to make the impact in the game many expected but maybe this second victory will give him the confidence he needed to establish himself as a contender for every tournament in the future.
Mark Davis for maybe the first time in his career comes into this tournament been talked about as a potential winner having had an extraordinary start to the season which saw him reach his first ranking semi final in the Wuxi Classic and win the Six Red World Championship in Thailand yesterday.A solid tournament here could help him finally secure a place in the world top16,a thing he has to date failed to do in his 21 years as a professional.
Other players who deserve a mention are the likes of Stephen lee, the three strong Chinese contingent lead by Dung Junhui as well as veterans Ken Doherty and Peter Ebdon.
So thats it We may be missing some of the games big names but we still have plenty of others who would be worthy winners of this tournament.Lets hope for a week of good crowds and top quality snooker.Catch all the action on eurosport or liveworldsnooker.tv.I will be also blogging daily once first round is completed.