Former World Snooker champion Ken Doherty believes that the standard of play with be higher than ever at this year’s World Seniors Championship in Preston.
The tournament at the Guild Hall runs on the weekend of January 30-31 and will feature many of the sport’s great names including Jimmy White, John Parrott and defending champion Mark Williams.
Last year the age limit was lowered from 45 to 40 and Doherty believes that has led to a far tougher field. Six of the world’s top 40 players will be among the 16-man line-up in Preston.
“It has got so much more competitive over the last couple of years because of the change in age limit,” said 46-year-old Doherty, who won the World Championship in 1997.
“There are a lot of very good players in it this time. Mark Davis is an extremely tough first-round draw, he’s ranked 23rd in the world and we’ve had a lot of battles over the years.
“It’s good prize money and for the winner it’s great to be a world champion at any level. Everyone there is in it to win, and not just to have fun. It’s a great event and I love playing in it every year.”
Returning to the Guild Hall will bring back plenty of memories for Irishman Doherty, as he played several times at the Preston venue earlier in his career.
“The Guild Hall is where it all started for me,” he said.
“That’s where I went to try and qualify as a professional in 1988, back in the pro-ticket days. I failed to qualify but I won the world amateur title the next year to get my pro card.
“My best memory of playing in Preston was the 1994 UK Championship. I played out of my skin that week and beat Ronnie O’Sullivan and James Wattana to reach the final.
“Then I was involved in a brilliant match against Stephen Hendry – he made seven centuries and beat me 10-5. I couldn’t hold on to him, he was just too good. It’s a great venue, particularly when there’s a big crowd in.”
Doherty has had an inconsistent season so far and dropped to 47th in the world rankings, but showed signs of form in December when he won two qualifying matches to reach the final stages of February’s German Masters.
“I had a couple of good wins before Christmas and hopefully that’s a sign of things to come,” he added.
“I hope 2016 will be a good year for me on the table. The game doesn’t get any easier as you get older but I still love playing.”
Televised by Sky Sports, the World Seniors Championship brings together stars of the modern game and past eras.
Tickets are on sale now and start at just £10, but fans must book fast because they are selling out.
For details call 01772 804444 or visit www.worldsnooker.com/tickets.
The full draw and format is:
January 30, from 1pm: Peter Ebdon v Nigel Bond, Mark Williams v Anthony Hamilton, Tony Drago v Robert Milkins, Joe Johnson v Darren Morgan
From 7pm: Ken Doherty v Mark Davis, John Parrott v Dominic Dale, Rory McLeod v Fergal O’Brien, Jimmy White v Gary Lees
January 31, from 1pm: Quarter-finals
From 7pm: Semi-finals and Final