Less than 12 months ago, Frenchman Thierry Lincou stood invincible as the world's top-ranked player as he lifted the World Open in Doha three months after scoring his first major title at the Hong Kong Open. Lincou begins his title defence at the Cathay Pacific/Credit Suisse Privilege World Open tonight as favourite, but the fiery 29-year-old knows past achievements will count for nothing as he faces a brigade of hungry players all out to dethrone him. 'Last year, I had a great year - the best ever for me. But every season it's different and it's certainly not getting any easier. Any eight of the world's top players can win the World Open,' said Lincou, who has had a comparatively quiet season since his red-hot 2004. 'The field now is very open. In the past, it wasn't too difficult reaching the semi-finals of a tournament. But nowadays, it's hard even to get through a first-round match,' said the Frenchman, last week's Qatar Open semi-finalist. Lincou has fond memories of the SAR, having won the Hong Kong Open last year when he beat England's Nick Matthew in the final. The local crowd got behind him as he became the first player with Chinese roots to win the tournament. He has a tricky first-round encounter against Egypt's Wael El Hindi tonight. Also in action tonight are former world champions Peter Nicol of England and Egypt's Amr Shabana. Nicol plays fellow Englishman Adrian Grant, while Shabana faces a qualifier. Second seed Jonathon Power of Canada starts his campaign tomorrow night against Malaysia's Ong Beng Hee. And Hong Kong's Wong Wai-hang faces one of the hottest players at the moment, England's James Willstrop (who won the recent Qatar Open in Doha).