China Open 2012: Ebdon Edges Higgins, Selby Out

2009 China Open champion Peter Ebdon continued his bid for a repeat success in 2012 with a deciding frame victory against John Higgins today. Other winners were Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson, while Mark Selby exited the tournament without playing a shot…

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It has been a tough season for Peter Ebdon which has seen him slip to a current position of 28th from his season start of 13, but today he continued his recent improvement with probably his best result of the season to date, a 5-4 victory against reigning world champion John Higgins to reach the quarter-finals in Beijing.

From John’s point of view, the result is in keeping with his season so far, not a particularly bad one against a strong opponent who on paper looks to have played well, but nevertheless another relatively early exit. Indeed John is a player who at his best has a habit of coming through close matches like these, but for one reason or another results have not fallen his way in 2011/12.

Will the tide turn at the Crucible? Over the years I have learned that you can simply never write off John Higgins and on the face of it his section of the World Championship draw could have been tougher, but he is going to have to rediscover the winning habit in Sheffield now and not before.

As noted at World Snooker meanwhile, Peter was understandably pumped up following his win against John today and will now progress to a last eight tie with Australia’s Neil Robertson, a player who like Higgins, Ebdon has enjoyed success against in the past at this venue.

Robertson today ended the run of Stephen Hendry for the second consecutive full-ranking event as he took advantage of errors from an opponent who following defeat spoke about the difficulty he finds in maintaining his concentration during matches at this stage of his career. While not the only reason for his lack of success in recent years, it is perhaps one that is logical and would explain why he has often been able to start matches looking as good as he ever did, only to deteriorate as matches have progressed.

Elsewhere, Ronnie O’Sullivan produced a much-improved display from his first-round match as he recorded a 5-1 victory against old rival Mark Williams, whose winless run against O’Sullivan stretching back around a decade now continues. With a potential last 16 match against Ronnie at the upcoming World Championship on the horizon, Mark must be hoping that O’Sullivan is handed a tough opening round draw at the Crucible…

Next up for Ronnie will be 2008 champion Stephen Maguire who came through a decider against friend Ricky Walden today to continue his consistent start to 2012. Like Williams, Stephen has suffered a number of disappointing defeats to O’Sullivan in recent years, not least at this season’s German Masters final and for that reason Ronnie has to be fancied to come through.

If he can, the three-time world champion would meet either Judd Trump or Stephen Lee in the semi-finals, after the pair came through against Stuart Bingham and Graeme Dott respectively today. Two of the form players of the season to date, it is hard to split them, particularly given Lee’s recent near-perfect run.

Another player who has enjoyed a solid run of late is world number one Mark Selby, but the reigning Shanghai Masters champion was today denied the opportunity to wrap up the year end top ranking as he was forced to withdraw from his match against Ding Junhui due to a neck injury.

Last but not least, there was another welcome win for Ali Carter after the Captain defeated wildcard player Lu Ning to reach his first quarter-final since this tournament in 2011. Given his health problems that have doubtless contributed to his results during the past year or so, I doubt that there will be many out there who are not pleased to see him on the comeback trail in Beijing.

And then there were eight…