Snooker’s governing body have confirmed that sixteen professional snooker stars have rejected the opportunity to play in this year's World Snooker Championships, which starts in Sheffield later this month.
China's world number 22 Zhou Yuelong, who stunned Antrim's Mark Allen in the first-round last year, is the highest-ranked player on the list of withdrawals, which also includes two-time semi-finalist and former world number five Marco Fu and three-time women’s world champion Ng On-yee.
The majority of withdrawals are Chinese players who have cited coronavirus and quarantine concerns. However, former finalist and world number 11 Ding Junhui, who missed last month’s Coral Tour Championship, has indicated he will take part, as well as Yan Bingtao, the other Chinese player in the top 16, who is currently based in Sheffield.
None of the players concerned are understood to be among the current world top 16 and would have been scheduled to take part in qualifiers ahead of the tournament's start on July 21st.
World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association chairman Jason Ferguson said in a statement: "Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic we have worked tirelessly to ensure that every player has the chance to play in the Betfred World Championship.
"We knew this would be a huge task in the climate, but not an impossible one – and we have now reached a point where players can make their own choice.
Among those to benefit with an invitation to compete is 14-year-old Ukrainian Iulian Boiko, who will become the youngest player ever in the qualifying rounds.
Boiko, who does not turn 15 until September, has recently been granted a tour card for the next two seasons.
Also, among those in the qualifying draw, which is set to be made this week, are former World champion Ken Doherty and six-time runner-up Jimmy White.