Championship League snooker 2021: Who does Ronnie O'Sullivan face in season opener? Mark Williams reveals new targets
Six-times world champion Ronnie O'Sullivan begins his new season at the Championship League with amateur Saqib Nasir among his opponents on Tuesday in Leicester. O'Sullivan was due to meet Ng On Yee, but the former women's world champion can't travel from Hong King due to coronavirus restrictions. Mark Joyce and Ian Burns are also in O'Sullivan's section at the first ranking event of the season.
Ronnie O'Sullivan will face amateur Saqib Nasir in his first competitive action of the new campaign at the Championship League in Leicester on Tuesday after three-times women's world champion Ng On Yee opted against travel from Hong Kong due to Covid-19 restrictions.
On Yee and Eurosport pundit Reanne Evans, the defending ladies world champion, are the two women professionals competing on the main World Snooker Tour in 2021/22, but it is unclear when On Yee will be able to fly to the UK due to health advice in Hong Kong.
O'Sullivan features in Group 32 with Mark Joyce – who the Rocket defeated 10-4 in the first round of the World Championship in April – and Ian Burns also facing the six-times world champion.
O'Sullivan first confronts Burns before meeting Nasir and Joyce in his quest to reach the last 32.
In other changes, Sydney Wilson replaces Alfie Burden in Group 19 on Monday with Ben Fortey taking over from Lu Ning in Group 10 on Thursday after Joshua Thomond replaced Zhou Yuelong in Group 13 on Monday 26 July alongside Oliver Lines, Peter Devlin and Luke Pinches.
Mark Williams plays on Sunday in the opening match of the new campaign in Group 8 alongside Jak Jones, Peter Lines and Hammad Miah, who the three-times world champion starts his season against at the Morningside Arena.
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"I played a fast as I can last season and loved every minute of it,” said Williams, who won the WST Pro Series and reached two semi-finals last season.
“I lost a lot of matches I should have won, but also played some good stuff. I looked dangerous for the first time in a while. Maybe that’s because I got on with it. Obviously I want to win, but if I don’t, no problem.
“I won’t practise much this season, maybe a couple of hours every day or every other day. That might affect my form, but I have accepted that," added the world number 11.
It’s enough to keep me in half decent condition. I’m enjoying it, and that’s my aim, rather than to get bogged down. I can have a best-of-19 in the club with Jackson (Page) in less than two hours because we are both pretty quick.
“My only target now is to see how long I can stay on the tour for. I would like to see where I am when I’m 50 – whether I’m still in the top 16. I want to see how long I can stay on the tour on merit.”
Judd Trump channels inner Alex Higgins with miraculous shot
World number one Judd Trump joins Anthony Hamilton, Lee Walker and Rod Lawler in Group 1 on Friday August 6 with four-times world champion John Higgins facing Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham, Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo and Soheil Vahedi of Iran in Group 9 on Tuesday 27 July.
Defending champion Kyren Wilson meets Sam Craigie, Ben Hancorn and Dylan Emery in Group 16 on Thursday 29 July.
128 players contest the Championship League with Stage One running between 18-23 July, 26-30 July and 2-6 August.
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Stage two takes place between August 9-12 with the 32 group winners contesting eight more groups.
The final stage takes place on Friday 13 August with the two group winners contesting the tournament final. The winner collects a possible £33,000 from a prize fund of £328,000.
All matches are played over four frames in keeping with the tournament's quick-fire tradition with three points for a win and one for a draw.
Watch Judd Trump's stunning 147 maximum break in full