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2017 China Championship

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  • 2017 China Championship

    August the 16th marks the start of the first big tournament of this season and I'm really looking forward to it. The China Championship in Guangzhou has its premiere as a ranking event. And with a prize fund of £ 700.000 and 150.000 for the champion it is tied with the International Championship and the World Open the third biggest tournament of this season. Of course for this significance, which is also shown by the fact that every player of note, even Ronnie O’Sullivan entered the competition (with Kyren Wilson the only Top-20-player to lose in the qualifiers), the format with Best of nine matches until the quarterfinals and only the semifinals Best-of-11 and the final Best-of-19 seems a tad short, but this is the way it is nowadays. At least we can be happy that it’s longer than Best-of-7. We should sign a petition for at least lengthening the quarterfinals and semifinals of events such as this and the UK Championship though. ;-)

    So here is the basic information of ranking points and prize money:
    Winner: £ 150.000
    Runner-up: £ 75.000
    Semifinal: £ 32.000
    Quarterfinal: £ 18.000
    Last 16: £ 12.000
    Last 32: £ 7.000
    Last 64: £ 4.000

    Round of Last 64: Best of 9 frames
    Round of Last 32: Best of 9 frames
    Round of Last 16: Best of 9 frames
    Quarterfinals: Best of 9 frames
    Semifinals: Best of 11 frames
    Final: Best of 19 frames

    The Draw:

    It's early in the season, so it is pretty difficult, but let's try to break it down.

    First Quarter:
    The first seed is not the defending champion, probably because it’s a ranking event for the first time, but world number one Mark Selby, who still has his qualifier against Luo Honghao to play (has Selby ever gone to Preston in the last years by the way?). If the world champion succeeds he’ll play Noppon Saengkham in the first round and probably Zhou Yuelong in the second. In the round of the last 16 his opponent would likely be Martin Gould or Anthony McGill. So this is not exactly a terrifying draw for Selby, but we don’t really know his form at this point. Since winning his third world crown at the crucible in May he only played at the Hongkong Masters, losing his opening match there against eventual winner Neil Robertson. Still I favour Selby to make the quarterfinals here, where he could meet one of a whole bunch of players.

    Cause the second part of this quarter is quite equal and unpredictable in my eyes. The biggest name here is world number 8 Shaun Murphy, but he hasn’t exactly been the most consistent player lately. And exactly contrary his first round opponent Ken Doherty was playing his best snooker in years recently. The winner would meet a veteran performer with either Peter Ebdon or Anthony Hamilton. And yet the maybe most intriguing first round match of the whole tournament is on the other side of this section with Stuart Bingham meeting Chinese talent Yan Bingtao. And the winner doesn’t have it easy in the next round with probably Stephen Maguire looming. So who will it be for Selby (if he gets there) in the quarters? I really have no idea.

    Second quarter:
    The highest seed here is Ding Junhui, if he qualifies against Niu Zhuang. He doesn’t face what you would call a huge obstacle early: Alfie Burden in the first round, followed by Alan McManus or Elliot Slessor in the second round. And in the third round Mark King would be the most likely opponent. Of course over such a short distance as Best-of-9 there will be plenty of upsets, but Ding has to be called the favorite.
    On the other side Barry Hawkins opens against Oliver Lines and would go on to meet the winner between Ben Woollaston and Mark Davis. Ali Carter is also there. All in all the second quarter might be the least intriguing.

    Third quarter:
    Here things could become interesting pretty fast. Cause already in the round of the last 16 we could have the clash between Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Trump has Li Bang or Daniel Wells first, then Graeme Dott or Robert Milkins. Ronnie opens against Sam Baird before playing the winner between David Gilbert and Stuart Carrington. While those are no walkovers the chances of a meeting of Judd and Ronnie are pretty intact.
    In the third quarter there is also another intriguing first rounder with the duel of Marco Fu and Hossein Vafaei. Both are playing pretty good in the last eight or nine months. Of course Fu has been on another level, but Vafaei has progressed very strong and I fully expect the Iranian to take another step this year. If Fu wins he could be in for a rematch of his first rounder of this years World Championship against Luca Brecel, where the man from Hongkong staged this fabulous comeback. Vafaei against Brecel would be a decent match-up of talents. Also here are Liang Wenbo (if he qualifies) and Joe Perry, so the third quarter really is highly interesting.

    Fourth quarter:
    John Higgins still has his qualifier to play as well, before the Scotsman can take on Chris Wakelin and eventually a tricky second round opponent with either Matthew Selt or Tom Ford, both who performed well in Preston last week. In the round of the last sixteen Higgins could meet old rival Mark Williams or Ryan Day.
    Also some Welshmen are in the other half of this quarter with Matthew Stevens, who opens against Mark Allen and Michael White, who plays Xiao Guodong in two of the more interesting first rounders in my eyes. Allen should be favorite against Stevens, the winner plays Un-Nooh or Holt next. White or Xiao would meet the highest seed of this half-quarter probably, which is Neil Robertson. It will be highly interesting, how the Australian follows up his win in Hongkong. Can he find his form again?

    Possible quarterfinals:
    Selby – Maguire
    Hawkins – Ding
    O’Sullivan – Liang
    Robertson - Higgins

  • #2
    Already created this as I just had a bit time on my hands. I'm sure Odrl will add a more in depth analysis during the next few days

    Who do you tip as the winner here? My gut feeling says me it's time for a Ding - O'Sullivan final.


    • #3
      There are still some curiosities in the official programme it seems:


      • #4
        Can't see the pics , assume that wrong names to pics ?


        • #5
          It say's Ben Woolaston, picture is Anthony McGill. Also Ryan Day's pic has the wrong name.


          • #6
            Originally posted by neil taperell View Post
            Can't see the pics , assume that wrong names to pics ?
            Ben Woollaston.jpg

            Ian Preece.jpg


            • #7
              Ah yes, the first proper event of the season starts tomorrow...

              I have to admit I didn't really miss snooker all that much during the summer, nor do I feel particularly excited for the new season, but I'm sure I will be gripped again in no time. Unfortunately the calendar is in almost exactly the same state as last year, mostly dominated by short-format events. The China Championship was a welcome addition to the calendar last season, and I didn't particularly mind the plan to make it a ranking event for this year, because proper ranking snooker is my favourite type of snooker after all. But unfortunately we have lost the Shanghai Masters in the mean time, so not much was gained in the grand scheme of things... We famously had the pathetic number of six ranking events in the season before Hearn took over, and of those six, two have now been cancelled, two have been shortened and dumbed down beyond the point of recognition, and only the China Open and the World Championship remain. Of course other events have been established in this time, but the number of proper best-of-9 or longer events has largely stayed the same, and I personally think that's a big shame.

              Anyway, onto the tournament in question... First of all, it's a little weird to have a week-long ranking event start on a Wednesday. I'm not exactly sure what the reasons are, and at the same time not curious enough to attempt to find out. In any case, the field here is world-class and includes virtually every player capable of winning tournaments these days. Kyren Wilson is perhaps the one exception, having already lost in the qualifiers, and maybe Ricky Walden as well, although he hasn't really been a particularly prominent player in recent times. It's also nice to see that a lot of the matches involving Chinese players have been held over, in addition to the usual suspects such as Selby and Ding.

              As JimMalone says, it's difficult to predict the form of players this early in the season, so I'm not sure about that "in-depth analysis". Nevertheless, let's quickly go through the draw...

              Quarter 1:

              Mark Selby/Lu Honghao v. Noppon Saengkham
              Zhou Yuelong v. Chen Zifan
              Martin Gould v. Andrew Higginson/Hu Hao
              Anthony McGill v. Mark Joyce

              Stephen Maguire v. Rory McLeod
              Stuart Bingham v. Yan Bingtao
              Anthony Hamilton v. Peter Ebdon
              Shaun Murphy v. Ken Doherty

              Mark Selby starts as the top seed, which suggests this tournament is considered to be a separate event from the invitational tournament Higgins won last year. We are more used to seeing Selby in the bottom quarter, since he is usually the 2nd seed as World champion and world number one, but this season his place is mostly at the top, as he will be defending champion in no fewer than four major ranking events. There were only eight ranking events with matches of at least medium length in the whole of last season, so for someone to win half of them is really impressive. And of course he got to the final in Shanghai as well, and he also won the short-format Paul Hunter Classic. On paper he will start as favourite in every event he enters over the next couple of months at least, and particularly in China where he has had more success than any other player in recent history. It was incredible to see how determined he was during the China Open at the end of last season, even though he had already won a bunch of events and the World Championship was just around the corner. He just wants to win every event he plays in at the moment, and he has the game and the form to succeed a lot of the time. No one has endless reserves of motivation though, so at some point he is bound to take his foot off the gas a little. Both of his previous seasons as reigning World champion went very well, but it did take him a few events to get going, so I'm not sure whether we should expect any fireworks here. It's particularly difficult to predict his form because he has avoided the recent qualifying bloc, having had all of his matches held over to the main venues. I think his draw here is quite favourable, but there are still a couple of potential dangers. Anthony McGill, Andrew Higginson and Mark Joyce all reached the quarter-finals of the Riga Masters in June, so they appear to be in decent form ahead of the first major event of the season. McGill played really well around this time last year as well, but then failed to push on in the remainder of the season. I think he will be looking for a higher level of consistency this season, and that means getting through the early rounds here and meeting Selby in the last16. The other two players I mentioned were both very poor last season, so they have already made a step in the right direction in Riga, and Higginson in particular could be tough to crack for Selby, having pushed him all the way to 5-4 in the last16 of the China Open last season. Also here is Martin Gould, another poor performer last season, with a run to the semi-finals of the German Masters as his only highlight. Unfortunately his recent results in qualifying have not been great, so I'm not expecting him to get through here. Zhou Yuelong will be interesting to follow this season. He has established himself in the top32 of the rankings at a very young age, and he still has something like two years to go if he wants to make a breakthrough at a similar age to Judd Trump, and even longer if he wants to emulate the likes of Selby and Robertson. His best result last season was a run to the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, although he did have an incredibly favourable draw that week. I will also mention Noppon Saengkham here, generally not one of the dangermen, but he did reach the quarter-finals of the China Open in 2016, which remains his one and only notable run.

              The other half of this quarter is one of the toughest parts of the draw, with at least seven players capable of going through, if not all eight. The one player I have my doubts about is Rory McLeod, because he lost 13-3 the last time he played Stephen Maguire, in the 2nd round of the World Championship last season. It's nice to see Maguire back to form. He finished last season with two major quarter-finals, and he looked like a contender at the Crucible for the first time in ages. He has continued his good form by reaching the final of the Riga Masters at the start of this season, but unfortunately he played rather poorly once the title was within reach. It's the first time in a while that Stuart Bingham is not a top8 seed in an event, and to be honest, I'm not exactly sure how that has happened. He had a really good last season with a series of major semi finals, as well as a reasonably big title in Wales, but somehow that's caused him to drop down the rankings. I guess the big points from the World Championship are missing, and the UK Championship has not been that great for him either in the last two seasons. Still, the consistency is clearly there, and he is traditionally a very strong player in China, so I would probably make him the favourite in this part of the draw. His 1st round opponent is another very intriguing player, Yan Bingtao. Yan is even younger than Zhou Yuelong, but he too has progressed very well in the game, dealing with the qualifiers in the UK much better than most of the other young Chinese prospects. Last season he got to the quarter-finals of the German Masters in the proper best-of-9 format, losing 5-2 to Bingham. What is the balance of power like six months later? Of course it was Anthony Hamilton who took the title in Berlin, with one of the most surprising runs in all of the time I've been following snooker. It was reasonable to expect him to struggle for a while after that highlight, but enough time has passed now for him to be a danger again. He starts against Peter Ebdon, in a match between two of the slowest players in the game, and I wouldn't be surprised if they struggled to finish it in one session. Ebdon actually doesn't have the best record against players of that type, although the head-to-head doesn't reveal any particular struggles against Hamilton in the past. In a short interview for the World Snooker website, Ebdon said Hamilton was a big favourite in their match, and I guess it's hard to really argue with that. Ebdon has had a couple of dreadful seasons by his standards, failing to reach the business end of any major event, and not doing much better in the minor events either. It's a bit of a mystery how Shaun Murphy rose above Bingham in the rankings, since he too has won very few points in the last two World Championships, but I guess a few minor titles and a couple of semi-finals have been enough. He doesn't appear to be in great form at the moment, struggling a little in the recent qualifying bloc. But as always with Murphy, he inevitably finds some form from time to time, so he shouldn't be underestimated here. Finally, Ken Doherty seems to be enjoying a little purple patch this summer, after quite a few years of mediocrity. He has qualified for all five events that carry ranking points, and his victims in the qualifiers include the likes of Carter and Hawkins. He also played very well at the venue in Riga, only losing 5-4 to Maguire in the semi-finals. Who knows, the prospect of a rematch in the last16 here is not too far-fetched...

              Quarter 2:

              Barry Hawkins v. Oliver Lines
              Ben Woollaston v. Mark Davis
              Allister Carter v. Aditya Mehta
              David Grace v. Ian Preece

              Mark King v. Fergal O'Brien
              Kurt Maflin v. Michael Georgiou
              Alan McManus v. Elliot Slessor
              Ding Junhui/Niu Zhuang v. Alfie Burden

              The second quarter is quite weak by comparison, lacking the same number of potential dangermen, and the top players here are less prominent as well. Barry Hawkins is the highest seed, one of the very few top players who have never done anything notable in China. Last season went quite well for him, we saw him at the business end of tournaments a lot, but there was also the feeling that he could have done even more had the pressure not got to him a couple of times. Consistency aside, Hawkins is usually not a great starter in seasons, so I think it's possible for him to go out early here and really open up this part of the draw. The other big name here is Ali Carter, in many ways the opposite of Hawkins. He is a good starter in seasons and a very good traveller, having won two major events in China and one in Germany in the past. Last season he won the World Open, a tournament that occupied a very similar calendar slot to this China Championship, and he went on to reach another final in Berlin as well. He didn't have as many highlights as Hawkins though, so consistency is not a strong point for him at the moment. This season he has a couple of qualifying defeats and a couple of non-entries, so the signs are not the best ahead of this event. It's tough to see who could take advantage if the favourites do go out though... Ben Woollaston perhaps, one of the very few players who won their qualifying match in all five recent events. I'm sure he will be looking for better things this year, after a fairly unremarkable last season. Mark Davis is his 1st round opponent, another player who is known for playing some of his best snooker in the summer. He has dropped out of the top32 of the rankings now, after missing out on big points in most of the major events last season, but he did reach three minor quarter-finals. David Grace might have a chance here as well. Last season he failed to reproduce the kind of form that saw him reach the semi-finals of the UK Championship the season before, but it was still a better season compared to the ones in his early career. He is younger than he looks and should really be playing at the top of his game now, but unfortunately there are no signs he is about to raise his game to the next level. In fact, he has lost in the qualifying of every event apart from this one so far this season. Finally, a draw like this might be a chance for Oliver Lines to finally make the breakthrough everyone is expecting, but as much as I would like to, I can't point to any recent results that would speak in his favour.

              Ding Junhui is a big favourite to reach the quarter-finals in his part of the draw. He hasn't played at all this season, not even in the invitational tournament in Hong Kong which most top players entered, and he has been helped by having a couple of his qualifying matches held over to the main venues. He played well in China last season, winning the Shanghai Masters and reaching the final of the International Championship the following month. That was in the first part of the season, he then struggled for a while after his mother passed away, but came back strongly again in the final part of the season, with three successive runs to the business end of major events. He was only a couple of frames short of Selby in the semi-finals of the World Championship, and on another day he might have won that match and given himself another crack at the final. Well, the year before he played a remarkable match against Alan McManus in the semi-finals at the Crucible, with a record 10 centuries scored between them. It was a highly enjoyable match that exceeded my expectations in every way, and we could have a repeat of that match in the 2nd round here. Unfortunately McManus didn't show any hint of that sort of form in all of last season, so he is probably not coming here with great expectations. Perhaps Alfie Burden could be a bigger danger to Ding here. He didn't do anything remarkable himself last season, but he at least reached a couple of minor quarter-finals. Speaking of remarkable things, Mark King is Ding's most likely opponent in the last16 here. His run to the title in Belfast last year was a minor miracle, and he actually beat both Fergal O'Brien and Kurt Maflin on his way there, so I think he will like the look of this draw. He also beat Maflin in the qualifiers for the European Masters this season. Apart from that one title, King's general results have improved a lot in the past 18 months or so. Last season he qualified for almost every venue, the Crucible being one notable exception, and it looks like he is continuing with more of the same this season. He has also had good results in places like Shanghai and Beijing in the past. Could O'Brien be a danger here? Personally, I doubt it. He did have that remarkable match against Hawkins in the UK Championship where he made five centuries, but he still lost early in the tournament, and in fact failed to reach the business end of any event in the whole of last season, minor or major. Maflin's season was quite a bit better, including a run to the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, although the draw he had there was very favourable. He is also a former China Open semi-finalist, so we know he is capable of doing well in these events. I would also mention Michael Georgiou here, a player who has had a couple of nice qualifying wins already this season, including a 5-0 over O'Brien in the World Open and a 5-1 over Kyren Wilson in the qualifying for this event.

              Quarter 3:

              Judd Trump v. Daniel Wells/Ma Bing
              Graeme Dott v. Robert Milkins
              Ronnie O'Sullivan v. Sam Baird
              David Gilbert v. Stuart Carrington

              Joe Perry v. Mike Dunn
              Liang Wenbo/Ian Burns v. Allan Taylor
              Luca Brecel v. Jimmy Robertson
              Marco Fu v. Hossein Vafaei

              The third quarter is a little stronger again and includes a number of players who could potentially win this tournament. One of them is Judd Trump, a winner of three major events in China in the past. He had a very good last season, with a couple of titles and a bunch of appearances at the business end of events, but at the same time he failed to perform in the big three events in the UK, including of course that shocking performance that saw him lose to Rory McLeod in the 1st round at the Crucible. Something similar happened to him in the recent World Open qualifiers when he lost 5-0 to Sam Craigie, so the signs are not the best for him ahead of this event. Ronnie O'Sullivan is the other really big name in this part of the draw, making his season debut here, at least as far as events that carry ranking points are concerned. He did play in the Hong Kong Masters last month, where he ended his run of defeats against Trump outside of short matches, beating him 6-5 in the semi-finals. O'Sullivan had a solid season himself, winning the Masters and reaching another couple of finals, but he wasn't as consistently present at the business end of events as he would have liked, and certainly not as consistent as a few of the other top players. He hasn't won a title in China in eight years, and he generally doesn't do too well here. Who else could be a contender in this part of the draw? Perhaps David Gilbert, the runner-up in the International Championship two years ago and a quarter-finalist in the World Open last year, both in the proper format. He too has struggled with inconsistency throughout his career, but he has qualified for every venue so far this season, which is a good sign. Robert Milkins was pretty good last season, recovering from some very bad form the season before, so I think he could be a decent bet as well. His highlights last season included a run to the quarter-finals of the Scottish Open, where he lost to Trump, and a run to the semi-finals of that remarkable Welsh Open tournament, which had a bunch of outsiders at the business end, all of whom seemed to enjoy a very favourable draw, including Milkins. And Stuart Carrington for that matter, he reached the quarter-finals of that event as well, his most notable result in snooker so far. Also here is Graeme Dott, a player who did not enjoy a good season last year. In fact, it was his worst season in well over a decade, and that includes the year when he broke his wrist and the period when he suffered from depression. A lot of people were predicting an upset in his match against Carter at the Crucible, but I have to admit I did not consider that to be very likely myself. Well, I will not make the mistake of underestimating him again here, especially since he has done very well in various places outside of the UK throughout his career, including China. Finally, I will also mention Daniel Wells here. He has never reached the business end of any notable tournament, but it's worth pointing out that he won matches at the venue in all three of his trips to China last season.

              A very intriguing battle for the other quarter-final spot. Marco Fu is the favourite according to the rankings, but his form is a bit of a mystery at this point in time. He has decided to skip all of the short-format stuff so far this season, only entering the two Chinese events with matches of medium length. The one tournament he seems to like in China is the International Championship, but apart from that, his results in China are not all that great. In fact, Hawkins and he are the only really top players never to win a major title here. In any case, he will be hoping for a better start to the season than last year, when he struggled badly until December. He did play terrifically well after that though, winning the Scottish Open in great style, then adding the final of the Players Championship and another couple of semi-finals. He ended the season with a run to the quarter-finals at the Crucible, before losing rather pathetically with a session to spare, though in all fairness Selby did play very well against him. I'm sure we all remember his 1st round match against Luca Brecel, when he came from a long way behind to win in a deciding frame. It was a fitting end to a season of disappointments for Brecel, a season in which he completely failed to push on from the German Masters final the season before. His only real highlight was the run to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship, which is just not enough at this stage of his career. He also struggles with China pretty badly, I think he has only won one match here outside of wildcard rounds in his entire career. Liang Wenbo has also had some disappointing results when playing back home. There was a decent run in the International Championship a few years ago, but at the same time he has struggled badly in places like Shanghai and Beijing, failing to win a single match in either city since 2009. He remains a fairly inconsistent player, but he certainly had his share of highlights last season, most notably winning the English Open in Manchester. His last match was a 13-12 defeat to Ding in the 2nd round of the World Championship, a fairly high-quality affair and a very enjoyable one as well. He has skipped a few events this season, and had his matches held over in the ones he has entered, so we haven't seen him play at all yet. I would expect him to play Joe Perry in the 2nd round here. We've seen Perry reach the quarter-finals in Riga at the start of the season, so he could be the man to beat in this part of the draw. His record in China is by far the best of any player in this section. He had another near miss in the final of the World Open last season, to add to his Wuxi Classic final from 2014, and he has won two PTC titles in China as well. All in all he had a pretty good last season, but unfortunately his run to the Masters final contributed nothing towards his ranking, so he has dropped out of the top16 for the first time in a while. As a result he also missed out on the Crucible, after losing to Akani Songsermsawad in the qualifiers. I think he is a better player than some who are above him in the rankings, so I would expect him to start climbing again. This section also contains Hossein Vafaei, a player who finally got the chance to show his quality in the second half of last season, and he did so with runs to the quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Open and the semi-finals of the China Open. It's shame he has a rather tricky draw here, but with most favourites traditionally struggling to play well in China, he just might do something. Mike Dunn could potentially do something as well, also a former China Open semi-finalist, although his recent form has not been at all convincing. Even Jimmy Robertson could be a danger here, no great runs to speak of recently, but his name seems to appear quite often in the list of centuries if you browse through the recent qualifying results.

              Quarter 4:

              Neil Robertson v. Li Hang
              Michael White v. Xiao Guodong
              Mark Allen v. Matthew Stevens
              Michael Holt v. Thepchaiya Un-Nooh

              Ryan Day v. Cao Yupeng
              Mark Williams v. Tian Pengfei/Fan Zhengyi
              Tom Ford v. Matthew Selt
              John Higgins/Lyu Haotian v. Chris Wakelin

              That leaves the fourth quarter, which looks to be quite strong again at first glance. Neil Robertson is the big name in his section, although he is in danger of losing that status if he doesn't start winning major titles again. The Riga Masters was his only title last season, at the very start, before going through a prolonged series of mediocre results. As I said with Selby, no one has endless reserves of motivation, and I think we saw that with Robertson after he had won every title one can win in snooker. He said himself that he had achieved everything he wanted, and I think he just took his foot off the gas completely, kind of like Mark Williams did after 2004. I think Robertson was Selby's equal when he was at the top of his game, so it would be nice to see him rediscover that sort of form. Can he find another push in his mid 30s? He was visibly frustrated with himself a couple of times last season, and I think that could be a positive sign for the future. He certainly started this season well by winning the Hong Kong Masters, an invitational tournament with a world-class field and big prize money. He has also won three major titles in China in the past, so we know he likes this part of the world. Li Hang is his 1st round opponent, and I can't help but remember their match in the 2013 UK Championship, where Li played surprisingly well but still got nowhere near winning. Robertson had also beaten him in the qualifiers for the International Championship just prior to that, making four centuries in the process, so I'm sure Li won't be particularly happy to have drawn him here. Michael White has more pleasant memories of Robertson, he beat him 5-4 in the 2014 Shanghai Masters, coming back from behind after the interval. This was at a time when it looked like he would be making a major breakthrough in the game, and indeed he went on to win the short-format Indian Open later in the season, but that's were his progress has stalled. Last season he only managed two quarter-finals, one in Shanghai and the other in Belfast in the short format, and he is nowhere near to getting into the top16 of the rankings, let alone further. Facing the likes of Xiao Guodong in his opening match doesn't help, because Xiao is quite an experienced player now and he has started climbing up the rankings again after a couple of really poor seasons. His best result last season was arguably reaching the last16 at the Crucible, beating Ryan Day in the opening round at the venue. He is also a former Shanghai Masters finalist, so we know he can play when he finds his form. Moving onto Mark Allen, not exactly one of the in-form players at the moment... He had a rather horrible last season, where his run to the quarter-finals of his home event was his only appearance at the business end of any tournament that carried ranking points. He did better in the invitational tournaments, but I'm not sure that's any great consolation to him. He seemed rather out of shape physically for most of the season, which makes me question his ambition somewhat, and he made some comments that were really uncalled for. Well, at least the season ended on a somewhat more positive note at the Crucible, where he produced a fairly good performance but was unlucky to run into an inspired Higgins as early as the 2nd round. I think China is as good a place as any for him to start going in the right direction again, having won two major titles here in the past, plus another couple of appearances in finals. Matthew Stevens lost to him quite heavily in the final of the 2013 World Open in Haikou, so I would be surprised if he prevailed on this occasion. Of course it's not just the head-to-head between them, the fact that Stevens hasn't reached the business end of any event in over three years speaks heavily in Allen's favour as well. Michael Holt has been known to play well in China in the past as well, including last year when he reached the quarter-finals of the International Championship in Daqing, to add to his final in the Riga Masters from earlier in the season. His good runs are not very frequent, but he is quite reliable in qualifying, and he wins his share of matches in the early rounds at venues as well. The eighth and final player in this section is Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, a very inconsistent player, but just about as dangerous as anyone when he finds his game. He first made a name for himself when he reached the semi-finals of the International Championship two years ago, beating Allen along the way. He also beat Allen in reaching the semi-finals of the Paul Hunter Classic last season, although that was in the short format. He reached the semi-finals of World Open in the proper format as well, in what was a little purple patch for him. Unfortunately he has played really poorly ever since, but his form is bound to come back again at some point. Could it be here?

              The final section of the draw should see some great battles as well, even before we get to the quarter-finals. At one end we have the likes of Mark Williams and Ryan Day, who have already played a notable match this season in the semi-finals of the Riga Masters, with Day winning 5-4 on that occasion. He went on to win the final as well, his most notable title to date. This is a player who has played snooker to quite a high standard over the years, but had not even won a PTC prior to June, so it was nice to finally see him winning a title of some sort, and he did it against some pretty strong opposition as well. Last season was one of his better ones, with runs to the final of the World Grand Prix, the semi-finals of the Gibraltar Open, the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters, and the quarter-finals of the German Masters for the fourth consecutive year. He has always been a strong player in China, but then so has Williams. Last season was a major improvement for Williams compared to the season before, and he looks to be back as a serious contender for titles. He almost made a miracle recovery at the China Open, in an effort to get into the top16 ahead of the World Championship, only losing 10-8 in the final against the best player in the world. Unfortunately those two missing frames meant he had to qualify for the Crucible, and he failed to do so in the end. Still, he has always been good at moving on from disappointments, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if he had a good season this time. The nearest danger to Williams and Day here seems to be Tian Pengfei. Some will remember Tian beating Day 9-3 in the final of the Beijing International Challenge in 2010, a short-lived invitational tournament. At the time it seemed like Tian was close to making a breakthrough as a player, he certainly seemed to have the potential to at least make it into the top32, but for some reason he never did much in the remainder of his career to date. In fact, he has never reached the business end of any tournament that carried ranking points, apart from the former PTC series. He has definitely been playing better stuff again in recent times though, so it will be interesting to see what he can do here. Cao Yupeng is a similar case in a way, he certainly promised more when he got to the last16 at the Crucible at the age of 21, losing to Day by the way, but he too has never made any real progress since then. He got to the quarter-finals of the Wuxi Classic once, but even that result is a little dated now. Normally I would probably not even mention him, but on this occasion it's worth saying that he is actually a local player in the proper sense of the word, born in Guangzhou, so perhaps he can find some inspiration here. It seems like whoever wants to reach the quarter-finals in this section will have to get past John Higgins, although he too has some interesting obstacles around him. He won the China Championship last year, but it was a different venue and a different format, so I think it's quite reasonable that he hasn't been given the status of defending champion here. Last season was an impressive one for him, a series of quarter-finals in the first part, followed by two big-money invitational titles and the final of the Scottish Open. He then had a little slump for three months or so, but came back strongly again in the World Championship, losing narrowly to Mark Selby in the final. If he was playing any other player, I think he would have won that final after taking the early lead, and if he was a little younger and fitter, I think he would have won it regardless of Selby. Well, it's a new season and Higgins has been a strong player in China in recent years, so he surely starts as one of the tournament favourites here. His first opponent could be young Lyu Haotian, back on tour after dropping off two years ago. He was the first player of that new generation of young Chinese players to make a name for himself, becoming the youngest player ever to reach a major ranking quarter-final when he did so in the 2012 International Championship as a wildcard, still at the age of 14. It's a record that is likely to stand for some years. He has since been overshadowed by the likes of Yan Bingtao, Zhou Yuelong and Zhao Xintong, but he is still only 19, so it will be interesting to see what state his game is in at the moment. Of course he first has to get past Chris Wakelin, a quarter-finalist in the English Open last season. We also have an interesting match between Tom Ford and Matthew Selt in this section, two very evenly matched players. They have reached the business end of major tournaments seven times between them, and four of those were in the Australian Open, so they are clearly capable of playing some good snooker in the summer months. Especially if you add Ford's run to the final of the Paul Hunter Classic last season as well, which was also held in August. Ford also went on to reach the quarter-finals of the German Masters later in the season, and he generally had slightly better results than Selt, so I would perhaps make him a slight favourite here. Neither of them have ever progressed beyond the quarter-finals outside of the short format though. Interesting section in any case...

              Possible QF line-up:

              Mark Selby v. Stuart Bingham
              Allister Carter v. Ding Junhui
              Judd Trump v. Joe Perry
              Neil Robertson v. Mark Williams

              There we are... I wrote this bit by bit over several days, so my earlier comment about not being particularly excited is already a little dated. It should be a great seven days of snooker and I'm very much looking forward to them.


              • #8
                Many shocking defeats this morning.....Robertson, Bingham, McGill....all gone by the first round. And Murphy is neck and neck with KenDo who seems to be turning the clock back these days!
                Ton Praram III Series 1 | 58" 18.4oz 9.4mm | ash shaft + 4 splices of Brazilian Rosewood | Grand Cue medium tips


                • #9
                  well played Ian Burns, beating Liang Wenbo (continuing his poor home performances); hope this is a springboard for a good event and season for him
                  Up the TSF!


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Erwan_BZH View Post
                    Many shocking defeats this morning.....Robertson, Bingham, McGill....all gone by the first round. And Murphy is neck and neck with KenDo who seems to be turning the clock back these days!
                    While Binghams loss doesn't surprise me that much, as Yan Bingtao is a dangerous opponent and I think he is likely to make another step forward this season, I really didn't expect Robertson to fall to Li. Neither did I think Liang would lose to Burns in the qualifiers.
                    Mark Joyce continues on a good start to the season with his victory over McGill. As for the Scotsman I really hope he finds his game again soon. Doesn't fulfill his abilities during the last months.


                    • #11
                      The Sheriff wins as well .


                      • #12
                        Did I say Lyu Haotian needed to beat Wakelin to set up a match against Higgins? I can't read the draw it seems, of course it's the winner of Higgins-Lyu who goes on to play Wakelin.

                        Lyu is still as tiny as when I first saw him. Well, maybe he's grown a little, but he could do with a few extra kilograms, couldn't he?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Odrl View Post
                          Did I say Lyu Haotian needed to beat Wakelin to set up a match against Higgins? I can't read the draw it seems, of course it's the winner of Higgins-Lyu who goes on to play Wakelin.

                          Lyu is still as tiny as when I first saw him. Well, maybe he's grown a little, but he could do with a few extra kilograms, couldn't he?
                          Still looks like 16.


                          • #14
                            Yep, he has always reminded me of Thor, the Asgaard Chief in Stargate
                            Ton Praram III Series 1 | 58" 18.4oz 9.4mm | ash shaft + 4 splices of Brazilian Rosewood | Grand Cue medium tips


                            • #15
                              And "Thor" got absolutely demolished by the Scotsman this afternoon. A brutal whitewash in which Lyu only scored 9 points......
                              Ton Praram III Series 1 | 58" 18.4oz 9.4mm | ash shaft + 4 splices of Brazilian Rosewood | Grand Cue medium tips