Just a few days ago we were witnessing the end of the China Open qualifying rounds and now, from tomorrow on we shall be in China for the next seven days for the Haikou World Open, the 2012 edition.
It's kind of strange competition because in theory the World Open is not a new tournament, but this is the first time it is being staged outside the UK. Everything started back in 1982 under the name of "Professional Players Tournament" but it only lasted until the very next year, from 1984 until 2000 running under the name of "Grand Prix".
From 2001 it changed its name into "LG Cup" (for obvious sponsorship reasons) but it returned to its previous one from 2004 and continued to called like that until 2009. However, from 2010 it has been simply known as "World Open".
|Defending champ N.Robertson, M.King and J.Trump|
Last year the tournament didn't feature on the snooker calendar causing a unexpected gap after 28 years of activity, but this year the event is being revived and sent to get a nice tan on China's luxurious Hainan province, at Haikou.
This is actually the third ranking event held in China after China Open and the Shanghai Masters this really strengthening China's role in making snooker popular outside the UK's borders. However, there's always that tiny little problem when an event takes place outside the UK: the wildcard round.
It has been a problem for many years and it certainly holds back players from giving their best in order to qualify for a snooker event. We all know it's nothing worse for a professional player than to get stuck in a cubicle for four days and play, and play, and play so he’ll grab one of the 16 places at the end of the race.
|Higgins at the open ceremony|
So after all that work to come and see you have to play against a wildcard who although is talented didn't go through any qualifying-nightmare, seems a bit unfair.
Far from trying to discredit the wild card players, for I know they work hard and they really want a chance to be noticed and get their game out there in front of their home-country crowd, but when one thinks about Sam Baird, for example, who had to win four matches in order to get a ticket for the Haikou World Open, or Jimmy Robertson who had to beat names like Andrew Norman, Ken Doherty and Rory McLeod to qualify, or Nigel Bond who also had to play two matches and many other players that are practically travelling around the planet to get to this event and have to face a wildcard in a bloody cubicle, that just feels wrong.
Still, all things aside, rules are rules and we must get along with them. So as Dave Hendon put it so beautifully in a recent article of his we are to witness "a seven day tournament which lasts six days."
|The lads, S.Murphy and J.Trump|
But let's not get too carried away here and try and enjoy the tournament for what it is: an exceptional exhibition of the green baize gladiators' skills.
We won’t be seeing any "Rocket" taking off (since Ronnie O'Sullivan withdrew from the event due to medical reasons), or "The Captain" safely landing on Chinese ground (Ali Carter pulling out from the event also), but we are still guaranteed one hell of a snooker show.
So, let's see how the first day of cue action looks like, shall we?
1 Sam Baird v. Jin Long
2 Robert Milkins v. Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon
3 Mark King v. Hossein Vafaei
4 Tom Ford v. Lu Haotian
5 Jimmy Robertson v. Zhou Yuelong
6 Joe Perry v. Ruozi Maimaiti
7 Michael Holt v. Zhu Yinghui
8 Nigel Bond v. Lu Ning
*all hours are UK time
The matches are played on a "best of 9" frames rule and as you can easily observe we need to get up really early in the morning if we want to witness some action on the green baize LIVE from China's Haikou.
07:30 - 09:30 British EuroSport (LIVE)
11:30 - 14:30 British EuroSport (LIVE)
19:00 - 20:30 British EuroSport
21:30 - 23:00 British EuroSport 2