Stellar lineup including ‘Rocket Ronnie’ and world No 1 Selby announced for inaugural Hong Kong Masters snooker tournament

World’s best to compete at HK$3.14 million tournament marking 20th anniversary of territory handover

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 June, 2017, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 June, 2017, 10:49pm

Eight of the world’s best snooker players will make the trip to Hong Kong alongside two legends of the sport to participate in a tournament marking the 20th anniversary of the territory’s historic handover in July.

Seven of the top eight ranked players plus crowd favourite and five-time world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will participate in the July event it was announced at a media conference on Monday.

Reigning world champion and number one ranked Mark Selby will also compete at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium competition, which will offer prize money totalling £315,000 (HK$3.14 million).

The draw for the quarter-finals of the contest was made at the media launch and saw the ‘Jester from Leicester’ paired with Australia’s Neil Robertson.

World number two John Higgins will face O’Sullivan, while Players Championship winner Judd Trump will take on former world champion Shaun Murphy.

Local favourite and number six ranked Marco Fu Ka-chun was drawn against world number five Barry Hawkins.

Hong Kong’s two-time women’s world champion Ng On-yee was on hand to help with the draw and urged snooker fans to make the most of a rare opportunity to see the world’s best in the flesh.

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“It’s not very often we have the chance to watch world class players in live action,” said the 26-year-old. “Fans should definitely take it.”

As part of the event, Ng will face snooker legends Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry in exhibition matches on the sidelines of the tournament.

“Neither player is of my generation, but my father provided a lot of taped footage of these two greats for me to watch when I was young. It is beyond my wildest dreams to play with such legendary players.”

Ng, who competed in the qualifying rounds of the men’s world championship earlier this year, used the media conference as a chance to appeal for authorities to bring more world class snooker to the city.

“The Hong Kong Masters 2017 symbolises the evolution of Hong Kong snooker ... I hope the government supports efforts to stage more international events of this class in Hong Kong,” said Ng.

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The only player in the top eight that will not appear at the July 20-23 event is the mainland’s Ding Junhui, the world’s number four ranked player. But his absence opens the door for the maverick O’Sullivan to return to Asia were he enjoys massive support.

The Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council (HKBSCC) first announced the event last month claiming they would be inviting the world’s top players to participate.

Danny Mak, chairman of the HKBSCC, said the staging of the tournament was testament to the progress of Hong Kong players on the international stage.

“Hong Kong players have earned international recognition over the years, however Hong Kong is yet to host a major snooker event owing to limited resources,” said Mak.

“We are grateful for support from the Home Affairs Bureau, LCSD, Information Services Department and our sponsors.”

Tickets for the competition priced from HK$100 to HK$450 are scheduled to go on sale from June 22.