Just one more event to go before the big one gets underway and it’s off to Beijing this week as the last 64 plus the pointless wildcards decide who is going to carry ‘The Curse of the China Open’ with them back to Sheffield.
Let’s start off by stating that as well as the wildcards who shouldn’t be there that there are far too many players in this from the beginning. I’m not a fan of these sardine-like events that seek to cram in as many players as physically possible into an over-crowded venue, I’d much prefer a maximum of 32 players making the trip.
Of course a lot of these players will leave for back home before they have had time to unpack to start their preparation for the World Championship qualifiers next week no doubt wondering why they bothered with this in the first place, which is a shame as it’s usually a decent event and is well-established on the calendar, but it was much better when it started with less players.
Most of the big names are here though Neil Robertson decided not to bother entering and is instead working on his preparation for The Crucible, which of course is up to him. Somewhat eyebrow-raising is the fact the Ronnie O’Sullivan has chosen to continue with his tournament preparation by entering and qualifying, so let’s see if he is looking any sharper than he has been lately.
It’s pretty nip and tuck in the race for favouritism for the World Championship. O’Sullivan has been favourite all year but even the bookies are now beginning to doubt that he has that sixth title in him with some firms now favouring Mark Selby and others not being able to decide between those two and the in-form Judd Trump who defends the title he won 12 months ago here, meaning that there is a very real possibility that once the opening ball is struck at The Crucible, we’ll have co-favourites.
I know I should be talking about this event but I can’t help but see this as mere preparation for the main event of the year, the fact we won’t see more than half the players puts me off it a bit so it’s minimal stakes as the order of the day. I think we might see a big priced winner this week and quite like the look of Liang Wenbo, who would be a hugely popular champion if he could do it, so he’d probably be my main pick at 50/1 to rule himself out of being World Champion.
The Snooker Gods have chosen not to induce The Crucible Curse this year as Selby defends for the second time so you can be damn sure as eggs is eggs that they will decree that once more, whoever wins here won’t be lifting the trophy in early May, those pesky snooker gods.
Recommended Outright Bets: Liang Wenbo 50/1, Ali Carter 50/1, Ding Junhui 12/1. Each Way: Dave Gilbert 100/1 and Xiao Guodong 175/1. For Match Bets on a daily basis see Twitter.
Judd Trump/Jason Weston v Ashley Hugill
Ross Muir v Eden Sharav
Anthony McGill v Tian Pengfei
Martin Gould v Fan Zhengyi
Mike Dunn v Andy Hicks
Liang Wenbo/Itaro Santos v Rory McLeod
Ben Woollaston v Kurt Maflin
Joe Perry v Hossein Vafei Ayouri
PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: McGill v Wenbo
Shaun Murphy v Allan Taylor
Graeme Dott v Gary Wilson
Michael White v Yu De Lu
Ali Carter v Stuart Carrington
Michael Holt v Jimmy White/Li Yuan
Mark Williams v Zhang Anda
Dark Mavis v Rhys Clark
John Higgins v Ian Burns
PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: Carter v Holt
Stuart Bingham v Scott Donaldson
Robert Milkins v Noppon Saengkham
Mark King v Sanderson Lam
Kyren Wilson v Xiao Guodong
Mark Joyce v Fraser Patrick
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Gareth Allen
Matt Selt v Ghou Yolonge
Ding Junhui/Sean O’Sullivan v Paul Davison
PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: Guodong v Ding
Daniel Wells v Jamie Cope
Alan McManus v Matthew Stevens
Stephen Maguire v Fergal O’Brien
Li Hang/Luo Honghao v Aditya Mehta
Ricky Walden v Alex Borg/Niu Zhuang
David Gilbert v Andrew Higginson
Jimmy Robertson v Martin O’Donnell
Mark Selby/Adam Stefanow v Alfie Burden
PREDICTED QUARTER FINALISTS: McManus v Gilbert