DRAW & FORMAT
The snooker circus rolls into China for the fourth time this season with the China Open taking place in Beijing all next week with the action starting on Monday morning. Most of the event will be broadcasted live in the UK by EuroSport.
It’s difficult to imagine now but coming into this tournament only twelve months ago many in the game were beginning to doubt that Judd Trump was ever going to make the leap from promising young prospect to ranking event winner.
All that changed in a remarkable week that saw him sweep all before him before a 10-8 victory over Mark Selby in the final to win his first ranking title. Of course he went on from there to reach the world final at the Crucible and lift the UK Championship trophy last December.
Despite the fact his form has not reached that level since he still only exited the German Masters and World Open in deciding frames and is sure to be up for the challenge as he tries to defend his title.
If you believe in the backing a horse in form theory there hasn’t been a more consistent player in 2012 then Stephen Lee. Following runs to the semi-finals in Germany, quarter-finals in the Welsh Open, the final of the World Open in China last month and then he got the title he deserved by lifting the PTC Grand final trophy in Galway last weekend.
He was quick to thank Barry Hearn after that success and he has certainly benefited more than most by constantly having tournaments to play in. That said he has had a punishing schedule of late and has five days of exhibitions in China this week before the tournament starts so you have to wonder how much is left in the tank.
If Lee is the most consistent player in the world at the moment the opposite is the case for the reigning World Champion John Higgins. It was perhaps understandable that after all the emotional turmoil of last season Higgins would struggle to keep that level of intensity but as we approach the Crucible again next month his lack of form must have alarm bells ringing.
His most recent set back was letting a 3-1 lead turn into a 4-3 defeat against Jamie Jones in last week’s PTC Finals. It’s hard to believe that someone of Higgins’s class won’t find his form eventually though and a good run here would be the perfect tonic as he prepares to go in pursuit of a fifth world title.
Obviously the home crowd would like nothing more than their national hero Ding Junhui lifting the trophy. The Chinese no.1 has struggled for consistency lately having exited in the first round of two ranking events recently although he did play wonderful snooker in beating Mark Selby in the Welsh Open final.
He has also seemed to buckle under the weight of expectation that being the top player in a country where snooker is now a top sport and has exited both previous ranking events in China this season in the first round. Could he turn it around and have a good run here? It would only help his Crucible chances.
Of the others world no.1 Mark Selby has already tasted success twice this season in China winning the Wuxi Classic invitational and the Shanghai Masters and could face Ding in the quarter-finals should they each get through.
Mark Allen will surely be buoyed on by winning his first ranking title in China earlier this month with his World Open victory and Neil Robertson showed signs of returning to his Masters winning form last weekend at the PTC Finals.
The Australian revealed in Galway that he is being accompanied by his brother Mark as he tries to learn from his mistakes last year and have a more focused build up in preparation for next month’s World Championship in Sheffield.
At time of writing its unclear if German Masters champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will take his place in Beijing having pulled out of the last two tournaments due to his glandular fever. Though some will always question his motives for withdrawing from events we can only take him at his word and wish him a return to good health soon. There is still no better sight in the sport then a happy and healthy O’Sullivan in full flight.
Let’s hope the tournament lives up to its promise and serves as the perfect warm up for the 17 day marathon at the Crucible next month.
Click here for the draw and format for the China Open.
- Guest article by Daniel Clarke