China Open: The Penultimate Snooker Ranking Event of the Season
April 01, 2014 15:22
The China Open started yesterday and not only does it give players there last chance of some competitive action before the World Championships start on the 19th April but it also gives us fans a chance to see who may be carrying some form into the Crucible.
Looking down the draw and it disappoints me to see a number of walkover results. Players obviously have their reasons for not attending an event but at this level of a professional sport surely there is a way to make sure all matches are played even if they are filled by some wildcard local players perhaps.
Top names like last weeks Players Championship winner Barry Hawkins (you can probably understand why with him), Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire and Stuart Bingham along with Tony Drago have all decided to not attend the event which has given Luca Brecel, Dave Harold, Fergal O’Brien, Maryin O’Donnell and Alfie Burden an easy ride into the Last 32 of what is a very major ranking event.
With the rankings moving to a ‘Order of Merit’ money list from next season you would have thought players would have grabbed at the chance of adding some additional prize money to their totals prior to the World Championships.
One reason of course may be that these players want to get in a couple of weeks practice without the need of travelling prior to the main event.
With this it does open up the draw with the likes of Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui all looking good to go far in this tournament. Ding and Trump have already had a 5-1 victories over John Astley and Kurt Maflin respectively with Robertson also following them into the second round with a much tougher 5-4 win over Anthony Hamilton.
Interestingly Robertson failed to make a century in his match as he strives to get ever closer to that magical 100 centuries in a season total. He managed just two breaks over 50 in what on paper looked like a very tough encounter for the Aussie.
I was always a big admirer of the new flat draw system in operation this season as it no longer protects those players in the top 16 rankings like it used to, but so often we still see the cream of the field make the latter stages and I don’t think this tournament will be any different. The flat draw has probably done these top players a favour in one respect as it means they are now playing even more competitive snooker than they used and any match time can surely only be a bonus to their season progress and form.
I personally think the winner will come from one of the three players I have already mentioned (Ding, Trump or Robertson) but someone like John Higgins is due a good tournament and you can never discount Murphy or Selby from the mix.
An outside bet for a good run in the event would be young Belgian Luca Brecel, he is already into round two after coming through a tricky wildcard match and then being given the walkover against Mark Allen now sees him face the eccentric Welshman Dominic Dale for a spot in the Last 16.
He has been hailed as a future ranking event winner for some time and I can see him perhaps slipping under the radar a bit out here.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below who else could potentially have a great China Open?