Where next for Ding Junhui?

Image supplied by Janie Watkins

With the Shanghai Masters coming up soon, now appears to be the perfect opportunity to consider the career of China’s best ever player Ding Junhui and to consider possible reasons for his recent struggles in ranking events.

Rise to stardom

Having started playing snooker at the age of nine, by the time he was fifteen he was already skilled enough to win the Asian Under 21 championship, Asian Championship and IBSF World under 21 Championship in 2002.

His rapid progress continued on the main tour where having turned professional in 2003, he recorded an impressive win over Joe Perry on his debut at the Wembley Masters in 2004. A year later he remarkably managed to capture his first ranking event title on home soil in China, a victory that significantly raised his profile, and that of snooker full stop in his homeland.

Soon after he managed to show that this was no fluke by winning the UK Championship and Northern Ireland Trophy – all before he reached the age of 20 which was a remarkable achievement, matched only by Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins.

At this point in time I was beginning to think that he could really be in a position to push on and possibly be one of the favourites for the Word Championship that season, maybe even challenging for a place at the very top of the rankings. He appeared to be nerveless, have all the shots required and although he did not always perform in the qualifying matches at Prestatyn, he appeared to have the temperament to handle himself on the big occasions.

Masters 2007

Returning to London for the Wembley Masters, Ding started the tournament in fine form, making his first career 147 in his opening match against Anthony Hamilton before going on to reach the final where he would face local favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan. Despite making a strong start to the match, Ding soon found himself overwhelmed by a combination of O’Sullivan’s incredible play and the boisterous, hostile home crowd. This continued to a point where Ding appeared to have all but given up and in fact tried to concede the match with O’Sullivan still one frame from victory. He continued after the mid-session interval however and his concession was attributed to him thinking that the final was a best of 17 match.

Image supplied by Janie Watkins

This was not the first time that Ding had appeared vulnerable to a partisan crowd however as just three months before during a Premier League match with Jimmy White, he appeared to again struggle to cope with the atmosphere, losing the match 5-1.

Since these defeats Ding just hasn’t looked like quite the same player to me, something borne out by the fact that he has not reached the semi-finals of a ranking event in the last 18 months. Although he remains a member of the top 16, Ding’s temperament has also increasingly looked questionable at times and his opponents have been able to take advantage of this.

What are the possible reasons for this? At 21 he is of course still very young and it cannot be easy to come up against a partisan crowd at Wembley like he did, particularly being in a foreign country halfway across the world from his homeland.

A season and a half has passed since that defeat however and it makes me wonder whether there is a deeper problem at the moment. Could it be that Ding is struggling with the pressure of leading China’s hopes at the very top of the game? The growth and interest in the sport over there is huge at the moment and particularly given his earlier successes, perhaps the levels of expectation placed upon him are causing him problems. Only Ding can answer this but if there is some truth to that theory then hopefully the emergence of Liang Wenbo this year will help to take some of the attention away from him.

The future

At just 21 years old he should still have the best years of his career ahead of him and you don’t simply lose the talent that fired him to those three titles a couple of years ago. Something needs to change however as having made a slow start to this season by losing his opening matches on the ranking circuit and the Premier League, Ding’s confidence will not be high at the moment. A good run in front of his home crowd in the upcoming Shanghai Masters might just give him the lift that he needs, though he will have to play well from the start to defeat the in-form Dave Harold. We shall see.

Roewe Shanghai Masters Qualifying – Day Four (updated)

Today marked the final day of the Shanghai Masters Qualifiers and other than the match involving Liang Wenbo and Atthasit Mahitthi which has been held over until the venue, all of the matches have now been completed. Click here for the full draw.

Afternoon Matches

Day to remember for legends

With 14 world championship finals and six world titles between them both Steve Davis and Jimmy White are undoubtedly snooker legends, but success in recent years has been somewhat harder to achieve. Today however, both showed that they still have the talent and they still have to hunger for the game by winning their final qualifying matches this week and qualifying for the TV stages of the Roewe Shanghai Masters later this month.

First to win was Jimmy White who recorded a stunning 5-1 win over 1997 world champion Ken Doherty. Again as in many of his matches this season White’s performance wasn’t one full of high breaks, but his determination and ability to fight this week was enough to beat an opponent playing his first ever match at Prestatyn. With the venue being as small and as intimate as it is, Ken can be forgiven for being a bit lost away from the TV venues that he has become accustomed to, but he will nevertheless be disappointed with this latest setback. Hopefully he will be back though, Ken is one of the nicest guys on the tour and is still classy enough to fight with the best.

White was then joined in the TV stages by six times world champion Steve Davis who recorded a very impressive 5-3 win over the dangerous Gerard Greene. Greene on the back of a good win yesterday against Steve’s namesake Mark was always going to be a tough but to crack but breaks of 64, 50 and 54 were enough to see him home. Davis will meet defending champion Dominic Dale in Shanghai in what is bound to be another close match.

Fellow veterans follow suit

Northern Ireland Trophy finalist Dave Harold kept up his brilliant form today with an excellent 5-1 win over Rod Lawer. The most impressive aspect of Dave’s performance today was his scoring which with breaks of 62, 84, 44, 83 and 41 ensured that Lawler was always on the back foot.

Similarly impressive was Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien who won 5-3 in what was a high quality encounter with Ian Preece, highlighted by a break of 137 in the penultimate frame. Preece who yesterday recorded the highest break of the week and of his career fought well to level the match at 3-3 but Fergal moved up a gear when he had to and sealed the win.

Also progressing were Anthony Hamilton who won 5-1 against livewire Michael Holt and interestingly the 1995 World semi-finalist Andy Hicks who won his third match of the week in beating Michael Judge 5-2. In a match where nearly every frame seemed to go the distance, Hicks managed to follow White’s example and keep his nerve in these situations

Youth hits back

The veterans didn’t have it all their own way today however as Joe Swail slipped to a 5-3 defeat against teenager Judd Trump. In a performance highlighted by a tremendous break of 135 Trump showed some of the promise that has put him up to a career high position of 41 in the rankings to earn a match with Mark Selby in the last 32

Evening Matches

Welsh Wins

Two of the most comfortable wins tonight belonged to Welsh pair Matthew Stevens and twice world champion Mark Williams who both recorded 5-1 wins tonight. Stevens overcame Alan McManus, gaining some measure of revenge following defeat to the Scot in last week’s Northern Ireland trophy. Williams meanwhile beat Mark Joyce by the same scoreline as his quest to regain a place in the top 16 goes on.

Big Breaks

The match of the day however was that between Stephen Lee and Leicester’s Tom Ford. Ford started brilliantly with a run of 106 which set him on the way to a 4-1 lead and seemingly a comfortable win. Lee showed his class however and fought back well taking the next three frames. With the scores level though, Ford finished off the match as he started it with his second century of the match to seal an excellent win.

Similarly Stuart Pettman secured a place in Shanghai by winning the last two frames in his match against Nigel Bond to win 5-4. The match got off to a flying start with first Bond making a break of 119 before Pettman went one better with a 120 and then 114 to move into the lead. Bond then fought back to go 4-3 ahead following a lengthy seventh frame but it was Pettman who was to prevail and earn a shot at world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan in Shanghai.

Five star performances

Less close however were the matches involving Jamie Cope and Stuart Bingham. Cope, looking to break into the top 16 for the first time this season managed to see off Welshman Jamie Burnett without losing a frame whilst Bingham did likewise against 36 year old Mike Dunn.

Today’s results in full:

Round Four

Steve Davis 5-3 Gerard Greene 19-65(50), 80(64)-34, 74(50)-0, 68-18, 65(54)-25, 40(30)-70(40), 60-68, 57-34

Dave Harold 5-1 Rod Lawler 92(62)-0, 84(84)-0, 71(44)-38, 83(83)-4, 36-61, 53(41)-6

Fergal O’Brien 5-3 Ian Preece 80(50)-53(39), 57(57)-66(48), 66(39)-12, 74(50)-0, 37-74, 0-90(82), 137(137)-0, 63(36)-18

Ian McCulloch 2-5 Ricky Walden 66-44, 70(40)-13, 8-46, 46-63, 50-73(42), 0-69(40), 14-73(35,38)

Joe Swail 3-5 Judd Trump 0-135(135), 69-22, 38-54, 42-64, 77(66)-16, 73-63, 0-92(92), 52-65(38)

Ken Doherty 1-5 Jimmy White 37-92(44), 28-73, 0-82(82), 24-80(42), 88(50, 38)-0, 8-70(37)

Anthony Hamilton 5-1 Michael Holt 62(32)-39, 66(52)-54, 76(76)-32(32), 61(43)-14, 48(44)-83(72), 71(67)-28

Michael Judge 2-5 Andy Hicks 66-67(38), 67(40)-54(54), 79-6, 25-69(39), 0-71(59), 23-86(82), 43-73(64)

Barry Hawkins 5-2 David Morris 73(56)-12, 66-54(54), 6-85(70), 67(47)-21, 49(44)-70(38), 87(49)-4, 103(103)-0

Stuart Bingham 5-0 Mike Dunn 70-34, 71(38)-36, 94(68)-52, 74(74)-10, 70-42

Stephen Lee 4-5 Tom Ford 0-106(106), 9-71(71), 87-25, 14-81(45,35), 13-69(56), 64(36)-14, 71(56)-64, 65(40)-1, 0-138(100)

Mark Williams 5-1 Mark Joyce 97(38,37)-4, 53(41)-54(37), 101(77)-4, 68(67)-43, 76(38)-28, 63(39)-60(35)

Matthew Stevens 5-1 Alan McManus 67-37, 70(46)-43, 81(80)-0, 74(73)-28, 1-83(69), 69(36)-28

Jamie Cope 5-0 Jamie Burnett 69-48, 71(42)-45, 67(33)-55(55), 81(48)-1, 62(45)-17

Nigel Bond 4-5 Stuart Pettman 119(119)-18, 0-120(120), 1-115(114), 74-49, 70-1, 0-88(88), 66-13, 47-72, 13-72

Roewe Shanghai Masters Qualifying – Day Three

Click here for the draw.

White sets up Doherty clash

Crowd favourite Jimmy White maintained his 100% Prestatyn record this season by beating former Welsh Open finalist Andrew Higginson 5-3 on Thursday afternoon. Although White failed to hit top form in terms of his scoring, he showed his experience to come through several close frames to reach the fourth round, finishing the match appropriately by winning the eighth frame by just five points. He now faces the 1997 World Champion Ken Doherty in what is an intriguing match-up for the right to play in Shanghai later this month. Doherty, the likeable Irishman, will be looking to build on a solid start to the season himself however and put a run together that will help him to regain a top 16 position for next season.

High break

Scoring well however was Welshman Ian Preece who not only progressed to the next round with a 5-2 win over Marcus Campbell, but also recorded his highest break in professional competition. His previous best was a 134 break that he made in qualifying for the 2004 World Championship but in frame six today he bettered that by five points with a sublime 139 to put him 4-2 ahead at the time. Next up for him is a tricky clash with Irishman Fergal O’Brien tomorrow.

Round 1 runs come to an end

All but one of the players still in the draw who played in Monday’s first round matches bowed out today with defeats for Lee Spick, Andy Lee, Robert Stephen, Stephen Craigie, Matt Selt and Matt Couch. Indeed the sole remaining player Atthasit Mahitthi is yet to progress to round four as his match with Liang Wenbo has been held over until the venue.

Selt and Craigie’s impressive runs in the tournament were ended by experienced pros Jamie Burnett and Mike Dunn respectively. Burnett in particular played well, recording a break of 114 and not dropping a frame in a 5-0 win while Dunn secured a 5-2 victory. Both Selt and Craigie however will take a useful 900 points from the event along with some match experience that can only be useful for the rest of the season.

Couch meanwhile went down 5-2 to Alan McManus who maintained his impressive recent form and set up a rematch with Matthew Stevens who he beat 5-2 in Northern Ireland just last week.

High standard

Arguably the match with the highest standard today however was Gerard Greene’s 5-3 victory over Mark Davis, a match containing one century and five over breaks over 50. Given Davis’ good form in his last couple of ranking events going back to last season when he qualified for the World Championship, this was a very good result for Greene who lost to Doherty in Northern Ireland. Next up is snooker legend Steve Davis and Greene will be hoping for better luck than in their meeting in the first round of the 2005 World Championship where Davis prevailed 10-9.

Today’s results in full:

Round Three

* held over to Shanghai

Gerard Greene 5-3 Mark Davis 22-68, 108(108)-8, 75(44)-21, 23-77(53), 59(53)-44(36), 83(83)-6, 7-86(57), 70(57)-0

Jimmy Michie 4-5 Rod Lawler 44-72(34), 10-73(48), 43(38)-74(32), 76(38)-50, 68(36)-1, 63(41)-34, 35-76, 64(59)-57, 29-60(51)

Marcus Campbell 2-5 Ian Preece 64(31)-50(36), 33-60(49), 62(44)-44(36), 1-84(54), 0-139(139), 35-78

Ricky Walden 5-3 Lee Spick 39(39)-76(45), 69(69)-7, 99(99)-0, 2-84(80), 10-108(48, 60), 63(42)-45, 81(38)-41, 110(101)-6

Judd Trump 5-2 Andy Lee 71(52)-18, 58(58)-61(46), 70(38)-63, 79(68)-7, 89(70)-47(47), 35-57(33), 66-33

Andrew Higginson 3-5 Jimmy White 55-65, 54(36)-63, 38-74(43), 62(40)-53(40), 6-74(74), 74(74)-1, 80(68)-17, 54-59

Michael Holt 5-1 Robert Stephen 104(74)-6, 64-50, 68(49)-18, 0-68(51), 77(36)-50, 66(61)-9

Dave Gilbert 2-5 Andy Hicks 9-60, 21-68(44), 42-45, 70-0, 27-57(54), 71(71)-29, 42-58(34)

Tom Ford 5-2 Andrew Norman 129(125)-0, 0-106(91), 93(62)-16, 27-71(70), 72(55)-46, 80(45)-6, 79(35)-47(39)

Mike Dunn 5-2 Stephen Craigie 117(39,69)-0, 97(91)-8, 0-79(31,48), 64-52, 0-67(46), 71(47)-30, 77(71)-24

*Liang Wenbo 0-0 Atthasit Mahitthi

Rory McLeod 3-5 Stuart Pettman 106(45,57)-0, 41-53(39), 50-66(36), 66-52, 62-61, 22-72(72), 11-67(48), 50-78(47)

David Gray 3-5 David Morris 20-65(43), 65(43)-21, 66(51)-42(37), 9-62(35), 7-82(73), 73-50, 26-82(82), 20-56(34)

Jamie Burnett 5-0 Matt Selt 64-54, 80(54)-42(36), 60(38)-15, 115(114)-0, 57-47

Alan McManus 5-2 Matt Couch 86-51, 28-52, 68(60)-35, 70(69)-8, 31-86(54), 72(51)-36, 72(46)-16

Adrian Gunnell 3-5 Mark Joyce 45-67, 67(48)-4, 11-65, 41-73(39), 76(46)-0, 72(40)-34, 50(40)-74(45), 8-90(77)

Roewe Shanghai Masters Qualifying – Day Two

Day two, round two as some of the bigger names entered the fray in Prestatyn today. Click here for the draw.

Not such a good day for the PIOS brigade

Though six of those promoted from the PIOS last season won yesterday as reported previously in this blog, today was a much less successful day with with Kuldesh Johal, Peter Lines, Daniel Wells, Simon Bedford and Paul S Davison all bowing out in the second round.

However, Matt Couch had another excellent win, whitewashing former UK quarter finalist Barry Pinches 5-0, the Norwich cueman scoring a mere 56 points in the entire match. Next up for Couch is Scottish veteran Alan McManus who will be hoping to build on a much improved showing in the Northern Ireland Trophy last week. A note on McManus, like a few players on the tour this season he is playing with a new cue so it will be interesting to see how he gets on.

Craigie and Selt march on

The other two standout results went to Stephen Craigie and Matt Selt who overcame two experienced and talented opponents to reach the third round. Craigie, the talented 18 year old from Newcastle, followed up yesterday’s win over Stefan Mazrocis with a 5-2 victory over Joe Delaney. Delaney who qualified for the World Championship in 2007 is no mug at all so this is another good result for him and it will be interesting to see how he fairs against Mike Dunn tomorrow.

Selt showed similar class to get past Robert Milkins, a player who although ranked down in 51st place these days is more than capable of a good run when playing well. In a match where high breaks were at a premium, Selt showed great resilience to come back from 3-1 down at the mid-session interval and win a series of close frames to close out the match. Next up for him is another Scottish veteran, Jamie Burnett.

The Whirlwind wins again

It was always going to be interesting to see whether White keep up his promising start to the season and the signs are good as he won his fourth ranking event match of the season today. Having reached the last 48 of the Northern Ireland Trophy and the semi-finals in the Paul Hunter Classic recently, this time he saw off China’s Li Hang 5-3, finishing up in style with a break of 78. Having started in round 2 due to John Parrott’s non-participation (due to a clash with a prior charity engagement), he is now just two matches from reaching the TV stages of a second consecutive event.

Davis (no not that one) does the same

Finally Mark Davis who not only qualified for Northern Ireland but managed to record an outstanding win against Ding Junhui last week managed to see off James McBain 5-3. In a match with nine breaks over 40 Davis recovered from being 3-2 down to win the last three frames and set up an intriguing match with Gerard Greene in the third round.

Today’s results in full:

Round Two

Mark Davis 5-3 James McBain 57(40)-60, 79(51)-5, 76(45)-39(39), 26-72(45), 16-94(77), 72(48)-1, 71(48)-64(56), 68(40)-32(32)
Rod Lawler 5-1 Peter Lines 64-50(34), 52(51)-66(65), 80(66)-45, 92(45)-0, 71(70)-0, 58(48)-29
Ian Preece 5-1 Daniel Wells 70-15, 67-6, 65(65)-24, 75(30)-9, 38-61, 70(56)-7
Liu Song 3-5 Lee Spick 107(107)-10, 60-71(30), 77(77)-11, 0-86(86), 74(74)-0, 9-71(50), 18-66(34)
Martin Gould 1-5 Andy Lee 52(38)-68, 23-68, 17-63, 64(48)-67, 99(85)-16, 9-76(34)
Jimmy White 5-3 Li Hang 86(53)-1, 73(40)-13, 38-48, 9-106(54), 63-42, 56-28, 9-68(46), 78(78)-7
Paul Davies 2-5 Robert Stephen 47-72(38), 60(45)-20, 46-67(35), 75(75)-0, 40(40)-79(79), 14-58(30), 35-51
Andy Hicks 5-3 Kuldesh Johal 105(105)-11, 89(39,48)-1, 38-68(63), 41-65(32), 52-67(61), 58-44, 70-42, 62(34)-40(32)
David Morris 5-3 Jin Long 51-73(42), 68(51)-29, 77-24, 31-101(94), 19-84(50), 82(82)-6, 74(74)-19, 54-29
Joe Delaney 2-5 Stephen Craigie 54-46, 5-81(65), 13-69(44), 12-65, 21-59, 83(58)-6, 44-79
David Roe 3-5 Atthasit Mahitthi 65(58)-58(42), 62-70, 65-61(45), 32-69(50), 67(56)-26, 64(36)-72, 0-66(42), 46-65(36)
Andrew Norman 5-3 Vinnie Muldoon 96(60)-28, 101(101)-7, 72(71)-8, 36-72(31,30), 82(62)-0, 1-72(63), 0-130(65,650, 69-48(41)
Mark Joyce 5-1 Paul S Davison 80(47)-66(37), 17-110(110), 72(68)-0, 81(67)-0, 70(30)-27, 82(52)-24
Rob Milkins 3-5 Matt Selt 2-78(33), 69(55)-24, 56-22, 76(76)-0, 45-59(58), 9-84(42), 64(32)-78(36), 50(33)-71
Barry Pinches 0-5 Matt Couch 0-85(85), 11-66, 32-80(45), 0-82(76), 13-72(51)
Stuart Pettman 5-3 Simon Bedford 68-50, 31-74(74), 12-84(69), 61(61)-60(60), 68(51)-50(37), 28-71(65), 68(68)-62(56), 65-19

Roewe Shanghai Masters Qualifying – Day One

Today marked the start of the second ranking event of the season as the qualifiers got underway in Prestatyn once again.

Good day for PIOS Graduates

Of the eight players to qualify for the main tour via the PIOS last season, six have managed to progress into round two. The first was Leeds based cueman Kuldesh Johal who took his second victory of the season with a 5-3 win over the 2008 EBSA European Champion David Grace. His reward is a meeting with former World semi-finalist Andy Hicks for a place in round three tomorrow morning.

One of the most emphatic victories of the day however went to last season’s PIOS runner-up Peter Lines who managed to whitewash Welshman Andrew Pagett 5-0. The score is perhaps slightly harsh on Pagett, many of the frames being tight affairs with both players scoring in every frame, but Lines was ultimately well worth the win. He will now face Rod Lawler in the next round for the right to face Dave Gilbert later in the week.

The other winners from the PIOS group were the 2007 Paul Hunter Scholarship winner Daniel Wells, Paul S Davison and Matthew Couch who recorded a very impressive 5-1 win against Liu Chuang, the player who gave Ronnie O’Sullivan a fright in the first round of this year’s World Championship.

Bad day for veterans

Less impressive today were the results of Stefan Mazrocis and Patrick Wallace who both slumped to 5-1 defeats against their younger opponents. Mazrocis, the Dutchman famous for defeating Peter Ebdon in the first round of the 1997 World Championship, was soundly beaten by Newcastle’s’s Stephen Craigie despite making a strong start with a break of 73. Craigie, described by Snooker Scene assistant editor Dave Hendon as someone who “could prove a handful” hit back by taking the next five frames and secured the first of what will surely be many victories on the main tour.

Wallace, like Mazrocis a former World quarter-finalist also suffered his second defeat from two matches this season, losing to China’s Jin Long. Long, back on the tour for a fourth time, opened the match in some style with a break of 116 and never really looked back, making three further breaks over 50. His reward is a clash with Irishman Joe Delaney in round 2.

Best of the rest

The second whitewash of the day was handed out by Matt Selt who responded to the recent controversy surrounding him in the best possible way. His 5-0 victory over the struggling Michael Georgiou is his second win of the season and included a high break of 112 in what was a dominant performance.

The highest break of the day however went to England’s Lee Spick who notched up 130 in a 5-1 win over Declan Hughes.

Today’s results in full:

Round One

James McBain 5-2 Aditya Mehta 063(60)-15, 75(43)-45(45), 26-83(53), 121(121)-1, 74(61)-62(62), 43-78(59), 60-54

Peter Lines 5-0 Andrew Pagett 56-24, 88(68)-6, 77(69)-32, 64-43, 67-16

Daniel Wells 5-3 Wayne Cooper 67(67)-16, 7-113(42,58), 63-24, 43-67(42), 86-37, 80(76)-0, 47-60, 71(51)-17

Lee Spick 5-1 Declan Hughes 75(62)-48, 130(130)-7, 63-20, 62-42, 31-73(38), 104(36,36)-10

Rodney Goggins 2-5 Andy Lee 67(50)-39, 46-62, 68-55(46), 53-58(35), 22-84(40), 16-48, 7-69(49)

Jamie Jones 2-5 Li Hang 13-76(68), 45-67, 1-75(75), 29-64, 75(72)-13, 65(39)-19, 38-53

Scott MacKenzie 2-5 Robert Stephen 14-97(35,36), 70-7, 102(96)-14, 54(41)-73, 23-62, 55-60, 34-59(43)

Kuldesh Johal 5-3 David Grace 43-58, 100(31)-29, 15-62(36), 85(65)-22, 71(58)-8, 71(30)-29, 40-63, 62(49)-8

Patrick Wallace 1-5 Jin Long 0-116(116), 18-81(66), 20-76(69), 66-9, 52-75(63), 41(35)-60(47)

Stephen Craigie 5-1 Stefan Mazrocis 17-77(36), 73(73)-0, 63-31, 66(42)-48, 53(43)-17, 68-40

Lewis Roberts 1-5 Atthasit Mahitthi 73(39)-76(38), 81(66)-14, 37-72(54), 41-67(33), 16-73(73), 6-73(50)

Supoj Saenla 2-5 Vinnie Muldoon 28-67, 31-66, 61(38)-48(48), 43-58, 11-86(73), 69-0, 16-42

Paul S Davison 5-1 Chris McBreen 64(41)-51(43), 34-60(43), 78(36,34)-41, 60(60)-1, 82(61)-0, 66-18

Matt Selt 5-0 Michael Georgiou 58-19, 129(112)-0, 71(47)-29, 63-5%(55), 68(38)-60(38)

Matt Couch 5-1 Liu Chuang 81(430-47(34), 83(37,46)-8, 53-27, 16-72(38), 50-36, 58-28

Simon Bedford – BYE

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.