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Chinese Sensation starts German Masters title defence

World number two Ding Junhui will be aiming to defend his German Masters title after storming to victory 12 months ago, while Ronnie O’Sullivan returns to the competition three years after his triumph in Germany.

Ever since its introduction in 2011, this ranking event has been an incredible success, with the Tempodrum Arena selling out its 2000-plus capacity over five days, and snooker’s top players also seeing it as a chance to sharpen their form ahead of the World Championship in May.

Chinese Sensation Ding, 9/1 with Coral to retain his crown, will begin the defence of his title against Welshman Ryan Day on Thursday, having had a stuttering season so far.

At this stage last season Ding had already completed a terrific treble of ranking titles before clinching the German Masters and later the China Open.

However, it’s been a different story this term with a victory in an Asian Tour event his only achievement to date, following a series of shock early exits from more prestigious events.

Ding’s faltering form on the baize will give Dynamite Day encouragement ahead of the pair’s first round clash, and the Pontycymer-born potter is 9/4 to cause an early upset.

A great opportunity to reach the latter stages in Germany could arise from victory for either Ding or Day, with Alfie Burden or Michael Georgiou awaiting the winner in a more favourable top quarter draw.

The other three sections of the competition look a lot more dangerous, with a host of former ranking event winners completing the line-up.

This includes UK Championship victor O’Sullivan, who returns to the German Masters for the first time since rocketing to success in 2012. The five-time world champion is the heavy favourite and is available at 9/4 to make a winning comeback.

Although, the prolific potter faces a tricky opponent in Mark Davis, who halted the Rocket in a Champions League group stage meeting last week. The 42-year-old is 4/1 to get a result again, having toppled O’Sullivan in the round of 32 before at the 2001 Scottish Open.

Potentially, the Rocket could face this year’s magnificent Masters champion Shaun Murphy in the quarter-final, with Mark Williams and Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen also facing off in an eye-catching opening round clash.

Welsh wizard Williams clinched the first ever German Masters title in 2011 and is 66/1 to do so again, following a return to form this season, having reached two semi-finals and two quarter-finals.

Murphy’s majestic Masters triumph seen him complete a famous career Triple Crown, and he will soon be aiming to become only the fifth player to win both the Masters and World Championship in the same year.

Before then, the world number 11 is 10/1 to claim his maiden German Masters victory.

The bottom half of the draw is sure to be closely contested with Mark Selby, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, John Higgins and Stephen Maguire all hoping to get back on track with a visit to the Crucible only a few months away.

World number one Robertson was comprehensively outplayed in this year’s Masters final by the Magician Murphy and he will be hoping to bounce back against Fergal O’Brien, while On Fire Maguire meets David Gilbert.

Reigning world champion Selby, odds-on 2/9 to win, faces Scotland’s Anthony McGill, as UK runner up Trump battles it out with Michael Holt.

Bristol’s Ace in the Pack has featured in both the UK and Champion of Champions final this season, losing out to O’Sullivan on both occasions, but is 13/2 to go one better in Germany this week.

Each player has had to overcome two qualifying rounds to reach this week’s round of 32 stage of the Berlin-based ranking event.

O’Sullivan is undoubtedly the favourite, but with the World Championship not far away, the sport’s best players will be battling it out to capture the coveted German crown and gain advanatge heading into the Crucible in May.