Friday, 16 September 2011

Samba snooker underway

At a time when snooker is constantly breaking new ground, last night saw the start of first professional tournament in South America.

This year's Brazilian Masters, being contested by 13 invited professionals plus three Brazilian wildcards, is the first time the sport has been played here since Barry Hearn's Matchroom set up for Steve Davis to play as part of the 15-reds snooker in 1985.

A return has been on the cards for a while but it's finally happened thanks in large to Hearn's determination.

While Hearn's excitement for the tournament may not have been matched with the same positivity by hosts of the top players who refused their invitations, the field still looks strong.

World number one Mark Selby put on a show last night to fight back from 2-0 down against Stuart Bingham to win 4-3 in the opening match. There were wins for former world champions Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon, while the biggest cheer of the night came when former pro, homegrown Igor Figueiredo, defeated Jamie Cope 4-2.

Extorninate prices has ensured early crowds have been poor, but there's no doubt local lad Igor pulled in the biggest yet.

It's definitely not time to hit the panic button yet though. With two more Brazilian wildcards in action tonight as well as legends Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, we're sure to see a tad extra footfall.

But like all maiden tournaments, you should expect ticket sales to be slow.

South America has been earmarked as a key area for snooker to conquer en route to giving the sport a global presence, so that alone means the tournament should be classed a success. It's also worth pointing out that when many top names refused to back attend for financial reasons, reliable Hendry and Davis stepped forward to prove their place as still the sport's best ambassadors. That has done nothing to harm their vast popularity among the fans.

Some people have already marked the tournament a failure but as the famous saying goes: Rome wasn't built in a day. 

On that note, while this tournament is certain not to capture everyone's imagination, don't surprise if we're coming back to playing ranking snooker in years to come.

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