Roewe Shanghai Masters – Draw Overview (updated)

With the draw out last week for the Roewe Shanghai Masters and all but one of the final qualifiers decided, it is time to examine the paths ahead for the top players and see who might have a shot at a deep run into the tournament.

The top quarter

Defending champion Dominic Dale enters the tournament in the unusual position of being top seed and faces six times world champion Steve Davis. This promises to be a very close match, Davis playing very well to beat Gerard Greene 5-3 in what was his first win of the season while Dale pushed rising star Mark Allen all the way in Northern Ireland. In round two the winner will face either Ding Junhui or surprise Northern Ireland finalist Dave Harold who maintained his strong run of form with an impressive win in qualifying against Rod Lawler. Harold made a series of high breaks in that match and will fancy his chances of causing an upset in front of Ding’s home crowd.

In the next section are Neil Robertson and Stephen Hendry though having both lost their opening matches of the season, it is by no means certain that they will meet again. Robertson faces the experienced Fergal O’Brien while Hendry has a tie against Ricky Walden who surprisingly overcame Preston’s Ian McCulloch in the final qualifying round. If Hendry can get off to a good start I fancy him to have a good run here to kickstart his season.

The second quarter

The big story here is that owing to the seeding quirks resulting from Dale’s win here last year, both Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby have been paired together in this section, scheduled to meet in the quarter finals. As well as Mark King and Marco Fu who are no mugs and there are also some potentially tricky qualifiers floating in the section too. Jimmy White who has won all of his qualifying matches this season, including a superb 5-1 win over Ken Doherty, will push Mark King hard as well as Anthony Hamilton who is up against Marco Fu.

The third quarter

Stephen Maguire and John Higgins headline this section and are poised to meet in the quarter finals, though Ryan Day and Peter Ebdon will have something to say about that. Looking at Ryan Day’s draw however, he looks like he will face either the attacking Liang Wenbo or the talented Mark Allen in the first round and that will be a tricky one either way. We will have to wait to find out who though as their qualifying matches have been held over to Shanghai. If Allen could safely make it through his first few matches then I would fancy him to at least make the last 16 and possibly go further. The other dangermen in this section are Barry Hawkins who has started the season well and Tom Ford who beat Stephen Lee in a tremendous match in Prestatyn.

Last but not least

Fresh from the back of his victory in the Northern Ireland Trophy, world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan could potentially face a few familiar opponents if he wants to make it three titles in a row. Seeded second due to Dominic Dale’s victory here last year, he faces Stuart Pettman in his opening match before possibly coming up against Joe Perry and then Ali Carter once again. In what is arguably the toughest quarter of the draw however this is by no means a formality with twice world champion Mark Williams, the highly talented Jamie Cope and Matthew Stevens possible opponents should they win their matches.

Rankings Watch – Post Northern Ireland Trophy

Rankings Watch – Post Northern Ireland Trophy

In the first instalment of what will become a regular feature on this blog following each ranking event, it is time to analyse where last week’s results leave the latest provisional rankings.

The top three

It might still be very early in the season but following Ronnie O’Sullivan’s 21st ranking event victory, this time culminating in a comfortable 9-3 win over Dave Harold, it is apparent that he already appears to be in an extremely strong position when it comes to retaining his number one ranking for the 2009/2010 season. With a lead of 6,225 points over second place Stephen Maguire and 10,300 points over Shaun Murphy in third, barring the wheels totally coming off this season then it is hard to imagine him being caught.

Speaking of Maguire, his quarter-final place consolidates his second place and gives him a comfortable lead over Shaun Murphy who falls further behind the top two following his early exit to Mark Williams. Following a 4-0 win over Mark Selby in the Final of the Paul Hunter Classic yesterday however, he will surely be confident of going on a better run over the next few events.

Fight for fourth

A bit further back is where the real interest is though, with just 1,800 points separating Mark Selby, Ali Carter, Ryan Day and Joe Perry. Given the strong form of all four players towards the end of last season it will be intriguing to see how this battle unfolds over the course of 2008/9. Carter appears to have kept the momentum from his first World final going into the new season so perhaps he will be the one to watch. Marco Fu is not far behind either and certainly capable of going on a good run.

The old and the new

A bit further back are a mix of legends and some of the most talented young players on the tour. John Higgins, Stephen Hendry, Mark Allen, Mark Williams, and Ding Junhui take us down to 13th with Dave Harold on the back of his Northern Ireland final at his highest position in years in 14th. On recent form I am tipping Mark Allen to be the one to watch from this group as it is surely only a matter of time before a player with his potential takes the next step and is a regular face in the latter end of the ranking events. Would not be surprised to see him win an event this season…

Who else?

Who else is worth flagging up then? 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon sits perilously in 15th now and he will be keen to go on a good run sooner or later. Despite never being to bring out his best form in the best of nine matches, his 5-0 defeat to Liang Wenbo last week was a very disappointing result to say the least. Without really going deep in a tournament since his brilliant victory in the 2006 UK Championship, it will be interesting to see whether he can recapture that old form that made him so difficult to beat when at his best.

Current World number 10 Neil Robertson will be hoping to bounce back from a hugely disappointing 2007/8 season and get back to the form that won him two ranking titles previously, but the early signs were not good in Northern Ireland. A disappointing defeat to the dangerous Ian McCulloch leaves him 23rd in the provisional rankings, his lowest position in a number of years. Hopefully he will pick up his form soon enough because an on-form Robertson would be great for snooker.

Of the other players to recently fall out of the top 16, Stephen Lee’s run to the last 16 this week puts him up to 27th while Ken Doherty, Matthew Stevens and Steve Davis remain on the fringes of the top 32 following the tournament. It is imperative for these guys to win their opening qualifying matches as much as possible this year as the difference between winning and losing in most events is 875 points, not an insignificant amount with the field as close as it is. In order to get back into the top 16 though they will probably need a run deep into an event, but with a favourable draw all are more than capable of doing that. Graeme Dott further back in 44th place provisionally needs more than one however, following his nightmare season last time around.

Finally, Jimmy White’s highly impressive run to the TV stages in Northern Ireland moves him up six places to 59th, crucially inside the top 64 bracket that would secure him a place on the main tour for another season. Still very early days but if he can have similar runs in another couple of tournaments, he’ll have every chance of remaining there. With the Shanghai qualifiers starting tomorrow we will soon see…

Number 1 points: 34,700

Number 16 points: 15,475

Number 32 points: 10,969

Number 48 points: 8,563

Number 64 points: 6,176

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