China’s top snooker player Ding Junhui has pulled out of the upcoming Tour Championship to avoid extensive travel from China to Britain, confirmed the World Snooker Tour (WST) on Thursday.
The tournament at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, north-west of London, runs from June 20 to 26 and features the top eight players on the one-year ranking list.
Ding, currently fifth on that list, will be replaced by ninth-placed Stephen Maguire.
The WST said that they worked with the British government to find ways for Ding to play in the event while observing the current quarantine requirements for anyone arriving in Britain. “However Ding has decided that as a safety precaution he prefers to avoid extensive travel and remain in China at this stage,” the WST said in a statement.
In the ranking-event, Maguire will replace Ding to face Neil Robertson in the first round. The reigning world champion Judd Trump is going to play against John Higgins. The other two first-round matches will see Mark Selby vs. Chinese hopeful Yan Bingtao and Shaun Murphy vs. Mark Allen.
Elite sports events were allowed to resume behind closed doors in Britain last Monday and snooker came back with the non-ranking event held at Marshall Arena, after being suspended for 11 weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.