The second ranking event of the snooker season begins on Monday when the 64 qualified players head to China for the World Open. We got underway with a largely leisurely event in Riga last weekend but the real stuff properly begins here.
Ding Junhui won the tournament 12 months ago and will be out to defend the title but there is a serious cast list competing in the event looking to win the biggest first prize of the campaign to date.
2017 – Ding Junhui
2016 – Ali Carter
2014 – Shaun Murphy
2013 – Mark Allen
2012 – Mark Allen
2010 – Neil Robertson
It is what I call the normal format this week with the entire tournament from the first round through to the quarter finals being the best of nine frames with the semi-finals up to the best of 11. As with all Chinese events the final will be played out over the best of 19 frames to determine who the champion is. The 64 players and those coming out having had their qualifying game held over have already been placed in the draw.
Defending champion Ding Junhui is the main seed in this part of the draw. In fact, he is the number one seed but he will be up against the likes of Neil Robertson, Ali Carter and Marco Fu in terms of top 16 seeds in his quarter. There are some decent names in this quarter who aren’t seeded in the form of Ricky Walden, Dave Gilbert, Liang Wenbo, Robert Milkins and Peter Ebdon.
Judd Trump is the headline attraction in this quarter but it could be that Barry Hawkins may be the man who offers the best chance of coming through it. After the qualifying round of matches Luca Brecel is the only other member of the top 16 in this part of the draw. That doesn’t mean they are the only decent players in the section though. Yan Bingtao is capable of winning any tournament while Tom Ford, Mark Davis and Michael Holt are perfectly capable too.
Former world champion and world number one Mark Selby opens up his season in this quarter of the draw. In truth given the surprises in qualifying this looks a wide open section with Ryan Day the only other member of the top 16 left in it. Xiao Guodong is often dangerous in China while Anthony Hamilton and Mark Joyce are among the higher ranked players in the quarter. Zhou Yuelong and Jamie Jones are also here.
The world champion Mark Williams is in what looks a tasty bottom quarter this week. He is joined by Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, Joe Perry, Stephen Maguire and the Riga runner up Jack Lisowski while the likes of Ben Woollaston, Jimmy Robertson, Chris Wakelin and Lu Haotian can all be dangerous on their day as we have seen in the past.
I’ll go with a player in each half of the draw this week. I actually think it could be a week for surprise winners given that we are early in the campaign and form isn’t really there. I’m expecting a fair amount of shocks this week so I’m going to play a couple of handy players in the middle of the market who are more than capable of holding their own.
In the top half I like the look of Ricky Walden. Neil Robertson is probably the standout player after last week but in this day and age it isn’t easy to win back-to-back titles. This will be Ding’s first outing of the year which is a concern while Judd Trump is hit or miss these days so there is a chance for a second string player to come through. Walden has a wonderful record in Asia and warmed up for this with a run to the quarter finals in Riga. He is injury free now and I’m expecting a decent season from him and at 50/1 he is worth a bet.
I almost feel compelled to take someone in the third quarter because if Mark Selby is not in form and Ryan Day offers up a bad week then someone outside the top 16 will be a semi-finalist. I fancy that man could be Xiao Guodong who is more than capable as we’ve seen in the past and who usually enjoys the conditions and no doubt the environment of being in China. Guodong won’t meet a higher ranked player until the quarter final and he looks a real chance at 50s.
Back R.Walden to win World Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Ladbrokes (1/2 1-2)
Back X.Guodong to win World Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)