Roewe Shanghai Masters 2008: Meet the wildcards!

With the second ranking event of the season just days away, now is a good time to have a look at the seven wildcards who will be in action on the first two days. Thanks again to Sina Snooker who have provided me with the following photographs to use:

Having been on the main tour for the 2007/8 season, Xiao is probably the most well-known of the seven Chinese wildcards in action next week. As well as having won the 2007 Asian under-21 Championship, he has been in good form more recently with victories in both the Paul Hunter English Open and the second event of this season’s PIOS.

In Shanghai he will play the ever-popular Jimmy White in what is sure to be a genuinely close match. In fact in last season’s Northern Ireland Trophy qualifiers Xiao managed to beat the Whirlwind 5-0 though with White playing better at the moment, a similar result is unlikely this time.

The match has been confirmed as being on a TV table at least so viewers with access to Eurosport will be able to catch what should be a terrific match.

Up against the in-form world number 35 Ricky Walden is Chinese youngster Anda Zhang in what will undoubtedly be the biggest match of his life. His most notable achievement in the game was to reach the final of the World under-21 championship last year at just 15 years of age. Although he lost to snooker ‘hotshot’ Michael Georgiou 11-6, he had already shown by beating another promising professional Daniel Wells in his semi-final match that he is one to watch.

His match against recent Belgian Open winner Walden will not be an easy one, but hopefully Zhang will rise to the occasion and push him all the way.

Back again in wildcard action is 27 year old A Bulajiang from China who will be up against young 19 year old Judd Trump next week. Having lost out in his two qualifying matches last season to Tony Drago here in Shanghai and Marcus Campbell at the China Open, he will be hoping to go one better this time around and earn a tie with Mark King in the last 32.

Making his debut as a wildcard is Li Yan who will be up against Nottingham professional Anthony Hamilton on Monday morning. A 15 year old left-hander making his first appearance in a wildcard match, it will be something of a shock if he were to overcome Hamilton but you never know…

Not to be confused with Yan is the 18 year-old Li Yuan who will be in action against Andy Hicks in the wildcard round. His most notable achievements to date include reaching the final of the Asian under-21 Championship this April where he lost out to current professional Li Hang, as well as pushing Marco Fu to a deciding frame at this year’s China Open.

It is clear therefore that Hicks, who lost his first round match in the Grand Prix qualifiers this week, will have to play very well to overcome him.

Also making a return to action in the wildcard round is Yu Delu who has proved to be something of a handful for the professionals in the past. Having thrashed Joe Jogia 5-1 at the 2007 China Open and beaten current world number 47 Mike Dunn here in Shanghai last season, Delu has shown that he is more than capable of causing an upset on the big stage. Hoping to avoid that will be Tom Ford, fresh from his narrow defeat to Steve Davis in the Grand Prix qualifiers on Thursday. Should be one of the closer ties…

Finally at the bottom of the draw we have 27 year old Cao Xinlong who takes on Stuart Pettman for the chance to play world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 32. Having twice played and twice lost heavily to Fergal O’Brien in his two wildcard matches last season, Cao will be pleased to be up against someone else this time as he hopes to put on a good show in front of his home crowd.

Please click here to read when each of the wildcards will be in action.

Please click here for my look at the main draw.