Peter Ebdon believes he can stun world champion Neil Robertson at the Shanghai Masters – six weeks after playing down his chances of even qualifying for the tournament.
In the absence of the suspended John Higgins and resting Ronnie O’Sullivan, who is spending time with his family, Robertson is the man to beat in China this week.
Ebdon therefore could not have been handed a tougher draw, however he thrashed Robertson 5-1 at last season’s China Open.
And although Robertson went on to triumph at the Crucible five weeks later, Ebdon does not fear his first-round opponent.
He told www.110sport.tv: “It will be a very tough match but I am hoping it will be just as tough for him.
“The last time I played Neil in China I won 5-1 and produced a very solid performance. That was quite a strange match as he made a maximum in the only frame that he won. I think it was one of the best maximum breaks I have ever seen.”
Ebdon, the 2002 world champion, released a surprising statement in late July when he warned he might struggle in his qualifying match for Shanghai, as it fell in the week after his wedding.
As it turned out, he beat Welshman Michael White 5-1, and Ebdon says now: “The whole thing came from a misunderstanding.
“I sent a private email to World Snooker and then Barry Hearn contacted me saying that he felt it would be in my best interest to make a statement and I was okay with that.
“I wasn’t trying to lure anybody into a false sense of security. I have been spending more time travelling than ever before recently and I also got re-married in Hungary so it was a bit of a struggle finding the time to fit in my snooker.”
The tournament begins tomorrow with a wild-card round, involving players including 1997 world champion Ken Doherty and Martin Gould, the Englishman who blew an 11-5 lead in his second-round Crucible match against Robertson in May.
Dubliner Doherty takes on Pakistan’s Mohammad Sajjad, and Gould faces Chinese teenager Li Hang.
Ebdon’s match against Robertson is scheduled for Wednesday.
The withdrawal of O’Sullivan, announced on Friday, denies the tournament the sport’s biggest crowd-puller.
However the event is set to be overshadowed in any case by the hearing into allegations that Higgins, the current world number one, agreed to lose specific frames in tournaments to be arranged later in the year.
Higgins has been suspended by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association since May 2 following allegations he agreed to throw frames for money.
The 35-year-old Scot and his manager Pat Mooney were filmed by the News of the World newspaper allegedly agreeing to accept £261,000 in return for fixing the outcome of four frames in matches to be played later this year.
Higgins will face a Sport Resolutions tribunal on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The three-time world champion has insisted since the allegations first came to light that he is innocent and determined to return to the sport.
World snooker chief Barry Hearn warned in May that Higgins would face “the most severe penalty” if found guilty.