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2016 China Open

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  • 2016 China Open

    My preview of next week's China Open...

  • #2
    There is not much time for previews, is there? The tournament starts only a few hours after the conclusion of the Walden-Allen final, so I hope you will forgive me for being brief this time...

    The China Open happens to be one of my favourite events of the season. It's a return to the superior best-of-9 format, and it will be quite refreshing to enjoy some proper matches again, after all the best-of-7 crap over the last month and a half. The China Open often has a very high standard of play, with all the top players hoping to find their best form ahead of the Crucible.

    There's a few notable absentees this week. Mark Selby has withdrawn from the event, Ronnie O'Sullivan never entered it in the first place, whereas Mark Williams and Mark Allen went out in the qualifiers. Xiao Guodong also went out, a player who was on the verge of the top16 not too long ago, but has now completely dropped off the radar after a dreadful season.

    So, let's see who has made it to Beijing...

    Quarter 1:

    Darryl Hill v. James Wattana
    Jamie Jones v. Dominic Dale
    Michael White v. Jack Lisowski
    Stephen Maguire v. Gary Wilson

    There are no really big names in the first quarter after Selby's withdrawal, which certainly suits the likes of Stephen Maguire and Michael White, two players who desperately need a good result in their battle for a top16 spot before the World Championship. Maguire has had some decent tournaments this season, but you really need to be holding a major title in the two-year period that counts towards the rankings, otherwise you don't have much chance of being in the top16. He's had a pretty bad month, but I reckon he is due a good tournament. White has had a more consistent season, but hasn't really been close to winning a major title either. They both have tricky opening matches here. White opens against Jack Lisowski, whose run to the quarter-finals of this tournament three years ago is his only one so far. Maguire plays Gary Wilson, last years surprising finalist, who hasn't been able to build on that result this season. Also in this quarter is Jamie Jones, a semi-finalist in Australia at the start of the season, but he too hasn't been able to push on after that good run. He beat White 5-4 on the final black in Australia, and he beat Maguire 5-0 the year before, so he will fancy his chance here. Dominic Dale probably has a chance as well.

    Mark Davis v. Rhys Clark
    Joe Perry v. Alfie Burden
    Alan McManus v. Mike Dunn
    Rory McLeod v. Mitchell Mann

    This has to be the "oldest" section of the draw, lots of very experienced players. Joe Perry stands out as the man to beat. He didn't qualify for the PTC Finals last week, but prior to that he reached the semi-finals of both the Welsh Open and the World Grand Prix, so he is clearly in good form at the moment. I think not playing in the PTC Finals will prove to be an advantage for some players in Beijing, as they have more time to travel in peace and get used to the time zone. Perry's main rivals in this section all played in Manchester, but none of them made it very far. I suppose Mike Dunn left the best impression, a semi-finalist in the China Open two years ago. He was the player to beat Rory McLeod last week, somewhat surprisingly for me. McLeod generally doesn't do too well in the major events, but he did win a PTC title earlier this season, so he is a tough player to beat when in form. The same goes for Alan McManus, but in his case there are no good recent results to mention. Perry's biggest obstacle in this section is perhaps Mark Davis, although Perry does have a very good record against him. Davis has played some good tournaments in China in the past, although he seems to prefer Shanghai to Beijing. I suppose that's not a surprise, because he does generally play better in the first half of the season...

    Quarter 2:

    Judd Trump v. Stuart Carrington
    Anthony McGill v. Jimmy Robertson
    Marco Fu v. Yu Delu
    Robert Milkins v. Ross Muir

    The other three quarters are a lot stronger, with at least a few potential tournament winners in each of them. The second quarter has Judd Trump for example, a player who has played extremely well in patches this season, but doesn't have much to show for it. The China Open was the first big title he ever won, back in 2011, but he's never played particularly well here since. He did reach the final of the Shanghai Masters earlier in the season though, so playing in China is clearly not a problem for him. He beat Stuart Carrington in both the World and the UK Championship in 2015, so this is a favourable opening match for him. Marco Fu is another dangerman in this section. His results have been decent this season, but slightly underwhelming with no run beyond the quarter-finals in any major event. I think he would prefer to avoid Trump here, as he doesn't have the best record against him, and their latest match at the WC last year was a reasonably comfortable win for Trump. Anthony McGill and Robert Milkins would have made a section like this very strong a year ago, but they have both been out of form this season. McGill failed to qualify for the World Grand Prix and the PTC Finals, while Milkins played in the latter, and kind of threw away his match against Hawkins, losing 4-3 from a winning position in the decider. I would also mention Yu Delu in this section, as he had a run to the last16 in Cardiff, before missing out on the last two events. Jimmy Robertson could also be a decent outside bet, having played alright in the International Championship in China earlier this season.

    Matthew Selt v. Chris Wakelin
    Joe Swail v. Martin O'Donnell/Wang Yuchen
    Allister Carter v. Mark King
    Shaun Murphy v. David Grace

    Shaun Murphy is the man in form at the moment. He won the World Grand Prix two weeks ago, then looked to be on his way to winning the PTC Finals as well, but just ran out of steam in the semi-finals. He has won titles outside of the UK, but he has had quite a lot of early exits as well, and the stats generally show him not to be the best traveller. It looks like Ali Carter is finally starting to find a bit of form, reaching the quarter-finals of both recent events, after a fairly long drought for him. He has played Murphy a lot over the years, and he has a positive record against him, including a 5-4 win in Australia this season. He opens against Mark King, whom he beat 4-0 in the Welsh Open just recently. I generally don't expect to see King in the latter stages of major tournaments these days, but it's worth noting that his last four appearances in major quarter-finals and beyond were all in China. Matthew Selt is another major player in this section, a quarter-finalist in two major events this season, although both in the first half, while his more recent results have not been as good. He is the opposite case to King, I do expect to see him in the latter stages of events, but he has actually never had any notable runs in China in the past. Also worth mentioning is David Grace, a surprising semi-finalist in the UK Championship this season, although he too has struggled in recent months.

    Quarter 3:

    Neil Robertson v. Noppon Saengkham
    Ben Woollaston v. Adam Duffy
    Martin Gould v. Andrew Higginson/Yuan Sijun
    Graeme Dott v. Matthew Stevens

    A very strong section, featuring two of the best players this season, and only room for one of them to go through. Neil Robertson returns after missing out on the PTC Finals. He has reached two China Open finals in the last three years, winning one of them, and he also won the last two editions of the Wuxi Classic, so he is clearly strong in China these days. Martin Gould did play in Manchester, but went out early. The last couple of events in general have not been the best for him, although to be fair, he has had some really tough draws. This will be his first appearance at the venue stage of the China Open in four years. Both players have a bit of work to do if they want to meet in the last16 here, but if they do, it will no doubt bring back memories of their clash in the 2010 WC, when Robertson won from 11-5 down in the 2nd round, and went on to win the World title. Ben Woollaston is one of the players standing in Robertson's way here, a quarter-finalist in two events recently, and he could have gone even further in the PTC Finals, had he not bottled his decider against Murphy. Standing in Gould's way is Graeme Dott, the winner of this event back in 2007, the only major event he has won in his career apart from his World title. They played each other in the semi-finals of the German Masters this season, Gould winning 6-2. I would also mention Matthew Stevens here, although his form has been dreadful recently, and his record against Dott is very poor...

    David Gilbert v. Gerard Greene
    Ding Junhui/Lee Walker v. Li Hang
    Luca Brecel v. Mark Joyce
    John Higgins v. Zhou Yuelong

    Another intriguing section. John Higgins has been one of the best players this season, but his two ranking titles seem like a long time ago now, while his results after new year have not been as impressive. It's great that he plays Zhou Yuelong in the 1st round here, it was such a great moment when China won the World Cup at the start of the season and Zhou "entrapped" Higgins in a hug and would not let him go. It's a tough draw for the young man, but he is a great prospect, and he proved he could play well at major venues by getting to the last16 of the International Championship earlier in the season. Luca Brecel and Mark Joyce meet in one of the more interesting 1st round matches here, although I have no doubt that matches such as Robertson-Saengkham will get shown on TV instead. Anyway, Brecel and Joyce played a good match in the quarter-finals of the German Masters this season, Brecel coming back from 4-2 down to win in the decider. Both have had decent seasons, Brecel of course went on to reach the final in Berlin, while Joyce has been less impressive, but still not bad. I'm sure Brecel will want another crack at Higgins here, after losing to him 6-4 in a great match in the semi-finals of the Welsh Open last season. He has played with a lot more confidence this season, although having said that, he did go out in the 1st round of the last two events. There are another couple of strong players in this very strong section. Ding Junhui of course, twice a China Open champion in the past. He hasn't won a major title in a while, but he has actually reached the business end in four of the six ranking events where he has played at the venue this season, so his poor form is slightly exaggerated. The only worry is that he seems to play better in the short matches these days... He surprisingly lost to Lee Walker in the 1st round of the Welsh Open last season, so I'm sure he is looking forward to settling the score. He has won the last four matches against Higgins, including a 13-9 win in the WC last year, from 5-1 down, so this could be a good match here. It's just a shame it has to happen as early as the last16. David Gilbert lost to Ding 4-1 last week, but he's proved what a dangerous player he is by reaching the final of the International Championship this season. Will that remain his only major run, or are there more to come?

    Quarter 4:

    Barry Hawkins v. Tian Pengfei/Niu Zhuang
    Michael Holt v. Nigel Bond
    Ricky Walden v. Robin Hull
    Ryan Day v. Dechawat Poomjaeng

    A slightly less interesting section perhaps, where the four seeds really should prevail. Barry Hawkins has started playing a bit recently, after struggling for most of the season. Just in time perhaps for another strong run in the World Championship. He lost 6-3 to Ricky Walden in the semi-finals last week, after previously beating him in two long matches at the WC. They could meet again here, in the last16, although both have some work to do. Hawkins first plays Tian Pengfei, who has been consistent enough this season to qualify for both recent events, but unfortunately he played poorly in both of them. It's amazing that he has never actually been to a major quarter-final, even though almost every player in the draw has had some sort of good run in a major event at some point. Hawkins also has to get past Michael Holt, whom he has a very strong record against, and beat him 4-2 in the PTC Finals last week. That was the first time Holt has failed to win at least one match at the venue this season. Walden's immediate problem will be Ryan Day, twice a semi-finalist in this event in the past, and generally a very good traveller. Of course Day plays Dechawat Poomjaeng first, and that's not going to be an easy match for him, as Poomjaeng won 6-2 when they met in the UK Championship this season. Day has played the better snooker since though, with two major quarter-finals since new year. It will be interesting to see who goes through here. Walden played great last week, but can he recover in time to put in another strong performance here?

    Kyren Wilson v. Tom Ford
    Liang Wenbo/Peter Lines v. Rod Lawler
    Peter Ebdon v. Ian Burns/Guan Zhen
    Stuart Bingham/Cao Yupeng v. Sam Baird

    The last section is another one that probably won't see any surprises, as the gap between the top players and the others is quite big here. Stuart Bingham is the man to beat on paper. Everyone keeps saying what a bad season Bingham is having, but he actually came within a frame of winning the World Grand Prix two weeks ago, and he reached the semi-finals of the first Chinese ranking event this season, in Shanghai. His match against Cao Yupeng has been held over, and that could be a tricky one for him, even though Cao has been awful in recent times. Peter Ebdon could be an even tougher early opponent for Bingham, as he has already beaten him this season, 6-3 in the UK Championship, and he is of course a former winner of this event, in 2009 and 2012, his two most recent major titles. Then we have Kyren Wilson, the Shanghai Masters champion this season. He is another player who seems to travel well, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him at the business end again this week. He opens against Tom Ford, the opponent who beat him 6-1 in the UK Championship, but a similar result here would surprise me. Like White and Maguire, Wilson could have an interesting battle with Liang Wenbo here, as both players are among those who are still fighting for a top16 place. Liang's best result this season is of course the UK final, while his recent progress was hindered by Murphy, who beat him comfortably in the last two events. Liang is also a former Shanghai Masters finalist, but, amazingly, he has never won a match in Beijing!

    Possible QF line-up:

    Stephen Maguire v. Joe Perry
    Judd Trump v. Shaun Murphy
    Neil Robertson v. Ding Junhui
    Barry Hawkins v. Stuart Bingham

    There we are, not so brief after all, but it did require some very quick typing. Should be a good week of snooker. I'll probably be up in the morning to watch it.


    • #3
      Thanks guys)


      • #4
        Robbo out already :/


        • #5
          Wenbo doing his best to throw the match against Lines, and he has.


          • #6
            Dissapointed a lot with TV choice for this afternoon. Instead of Brecel vs Joyce, they show qualifier match of two Chinese players. I can only guess which one will be actually of higher quality. I understand the event is held in China, but anyway, not a good choice. Most of chinese fans will watch Ding anyway ....


            • #7
              Not looking good for Ding


              • #8
                Good result for Alfie Burden
                Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !


                • #9
                  Day 1 Round-Up....



                  • #10
                    It will be some nervous days for Ding.
                    ....its not called potting its called snooker. Quote: WildJONESEYE
                    "Its called snooker not potting" Quote: Rory McLeod


                    • #11
                      What happenned to Stuart Carrington exactly ?
                      Ton Praram III Series 1 | 58" 18.4oz 9.4mm | ash shaft + 4 splices of Brazilian Rosewood | Grand Cue medium tips


                      • #12
                        How young does the guy look who beat Gould ......he looks about 12 on the WS website !
                        Still trying to pot as many balls as i can !


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by neil taperell View Post
                          How young does the guy look who beat Gould ......he looks about 12 on the WS website !
                          Gould probably fancied him.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by BusterBloodvessel View Post
                            Gould probably fancied him.
                            Bit of a strange comment, or do you know something i don't ??


                            • #15
                              watching bingham four punters in the crowd! glad china's the future barry