Shanghai Masters 2013: Tournament Preview

After what feels like a surprisingly long break in this era of all-year round snooker, this week sees the return of top level ranking event snooker to our screens with the venue stages of the Shanghai Masters.

Click below for my preview of the season’s third full ranking event…

  • Click here to view the tournament drawsheet at snookerorg

An event that to date has seen six different winners from its six previous stagings, the Shanghai Masters has developed into one of the most popular of the five full ranking events that we now have in China.

The 2013 edition of the event will see John Higgins return to defend the title that he won so memorably from 7-2 down against Judd Trump 12 months ago, while the majority of the game’s other top players will also be present, with this being one of the few tournaments not to have adopted a flat draw format this year.

One man who will be absent is reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan, who decided not to enter the event, while Mark Williams will also be missing, having lost his qualifier to David Gilbert at the Doncaster Dome.

Wildcard Round

As ever though, the event will begin with the controversial wildcard round, which contrary to expectations at the start of the season and no doubt due to pre-existing contractual commitments, will see eight such matches played.

From a look at the names involved, Lu Ning is the one that stands out to me, having previously defeated Shaun Murphy as a wildcard and earlier this summer captured the IBSF World U-21 Championship.

Zhu Yinghui, conqeuror of Reanne Evans at the Wuxi Classic earlier this season will also be involved against Mark King, while Zhou Yuelong pushed Jimmy Robertson to a decider in Wuxi.

Main Draw

Top Half

Turning to the last 32 itself, the top half of the draw is headlined by last season’s finalists John Higgins and Judd Trump, as well as Marco Fu and Ricky Walden, both finalists at the recent Bluebell Wood Open in Doncaster.

Perhaps the form player of the half though is Mark Davis, who in the last week has twice defeated Neil Robertson to win the six-red World Championship and General Cup International tournaments in Asia. He opens his campaign in Shanghai will an intriguing tie against Ali Carter, who of course won this title back in 2010 and qualified for the final stages this year with a deciding frame win against Adam Duffy.

The winner will most likely play defending champion Higgins in the second round, if he can come through against Mike Dunn, who will be playing at the venue stages in Shanghai for the first time since 2010. It has been a strong start to the season for Higgins, who opened with victory at the ET1 event in Bulgaria and a run to the final of the Wuxi Classic, though interestingly he did lose 6-0 to Davis in the recent six-reds event in Bangkok.

Just how much relevance that result will have on any meeting here is open to debate, but Davis of course also recorded wins against Higgins at the UK and World Championship tournaments last season, which will surely not be lost on the four time world champion.

Elsewhere in the top quarter, one would expect either Stephen Maguire of Matthew Stevens to come through, although both Peter Lines and Xiao Guodong will be hoping to cause an upset or two there.

What of Judd Trump, runner-up twelve months ago, but who has failed to fire thus far during the 2013/14 season. Defeats to Chinese opposition early at the Wuxi Classic and India Open events, as well as his decision not to enter the Australian Goldfields Open have meant that it has been a quiet start to the season for Trump, who of course was a semi-finalist at the Crucible back in May.

While I would expect him to be short of the confidence that only victories can bring, my feeling is that with a long campaign still ahead, that he will not be unduly panicking at this stage of the season and will be hoping to kickstart his season in Shanghai against Michael Holt.

Awaiting the winner of that match in the last 16 could be either Ricky Walden or Martin Gould, with potentially Marco Fu or Stuart Bingham awaiting in the quarters, meaning that Judd will have to be on top form from the off if he is to go deep here.

A word also for Kyren Wilson in this section of the draw, a very talented and mature youngster, who will be in action against Stuart Bingham at the venue stage in China. Unlike players such as Sam Baird, Jamie Jones and Michael White, who have qualified for venues for the first time, only to come unstuck against wildcards, I am pleased for Kyren that he will have the chance to play a top player at a venue, which his qualifying heroics have merited.

Bottom Half

Turning to the bottom half of the draw, there is no shortage of quality present with perennial event finalist Neil Robertson, 2011 winner Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Shaun Murphy, Mark Allen and Robert Milkins among those involved.

Until around a year ago Neil Robertson was a player who did not have a strong record in China, but in recent months the world number one has been a consistent finalist in tournaments all over the globe, winning the China Open and Wuxi Classic events amongst others already this season.

It would take a brave man to bet against him coming through his half of the draw again this week and from a cursory look at his draw, I would fancy him to make it at least as far as the quarter-finals, where he could face either Shaun Murphy or Ding Junhui.

Of those who could stop him, Graeme Dott is currently in the process of adapting to a new cue, though Joe Perry did of course record a 5-0 whitewash against the Australian at the last 16 stage of last year’s event in Shanghai.

Elsewhere in this half, one potential match that stands out is a last 16 clash between Mark Selby and Robert Milkins, the latter having earned more ranking points so far this season than anyone other than Robertson. On paper Selby will be expected to win, but on form I would not be at all surprised to see Milkins cause an upset and set up a potential quarter-final with either Mark Allen or Crucible finalist Barry Hawkins.

Although it should not unduly trouble him at this stage, Allen is a player with a lot of ranking points to defend this season and who could do with a deep run at this event in order to give him a boost in the race for Masters places, running up to this year’s UK Championship in December.

Hawkins meanwhile has flown somewhat under the radar since his Crucible heroics, but who if he can play the way he did in pushing Ronnie O’Sullivan all the way in Sheffield, will be a threat in any tournament. He opens his campaign against David Grace, who having been knocking on the door for some time now, will revel in the chance to play at the venue stages of a full ranking event for the first time in his career.

Another ‘DG’ hoping to spring a surprise will be David Gilbert, hoping to repeat his recent win against Ding Junhui with another victory over the local favourite, while Shaun Murphy will be hoping to build upon improved performances in recent European Tour events, having struggled to qualify for the season’s other full ranking events so far.

How to Watch

As ever, there will no doubt be plenty of shocks and surprises in Shanghai this week and you can follow all of the latest news and ranking updates here at PSB.

In terms of television, the event will again be broadcast on Eurosport and UK viewers can see their schedule by clicking here.


SF: Fu def Davis, Robertson def Allen

F: Robertson def Fu