Professional Snooker - 2016 Indian Open
5th-9th July 2016 / HICC Novotel, Hyderabad, India
SEVEN LOCAL HEROES TO APPEAR AT THEIR HOME EVENT
There are set to be eight 'preliminary' matches at this year's Indian Open; seven of them involving home players. A few days ago, World Snooker confirmed who would be taking part in this extra round at the venue next week.
Michael White v Anthony Hamilton
Zhao Xintong v Kamal Chawla (India - amateur)
Jimmy Robertson v Aditya Mehta (India)
Hamza Akbar v Dilip Kumar (India - amateur)
Fraser Patrick v Ishpreet Chadha (India - amateur)
Andrew Higginson v Manan Chandra (India - amateur)
Fang Xiongman v Pankaj Advani (India - amateur)
David Grace v Lucky Vatnani (India - amateur)
In line with most other stops on the calendar, the reigning champion and the host nation's top two players (technically just 1 though in this instance) automatically feature at the venue. For this event, it meant being spared qualification at the Guild Hall in Preston last month.
Michael White will no doubt be proud to come back as the champion - he will be defending a ranking event for the first time in his career. However, the Welshman faces a very tricky opponent in the form of Anthony Hamilton, who will certainly fancy his chances in such a short race (best of 7's up to and including the Last 16, best of 9's from the Quarter-Finals onwards)
Another fixture we were certain of was Aditya Mehta's heldover game with Jimmy Robertson. Mehta is India's only current professional, although he will be appearing on the tour for the first time since German Masters qualifying in December 2015.
The 30 year old temporarily resigned his pro card for the last few months of the 2015/2016 campaign - in the mean time he has been recovering from a back injury, and entered a few amateur competitions in Asia. As a consequence he did fall out of the World's Top 64, but gained a fresh two-year card courtesy of finishing in the Top 8 of the European Tour Order of Merit.
During the inaugural staging of the Indian Open in 2013, Aditya went on an incredible run in front of his home fans - shocking many to reach his maiden professional final. He would eventually lose to Ding Junhui, but his performance that week is very well remembered.
Big name home star Pankaj Advani is another player who resigned his top tier status voluntarily a couple of seasons ago.
Unlike Mehta, though, Advani has remained very content on the amateur snooker and billiards scene. A multiple time winner of world titles across different formats and disciplines, 'The Pune Potter' is the reigning IBSF World Amateur Champion.
In 2013 he actually bowed out to Mehta at the Quarter-Final stage. Advani will probably start as favourite when he comes up against Chinese rookie Fang Xiongman on Tuesday.
Of the other invited wildcards, only Lucky Vatnani has possessed professional status before, although the remaining guests are all accustomed to international amateur tournaments because of impressive records at a national level.
There will initially be four tables in operation at the venue; the winners of this round will fill the vacant spaces in the Last 64.
For the full draw, and the previous qualifying round results, please visit the tournament page on snooker.org here.
Written and published by Michael Day on the 1st July 2016