Ronnie O’Sullivan, the current world No. 1, is set to commence his title defense at the Champion of Champions in Bolton this Wednesday. Despite his impressive track record with victories in 2013, 2014, 2018, and 2022, O’Sullivan is awaiting confirmation on his opening opponent for the prestigious event.
Initially slated to face Ding Junhui in Group 1, this matchup is contingent on the outcome of the International Championship. The winner of the tournament in Tianjin secures a coveted spot at the Champion of Champions, potentially altering O’Sullivan’s opponent. Stephen Maguire, Jordan Brown, Tom Ford, or Zhang Anda could impact the matchup by claiming the International Championship title on Sunday night.
Ding Junhui’s own participation in the Champion of Champions hinges on winning the £175,000 first prize in Tianjin or relying on O’Sullivan, Barry Hawkins, or Ali Carter, who have already qualified, to become International champion. The event’s allure includes a £12,500 reward for a first-round loser and a substantial £150,000 for the champion at the University of Bolton Stadium on November 19.
Notably, two-time winner Neil Robertson and 2018 finalist Kyren Wilson failed to qualify for this year’s competition. O’Sullivan, seeking his fifth victory in the past decade, aims to replicate his success from the previous year, where he clinched the title with a 10-6 win against Judd Trump in the final. However, O’Sullivan faced setbacks in the form of finals losses to John Higgins (10-7) in 2016 and Shaun Murphy (10-8) in 2017.
In other matches, Higgins and Chris Wakelin are set to clash in the Group 1 semi-final on Wednesday, while the tournament opener in Group 4 on Monday features UK champion Mark Allen against World Seniors champion Jimmy White.