The 2019 World Grand Prix commences in Cheltenham on Monday, with reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan aiming to avert an early exit.
The fifth staging of the prestigious ranking tournament features the top 32 players on the one-year ranking list competing for the top prize of £100,000.
It is the twelfth ranking event of the season and part one of the all-new Coral Cup, which also features the Players Championship and Tour Championship next month.
O’Sullivan heads to Cheltenham Racecourse as the defending champion, having thrashed Ding Junhui 10-3 in last year’s final in Preston.
The Rocket is seeded number two and is returning to action for the first time since his defeat to Judd Trump in The Masters final last month.
His opening test comes in the shape of 2007 Grand Prix champion Marco Fu – a player aiming to capture his best form after a testing period both on and off the table.
Fu has dropped to 25 in the world rankings after taking a break from competitive action last season, having been diagnosed with retinal degeneration and forced to undertake laser eye surgery.
Fu reached the Last Eight of the World Open last August, his first ranking Quarter-Final for over a year and his best run of the season so far by some distance.
The Hong Kong star has lost his last six meetings with reigning UK Champion O’Sullivan, including a 6-0 whitewash in the 2018 Masters and a 6-4 defeat in the Semi-Finals of the 2017 Masters.
Barry Hawkins, who lifted this trophy in 2017, launches his quest to regain the title with a clash against the man he defeated in the final – Ryan Day.
Hawkins’ 10-7 triumph over Day in Preston is his most recent ranking tournament success and he will be keen to kick-start the second half of his season after reaching just one Quarter-Final since finishing runner-up in the Shanghai Masters last September.
Day has enjoyed a fine season so far, reaching six Quarter-Finals, three of which coming in Home Nation Series events, and the Welshman has won all three of his encounters with Hawkins since the Grand Prix final two years ago.
Mark Allen, who is seeded number one as the leader of the one-year ranking list, opens up with a clash against former China Open finalist Gary Wilson.
Allen has picked up the International Championship and Scottish Open titles this season, while also finishing runner-up in December’s UK Championship, culminating a landmark 12 months in his career.
Wilson was a quarter-finalist in the 2018 World Open but his season has failed to ignite from there on in, suffering three Last 128 exits and failing to surpass the Last 32 stage of his last ten ranking events.
Stuart Bingham, who was runner-up to Shaun Murphy in the 2016 World Grand Prix, faces a tough opening tie against emerging star Zhao Xintong.
Bingham sealed his place in this event as the number ten on the one-year list, having picked up the English Open title and reached the Semi-Finals of the UK Championship in a solid season so far.
He will be wary of the threat of a potential scalp at the hands of 21-year-old Zhao – one of five Chinese hopefuls in this year’s Grand Prix.
The young debutant mounted a brilliant run to the Semi-Finals of the China Championship back in September but has struggled to reach such heights since and will be out to kick-start a revival by catching the former World Champion cold.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with all matches to be contested over the best of seven frames.
World Grand Prix Snooker 2019 Tournament Schedule
Monday February 4
Barry Hawkins v Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Marco Fu
Mark Allen v Gary Wilson
Stuart Bingham v Zhao Xintong