China Open 2012: Tournament Preview

With the Crucible now looming ever larger on the horizon, tomorrow sees the start of the season’s penultimate ranking event in Beijing as Judd Trump begins the defence of the title that he won brilliantly 12 months ago…

  • Click here to view the tournament draw

While many will no doubt have their eye on April’s World Championship at this stage of the season, the China Open is in itself one of the most important tournaments on the snooker calendar these days and as Judd Trump demonstrated last year, a good run in the tournament could provide the all-important confidence boost required for a good run in Sheffield.

That said, of the previous five winners in Beijing, none were able to follow their victories up with a run to the one-table set-up in Sheffield, only two making it as far as the quarter-finals.

As ever, the usual suspects will be fancied to impress, though quite which of them will take the title remains as difficult to call as ever with each major ranking event this season having gone to a different player so far.

Defending a major title for the first time, it will be interesting to see how Judd Trump handles that pressure and he will begin with potentially an eye-catching match against Jimmy White if his fellow left-hander can come through a wildcard match.

Potentially awaiting him in the quarter-finals could be the man of the moment Stephen Lee, who having won nine of his last ten matches including the PTC Grand Finals title, is the tour’s form player at present. Can he maintain his run in Beijing or will his exertions, including a number of exhibition events in Hong Kong following his Galway success, catch up with him?

Others who should be there or thereabouts include Mark Selby and Neil Robertson, who as in Sheffield could potentially meet at the semi-final stage, while home favourite Ding Junhui will be hoping to maintain a relatively impressive run at the Beijing tournament during recent seasons and could meet Selby in the second round.

With the World Championship approaching, two men hoping for a run will be John Higgins and Mark Williams, both having failed to lift a title since Higgins captured the world crown almost a year ago. Looking at the draw, I fancy John to win a few matches in China, if not necessarily the title, while given their head to head to head record, Williams could be forgiven for hoping that Ronnie O’Sullivan does not make the trip to China.

On the subject of O’Sullivan, many are speculating as to whether the three-time world champion will play in the tournament, given his recent absence from the Haikou World Open and PTC Grand Finals. At the risk of looking a little silly in a couple of days, I’ve heard nothing to suggest that he won’t be at the tournament to play his last 32 match with Marcus Campbell and within the last hour it has been tweeted by Grove Snooker that he has already boarded the plane to China.

Elsewhere, who are the qualifiers most likely to embark upon a run in the tournament? It still seems strange to describe Stephen Hendry as a qualifier but having been drawn against Martin Gould, who has lost four of his five matches at ranking events in 2012, will fancy his chances of progressing in the tournament.

Similarly, the match between Stuart Bingham and Joe Perry is as close to a 50-50 as it gets for me, while Ricky Walden, Barry Hawkins and Mark King are among those more than capable of making an impression.

We shall see, in any case the usual links can all now be found in the sidebar, including the match schedule for the tournament and latest projected seedings.

Semi-finals: Allen def Lee, Selby def Higgins

Final: Selby def Allen