Sunday, 8 July 2012

Going Down Under

The Australian Open returns to the snooker calendar for a second season - and the fight for the title couldn't be more wide open.

Seven of the world's top 16 players have chosen not to travel to Bendigo for the second ranking event of the campaign, and that's completely up to them.

No-one is being forced to play in any events and if players think the ranking points and prize money are not enough to warrant such a long haul trip, then again that's up to them.

I won't be pointing the finger at anyone. The world's best players have earned the right to pick and choose which events they play in.

But the bigger picture suggests that without the backing of the game's star names, it reduces the chances of the event growing into something greater years down the line. The game of snooker is still a work in progress.

Rather than focus on who's not in Bendigo, I'd prefer to talk about who has made the trip.

Unsurprisingly, defending champion Stuart Bingham is back Down Under for another slice of the action. He won his first ranking title here a year ago as he dramatically fought back from 8-5 down to beat Mark Williams 9-8.

He's made an impressive start to this season and is playing well enough to repeat his heroics.

In the same half of the draw is Australia's own, Neil Robertson. He lost in the second round of this tournament last time, but will be desperate to put on more of a show for his home fans this week.

The big names in the other half of the draw are Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy, who will be as committed to this tournament as they are to all of them plus, Ding Junhui, who needs some results and is always capable of going all the way.

Aside from the big stars, there are a whole host of other players who will want to seize their chance in the absence of many.

Stephen Lee will want to get back to the form he found at the back of last season. Mark Davis, Marcus Campbell and Ricky Walden are form horses. Martin Gould could do with a confidence boost. Matthew Stevens kicks off his campaign. Alan McManus, Peter Ebdon, Ken Dohert and Nigel Bond represent the old guard. Jack Lisowski, Xiao Guodong and Cao Yupeng are exciting young prospects.

Click here to see the full Bendigo draw.

Enjoy the tournament.

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