Kyren is back to defend his maiden title
To me it seems like longer than a year ago that Kyren Wilson’s meteoric rise up the rankings started here in Shanghai when he came all the way from the first day of qualifiers to lift the trophy and begin what was to be an incredible emergence and eventual breakthrough into the world’s top 16. I can’t think of a player in recent memory whose earning potential and ranking has changed as quickly as the defending champion’s here has.
Shanghai used to symbolize the start of the season proper but of course these days we have a few events going on when it’s sunny. I have to say that I have struggled to get into the tournaments so far this season and haven’t really watched any of them with any great enthusiasm.
I’m obviously delighted that Ali Carter has risen so quickly up the rankings and back into the top 16 by virtue of his World Open triumph but aside from that I still remain in the camp that would like to see a closed season in summer before it all ramps up again from around this time of year.
Unfortunately, Shanghai in common with all the other Chinese ranking events continues to shoo-in wildcards after the qualifiers. This time there are 8 players competing from the start who have no right to be there. Hopefully they will all lose and we’ll say no more about it but history dictates that at least one of them will win and leave the player who has worked hard to qualify wondering why they are taking the early flight home before the tournament has even started.
No doubt another reason that this event will get the interest of a wider public is the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan makes his seasonal debut. It’s a long time since Ronnie has played competitively in China and he will face either Liang Wenbo or wildcard and Santa Claus impersonator Hu Hao in the first round, setting up a possible meeting with Kyren Wilson in Round 2. Indeed the top quarter is something of a *cliche claxon* ‘quarter of death’ with 6 Reds Champ Ding Junhui, recent Indian Champ Anthony McGill, the in-form Michael Holt and Mark Allen all in the mix.
The second quarter sees Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy seeded to meet in the quarter finals. I’m not sure how much preparation Shaun will have been able to put in seeing as he’s just become a dad for the first time, early days of fatherhood with all its sick, snot, nappies and stuff doesn’t tend to mix too well with snooker and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him not quite at his sharpest for a few months yet. Judd is fresh from his Eleven-30 series of exhibitions with Ronnie so has been keeping his eye in. Also in this half we have Stephen Maguire, who being outside the top 16 these days is scheduled to play an as yet unnamed wildcard before facing Murphy in round one, let’s hope he remembers his chalk. Also in the mix are Ricky Walden who is still searching for a nickname, Michael White, Barry Hawkins, Rob Milkins and Ben Woollaston. I think I’d personally take a punt on Judd to come through this quarter.
Down in quarter three we have former world champions Stuart Bingham and John Higgins seeded to meet in the last eight. But again there are plenty of hurdles for them to jump to make that. If Higgins manages to tackle Matt ‘Marmite’ Selt in Round 1 he will most likely face Ali Carter in the second round. These two don’t half seem to play each other a lot, it’s almost like their names are glued together in the draw hat sometimes (yes I know there isn’t a draw hat). But with the likes of Marco Fu, Dave Gilbert, Jamie Jones and Kurt Maflin all in here again it’s a tough section to call.
Finally in the bottom quarter we have two real heavyweights of the sport (not literally as I’ve seen more fat on a butchers pencil) in Neil Roberston and World Champion Mark Selby seeded to meet in the quarter finals. Despite the presence of Mark ‘semi-retired’ Williams, Joe Perry, Martin Gould, Ryan Day and Stuart Carrington, you’d have to say that it would be something of a shock if Robbo and The Jester didn’t square up for a battle at the business end and as ever when the two of them play it will be very much who is better on the day as you can’t really split them when they are both at their brilliant best.
The rumour is that this one will be aired on Eurosport TV, which will make a nice change. There seems to be a bit of confusion lately as to what this big deal Bazza was banging on about at The Crucible actually entails, I wasn’t one of them but there were some people moaning that the recent 6 Reds wasn’t on ES Player when it was advertised as such. The times these are played anyway are not that ideal for a European audience and as ever with the way the Chinese choose to format these we only see a fraction of the matches anyway with usually only one table being covered on the telly.
But we’ll enjoy it nonetheless, at least it’s best of nines, and I’m sure they will make sure that we get to see all Ronnie’s matches for as long as he decides to stick around. I wonder whether there has been any deal done on appearance money for him as it is a little out of character for him to play in this, perhaps he has a lucrative exhibition lined up afterwards or something, I don’t know.
Anyway Click here for the draw and Click here for the format.
Recommended Bets: Judd Trump to win Shanghai Masters at 8/1, Mark Selby to win Shanghai Masters at 7/1, John Higgins to win Shanghai Masters at 18/1. Match Betting to follow.