Hossein Vafaei to make Masters debut as Zhao Xintong does not appeal suspension

January 5, 2023
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Phil Haigh ✍️  

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Zhao Xintong has been removed from the Masters draw (Picture: Getty Images)

Hossein Vafaei has replaced Zhao Xintong in the Masters draw and will make his debut on Sunday night after the Chinese star chose not to appeal his suspension from World Snooker Tour events.

The current German Masters champion is one of 10 players now suspended from WST events as an investigation into match-fixing in snooker continues.

Zhao, along with Zhang Jiankang, were only suspended on Tuesday and with the Cyclone due to play Mark Selby in the first round of the Masters on Sunday, there was some confusion over what would become of the tie.

Suspended players are usually given a 14-day window to appeal their suspensions, but Zhao has confirmed that he does not intend to appeal, so Vafaei, who was next in the rankings at the cut-off, comes in to play Selby.

The Iranian, who won his first ranking title at the Shoot Out and made his Crucible debut last year will now be appearing at the Masters for the first time thanks to the late call-up.

Selby may not be thrilled about the replacement having lost to Vafaei on each of their last two meetings, at the 2021 and ’22 UK Championships.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Hossein Vafaei will make his Masters debut on Sunday evening (Picture: Getty Images)

Two top 16 players are currently suspended, with Yan Bingtao also barred from events currently, and Dave Gilbert has taken his place in the Masters, playing Mark Williams in round one.

Chen Zifan, Liang Wenbo, Lu Ning, Li Hang, Zhao Jianbo, Bai Langning and Chang Bingyu are the other players suspended from competing in or attending WST events.

As a WPBSA statement confirmed: ‘The suspensions are in place until the conclusion of the investigation or any subsequent charges that may or may not be brought.

‘The WPBSA can confirm that the wider investigation is now at an advanced stage, and it is anticipated will be completed shortly at which point any potential charges will be considered.’

The Masters first draw and schedule

Sunday 8 January

1pm Neil Robertson v Shaun Murphy
7pm Mark Selby v Hossein Vafaei

Monday 9 January

1pm Ronnie O’Sullivan v Luca Brecel
7pm John Higgins v Jack Lisowski

Tuesday 10 January

1pm Mark Allen v Barry Hawkins
7pm Mark Williams v David Gilbert

Wednesday 11 January

1pm Judd Trump v Ryan Day
7pm Kyren Wilson v Stuart Bingham

For more stories like this, check our sport page.

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