Last minute news about the Hong Kong Masters

At the time of writing less than an hour is left until the tournament starts.

There is a change in the line-up, and in the schedule as Zhao Xintong tested positive to covid and is replaced by Mark Williams.

This is the announcement by WST:

Zhao Xintong has been withdrawn from this week’s Hong Kong Masters after testing positive for Covid-19 this evening and will be replaced by Mark Williams.

Williams was next in line for a place, as per the invitation criteria for the event, which was based on the world rankings at the conclusion of the 2022 World Championship.

Welshman Mark Williams will now face Australia’s Neil Robertson on October 7th (Friday) at 13:30 (HKT). John Higgins’ match with Judd Trump will be rescheduled to October 6th (Thursday) at 19:00 (HKT).

We wish Zhao a speedy recovery.

I do hope that there will be nobody else in the same situation as the whole event could turn into a right flop if more players were to withdraw, with no time to be replaced. This would be disastrous as a huge crowd is expected to turn up:

All-Time Crowd Record Set To Be Smashed

The Hong Kong Masters 2022 is expected to set new records for the biggest ever snooker crowd this week.

The current record for the sport’s biggest live audience is 3,000, set at the Hong Kong Masters in 2017. But that is set to be shattered this week with crowds of up to 9,000 anticipated.

The tournament, running from Thursday to Sunday, will be held at the fantastic Hong Kong Coliseum and it is the first snooker event staged in Asia since 2019.

It’s an elite field of eight players – local stars Ng On Yee and Marco Fu plus the top six in the world rankings at the start of the season: Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, John Higgins and Zhao Xintong.

The biggest ever snooker crowds in the UK have come at the Masters in London but have never exceeded 2,500 at either Wembley Conference Centre or Alexandra Palace.

WST Chairman Steve Dawson said: “We are thrilled to see this extraordinary appetite for snooker in Hong Kong especially on this very significant moment for our sport as we stage a tournament in Asia for the first time in three years.

“For the eight players it will be an incredible experience, with crowds of up to three times more than they have ever seen before.

“We are proud to be working with the Hong Kong Billiard Sports Control Council and building our footprint in this region.”

Chairman of the HKBSCC Vincent Law added: “The scale of the venue and production will set a new standard in professional snooker. Over 90% of the tickets for the final day have been sold, so we are looking at up to 9,000 people to witness the winner lift the trophy. We are very excited to be about to make history again with everyone involved. We are thankful to all the players, officials, World Snooker Tour, and the Hong Kong snooker fans for their support.

That said, I’m not convinced that such a big crowd will actually “work” for snooker. The table hasn’t exactly the size of a football pitch or a tennis court and I doubt that the people up the rafters will see anything.

Meanwhile, here are some images shared on weibo. There was apparently some sort of “press day” and this was obviously before Zhao was tested positive.