The Paul Hunter Classic 2013 is getting into gear at the Stadthalle Furth, Germany. A vigorous qualifying process has already seen the pretenders drop away from this year’s competition as world snooker’s biggest names join from Aug. 23.
Round 1 will see many favourites head to the table with designs on victory in a tournament that pits professionals and amateurs together. As the first Players Tour Championship event to take place in mainland Europe this season, it also represents a pivotal point for individuals to establish a run of confidence before moving on to Mulheim, Gloucester and Antwerp.
Which players should be considered favourites for the German crown? Let’s take a look.
As ever, "The Rocket" should be considered the firm favourite in a tournament that sees him enter proceedings against Ahmed Saif. The enigmatic player recently suffered a shock defeat to Peter Lines in Doncaster’s Bluebell Wood Open, as reported by Sky Sports, but will be itching to remind everyone of his previous dominance.
O’Sullivan should feel less pressure away from his home crowd. The current World Championship holder is up against an individual who continues to stutter in the first round of major competitions. Saif has suffered convincing defeats in each of his last five outings, including losses at the qualifying stages of both the Shanghai Masters and Indian Open.
Even with his recent loss loitering, O’Sullivan will breeze his way through the opening contest and straight towards a run at the final.
Last year’s stunning season is yet to be replicated by Bingham. He heads to Germany with disappointing losses to Yu Delu, Joe Perry and Mark Williams on his recent record.
The Englishman, who captured last year’s Premier League title, recently suffered a Round 2 loss to Jimmy Robertson in the European Tour 3, signalling the need for immediate improvement.
Even so, Bingham deserves to be taken seriously in Germany. His Round 1 fixture against Fraser Patrick is a tough start to the competition, but that’s exactly what the 37-year-old needs. Facing a dangerous opponent from the off is a godsend for Bingham, as it ensures the distinguished player must concentrate from the first shot.
Like O’Sullivan, Bingham has also dropped four places in the world rankings after showing inconsistent form. If he can replicate the level of play that saw him run to European Tour 2’s quarterfinal stage, he will be in with a shot of German victory.
If O’Sullivan and Bingham are to claim the Paul Hunter Classic prize, you can bet they will meet Mark Selby along the way.
As ever with these action-packed snooker schedules, the current World No. 2 has the opportunity to establish himself in the competition with a favourable battle against Tian Pengfei. Selby will have come through his Round 3 match before current World No. 1 Neil Robertson potentially steps up and can really put the pressure on his main rival with a prolific start.
Selby has earned £282,373 this year, according to WorldSnooker.com. Aside from the 4-2 European Tour 3 loss to Vinnie Calabrese, he is in fine form. The 30-year-old narrowly missed out on the European Tour 2 title with a final defeat to Mark Williams and lost the recent Asian Tour competition with a 4-1 beating against Perry at the climax.
Most notably, Selby’s recent failure against Robertson in the semifinal of the Australian Open will have him fired up to reach the latter stages in Germany. He continues to come extremely close to a major victory and will benefit from beginning play 24 hours before the man he chases at the top.