Gibraltar Open 2022: A Preview
Snooker is back in the form of the Gibraltar Open! What’s more, the snooker event actually takes place in Gibraltar, as the 2021 edition was held in Milton Keynes due to the pandemic. Last year, it was Judd Trump who took home the championship trophy and prize winnings of £50,000 when he defeated Jack Lisowski 4-0 with ease.
Trump also won the 2020 Gibraltar Open snooker tournament, which means he could make it a hat trick if he is the victor at the 2022 edition. Trump is certainly the favourite for the event, so all eyes will be on the Englishman to see if he can pull off the rare feat this year.
Venue, time, prize funds, and where to watch
The Gibraltar Open 2022 will take place from the 24th to 26th March at the Europa Point Sports Complex. This is only the 7th edition of the tournament, with the first being held in 2015, but the event is rapidly growing in esteem and drawing more and more talented snooker players every year.
A total prize pool of £251,000 will be distributed as follows:
- Winner: £50,000
- Runner-up: £20,000
- Semi-final: £6,000
- Quarter-final: £5,000
- Last 16: £4,000
- Last 32: £3,000
- Last 64: £2,000
- Highest break: £5,000
There has been a large debate about the distribution of prize money in snooker of late, with many stating that it’s a hard sport to earn a living unless you get into the later rounds. For many young professionals, it’s almost impossible to live as a full-time snooker player until you start reaching the finals.
Up-and-comer, Steven Hallworth, has said that tournament organisers aren’t making it easy for developing players. “From a playing perspective and as a sportsperson, I don’t expect to earn a penny if I lose in the first round,” he explained. “They could look at covering your expenses. Where is the incentive to be a professional player? It can be demoralising.”
Steve Dawson, chairman of the World Snooker Tour, has apparently listened to the arguments on both sides, but is clear in his admission that only the best players should be rewarded for their greatness, otherwise there is little incentive to get to the finals for the bigger payouts.
Check the times below for watching on Eurosport.
Matches to look out for in Round 1
128 total competitors will begin the snooker tournament, with the Round 1 matchups taking place from the evening of the 24th and the morning and afternoon of the 25th. Every round features the best of seven frames, including the final.
Alongside current titleholder, Judd Trump, the Gibraltar 2022 event also features some of the biggest names in snooker, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Kyren Wilson, and even past champions of the event such as Shaun Murphy, Stuart Bingham, and Ryan Day.
Predictions for Round 1
There are many exciting matchups for Round 1 of the Gibraltar 2022 snooker event, but it’s fair to say that four, in particular, stand out amongst the rest. It’s worth noting that current No. 1 ranked player, Mark Selby, will not be competing in the Gibraltar Open 2022.
David Grace vs. John Higgins
Higgins has been playing brilliantly lately, as despite losing in the finals during both the 2021 English Open and 2021 Northern Ireland Open, he went down fighting in each one and could have easily been the winner if a few things went differently on the table. John “The Wizard of Wishaw” Higgins did win the Players Championship against O’Sullivan back in February last year, so the 46-year-old clearly has the chops to get a victory when the going gets tough.
David Grace, on the other hand, might not have much silver in his trophy cabinet just yet, but has slowly and surely gotten better as the years progress. He’s yet to make much of a display during a final yet, with two semi-finals the highest he’s reached so far, but Grace is certainly not one to count out. That said, you’d have to go with Higgins to move on here, as his form and experience will be too much for Grace.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs. Ben Woollaston
When it comes to snooker legends, the first name on anyone’s mind usually goes to Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan. The 46-year-old is a six-time World Champion and is currently ranked second, but even if O’Sullivan is highly regarded as arguably the best snooker player of all time by his peers and fans, he made headlines recently by stating that he wouldn’t pick the sport as a career now.
“Snooker’s just a really, really tough sport,” said O’Sullivan in an interview. “Stuck indoors, no natural light, draw the curtains, in there for five or six hours, you don’t talk to anyone. That’s not healthy, that’s not a good way to spend your life. I wouldn’t have chosen snooker, I’d probably have chosen golf or Formula One.”
For Woollaston, it’s been a while since he had any major success in a final, with the runner’s up award in the 2015 Welsh Open being the last noteworthy match. He’s got the talent to make some damage in the Gibraltar Open, no doubt about it, but it’s hard to see him being any threat to The Rocket, even if the snooker G.O.A.T has been seemingly disengaged in the sport. Still, if O’Sullivan is turning up, then he’s going to advance beyond Round 1.
Judd Trump vs. Andrew Higginson
Judd “Juddernaut” Trump is fresh off his massive victory at the Turkish Masters for £100,000 prize money, so you just know he’s going to be full of confidence for the Gibraltar Open. Currently ranked No. 3, Trump is the man to beat for the tournament, but it’s possible the previous two victories at Gibraltar will place too much pressure on him. If he can keep a cool head and take the event as just another in the snooker calendar, then his prodigious talent will see him through to the final.
Interestingly, Trump made his recent debut playing nine-ball pool over in America for the U.S. Open Pool Championship in 2021. Although he didn’t progress very far in the tournament, making the switch to nine-ball pool is a bold move, but likely to be lucrative in the U.S. market.
Let’s be honest, it’s not going to be much fun for Andrew Higginson to kick things off in Gibraltar against Trump. Higginson certainly deserves a spot here and has shown the skills to keep up with the major players, but his lack of finals experience and recent form that is nothing short of run-of-the-mill, it seems obvious that Trump will take this match easily.
Zhao Xintong vs. Jamie Clarke
One of the most interesting games will be that of Zhao taking on Clarke. Zhao is the current champion of both the 2021 UK Championships and the 2022 German Masters, so it seems strange that he’s only ranked at No. 7. One of the most exciting young prospects to emerge in the snooker world for some time, Zhao is a definite wild card to take home the trophy this year.
As for Clarke? We all know he’s got the potential, but there seems little buzz about him for Gibraltar, which may work in his favour, but more likely it appears that he doesn’t quite have what it takes to get to the final just yet.
We might sound like a broken record, but how can you not go with Trump right now? He seems to have the Gibraltar Open all figured out, and it’s almost a certainty that he’ll not only come away from the 2022 event with the win, but also make it an uncommon snooker hat trick of championship victories. O’Sullivan, as always, is bound to make it to the final, but his recent disinterest in snooker seems odd, and Trump is playing too well right now to lose.
Author: Joe Garland