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Rich fare in store at Indian Open snooker - Preview

Ding Junhui Mumbai, March 9 (IANS) With four top-10 cueists, led by defending champion Ding Junhui, and five former World champions in the fray, t ...

Ding Junhui

Mumbai, March 9 (IANS)

With four top-10 cueists, led by defending champion Ding Junhui, and five former World champions in the fray, the second edition of the Indian Open World professional ranking snooker tournament commencing here on Tuesday boasts of a strong and quality field with a promise of highly competitive matches.

Though the tournament will be missing the top three ranked players in Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Ronnie O'Sullivan, the main draw is still quite strong with three other top-10 players in Judd Trump (No.6), Ricky Walden (8) and Marco Fu (10) more than making up for the absence of the stars.

Lending more depth to the field are former World champions John Higgins (No.12), Mark Williams (15), Graeme Dott (17), Peter Ebdon (29) and Ken Doherty (41) apart from Joe Perry (13), Robert Milkins (16), Mark Davis (18) and Liang Wengbo (20).

Although not enjoying the best of seasons, China's World No.4 and top seed Junhui will start favourite to win the 300,000 pounds tournament that was originally scheduled to be held last November but was postponed due to Maharashtra Assembly elections.

The 27-year-old Junhui has won just one title this season, a minor ranking tournament in Yixing, China in June of last year, as compared to the five titles he bagged in the preceding season. Yet, the Chinese ace is expected to dominate the 64-player main draw, just as he did while annexing the title in the inaugural Indian Open held in New Delhi in 2013.

Junhui opens his campaign on Wednesday by taking on the winner of the Wild card round match between India's Neeraj Kumar and Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, the 61st ranked Thai.

As for Indian interest in the tournament, 2013 finalist Aditya Mehta and reigning National champion Pankaj Advani spearhead the home challenge.

The expectations will be particularly high on 29-year-old Mehta who will be playing on home turf for the first time in his professional career. He will have to punch above his weight to post his best ever performance this season during which he made it to the round of 16 only twice in 16 tournaments.

The only Indian on pro tour, Mehta, ranked 49, exceeded all expectations in the 2013 Indian Open by reaching the final before losing 0-5 to Junhui.

In his first round match scheduled for Wednesday night (as per provisional schedule), Mehta goes up against English veteran and No.34 Mark King who enjoys a 4-0 win-loss record against the Indian. However, the last time the two met, King survived a close battle to win 5-4 in the 2014 China Open.

On his part, Advani, winner of two World snooker titles, the IBSF championship in 2003 and Six-red crown last year, gave up his pro ticket at the end of last season after achieving a high ranking of 56, with a best performance of quarterfinals in the 2013 Indian Open where he lost to Mehta 3-4.

In the event, 29-year-old Bengaluru-based Advani had to go through the qualifying process to earn one of the six Wild cards allotted to India. He plays Scottish amateur Rhys Clark Tuesday night in the Wild card round.

The five other Indian wild cards, Neeraj Kumar, Dharmendra Lilly, Faisal Khan, Sumit Talwar and Brijesh Damani will be put to acid test and progression to the main draw in itself should be considered an achievement.

The early round matches will be played on four tables at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on best-of-seven frames basis until the final which will be best-of-nine.

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