Snooker news: 'Huge interest' – World champion Mark Selby set for emotional homecoming as bumper new season takes shape
Leicester will host a professional ranking event for the first time when the Shoot Out is staged at the city's Morningside Arena in January. It gives world champion Mark Selby the chance to play in front of his home fans alongside fellow locals Tom Ford, Ben Woollaston, Louis Heathcote and Joe O’Connor. Selby lost to Ryan Day in February's Shoot Out final and is excited about the new season ahead.
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Mark Selby will return to Leicester as world champion to compete in the Snooker Shoot Out between 20-23 January 2022 (LIVE on Eurosport) when his home city stages a professional ranking event for the first time at the city's Morningside Arena.
The four-times defending Crucible winner reached the final of the Shoot Out behind closed doors in Milton Keynes in February before losing to Welshman Ryan Day, but will aim to go one better with the tournament pencilled in a week after the Masters (9-16 January) returns to Alexandra Palace in London.
“I am delighted Leicester has got a ranking tournament with the Shoot Out for this season,” said Selby, who claimed his fourth world title with an 18-15 win over Shaun Murphy earlier this month.
“It is a hotbed of snooker and has produced a lot of players, and there is huge interest in the game in the city. I expect the crowds to be really good for that one.
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“Leicester has been very high-profile as a sporting city over recent years with the football team, rugby’s Leicester Tigers and the Riders basketball who play at the Morningside Arena.
“But apart from the odd invitation event or the Championship League, Leicester hasn’t had a big snooker tournament.
I haven’t always played in the Shoot Out, but I’ll definitely be there this season. The atmosphere will be excellent, (wife) Vikki and (daughter) Sofia can come and there will be a lot of friends there to cheer the Leicester players.
“For me personally, there are a few events on the new calendar in the Midlands which is going to make travelling there from home much easier."
With uncertainty around international travel due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Selby is excited about the prospect of fans returning to venues in the UK after the vast majority of the 2020/21 campaign was forced behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes.
The Northern Ireland Open (10-17 October) and the battle for the Alex Higgins Trophy marks the start of the Home Nations Series at the Waterfront in Belfast LIVE on Eurosport with the English Open (1-7 November) due to return to Milton Keynes before the Scottish Open (6-12 December) at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow and Welsh Open (28 February-6 March) is staged by Celtic Manor.
The world's top 16 will all appear at the respective final venues at the Home Nations events on Eurosport.
Aldersley Leisure Village in Wolverhampton will witness a ranking event for the first time a fortnight earlier when it hosts the Players Championship (7-13 February) involving the world's top 16.
The British Open returns to the calendar in August for the first time since 2004 when John Higgins defeated fellow Scot Stephen Maguire 9-6 in Brighton before the inaugural Turkish Masters is due to be held in the city of Antalya a month later.
The China Open and Gibraltar Open are set to take place in March 2022, but much will depend on the UK government's advice on health and travel restrictions in the forthcoming months regarding their viability.
“We are now working flat out on our calendar for the coming season, and particularly looking towards locations outside the UK. We are determined to get back to the territories around the globe where we have nurtured growth over the past decade, such as China, Germany, Gibraltar and others, while also planning ventures into new markets," said World Snooker Tour chairman Steve Dawson.
“Over the past year we have been at the forefront of sport in terms of keeping our tour going and maintaining earning opportunities for our players, by staging events in Covid-safe environments in the UK.
"But we hope it will be possible in the coming season to venture overseas and to welcome crowds to all of our UK events. We are working closely with governments in the UK and abroad to determine what can be achieved.
At this stage the calendar is a work in progress as we explore all opportunities and we will make further announcements in due course.
The sport's established big four of Judd Trump, Selby, Ronnie O'Sullivan and Neil Robertson will be joined by the rejuvenated Murphy, Higgins and Kyren Wilson as the most hotly tipped players to dominate the new campaign.
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17 ranking events are provisionally scheduled so far from July until May, bookended between the Championship League and 46th World Championship in Sheffield.
The prestigious non-ranking events of the Champion of Champions and Masters bring the total to 19 elite tournaments in 11 months with a possible three more ranking events being added to a hectic schedule.
“Of course, it is brilliant to be going back to all our usual venues and some new and exciting ones. And it shows that things are gradually getting back to normality," added Selby in an interview with The Sportsman.
But Milton Keynes and the MK Stadium served a valuable purpose for us all last season, if they hadn’t have staged all those tournaments, we might not have played at all.
“We could easily have been sitting at home and not earning like many other sports.
“And so I am glad that has been recognised with them keeping the English Open this season, to show some gratitude from the sport. It’s the least we could do.”