Literally a few hours after a snooker tournament concludes on one side of the world another begins on the other side of it when the Wuhan Open gets underway out in China on Monday morning less than six hours after the conclusion of the English Open.
This is the first staging of the Wuhan Open but with the proximity of it beginning to the English Open concluding we have had some big name withdrawals leading into the event, which makes it a little more open than usual.
We have had a qualifying round for this tournament with the exception of the top four players in the world and a few Chinese stars who had their game held over to the venue. That means that 64 players and a few yet to play their qualifying game head to the venue. The tournament is the best of nine frames right through to the quarter finals. The two semi-finals will be the best of 11 and then the champion will be determined over the best of 19 on Sunday where the winner will walk off with the biggest ranking event prize of the season so far in £140,000.
The world champion Luca Brecel was due to be the number one seed in this tournament but he withdrew ahead of it beginning which has opened up the top quarter this week. It has been further opened up because Kyren Wilson lost in qualifying to He Guoqiang which leaves just the two top 16 players in this part of the draw assuming that they both make the trip. They are John Higgins who was still competing in the English Open on Saturday and Ryan Day.
This is one of those tournaments where we have plenty of good lower ranked players scattered right throughout the draw. Stephen Maguire has been flattering to deceive for far too long and he’ll look to get his career back on track here while fellow Welsh players Michael White and Jackson Page will aim to show what they can do. Marco Fu, Wu Yize, Ben Woollaston and the former Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown are others in the top quarter looking to go well.
One quarter which has the four top 16 ranked players still in it heading into the opening day is the second one but whether the new English Open champion Judd Trump makes the trip after winning in Brentwood remains to be seen. European Masters winner Barry Hawkins is also in this quarter while the British Open runner up Mark Selby is also in this part of the draw as well. Welsh Open winner from last season Robert Milkins completes the elite names in this section.
There is no shortage of good players in this quarter either. Thepchaiya Un-Nooh can be very special when he is on a going day while Matthew Selt made the quarter finals of the English Open last week where he was hitting the ball well. Xiao Guodong was a semi-finalist at the British Open the week before so he is in decent form and motivated to win a home event. Cao Yupeng, Tom Ford, Jamie Jones and Oliver Lines will look to show what they can do as well.
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The other quarter which has a full complement of top 16 players in it is the third quarter and it is the man who was the best player last season who heads it up as Mark Allen is in here. If everything goes as it would be expected to then the Shanghai Masters semi-finalist Neil Robertson will be his quarter final opponent. German Masters winner Ali Carter is also in this section as is Jack Lisowski, who will be hoping that his early exit from the English Open last week was a blessing.
There is no easy path through the draw in this section though because there are a lot of capable outsiders who could go well. Zhou Yuelong is one of those hot off the heels of a run to the last eight in the English Open last week. Anthony Hamilton is a tournament winner in the past while Jamie Clarke, Daniel Wells and Sam Craigie are full of talent. This quarter also offers up the chance for Stuart Bingham to relaunch the best of his career. World Championship stars Si Jiahui and Jak Jones are in this section too.
There was a question mark over whether Ronnie O’Sullivan would appear at this tournament after the tennis elbow issues he alluded to last week but he has made the trip and he’ll head up the bottom quarter. Shaun Murphy was due to be his potential quarter final opponent but he bit the dust in qualifying. Mark Williams was due to be in this tournament but he has withdrawn after the exertions of his British Open win a couple of weeks ago. That leaves Ding Junhui as the only other top 16 player in this section this week.
The English Open finalist Zhang Anda is a form man and will look to be one of the outsiders who can do some damage this week. The Shootout champion Chris Wakelin is another who would be in that category while Lyu Haotian and Pang Junxu who be two men who are motivated to perform well in their home nation. Ben Mertens was the man who saw off Murphy in qualifying and he could be dangerous while Noppon Saengkham, Yuan Sijun and Mark Davis merit respect.
I’ll take a couple of bets this week with the caveat being that I don’t want anyone who was at the English Open last week. Even those who lost early last week would have had a bit of a rush on to get out there for this tournament so I definitely think it was an advantage to be nowhere near there which leads me to Stuart Bingham. His form over the last season or so hasn’t been fantastic but he can still play the game and if he is having to beat off tired opponents then he should be capable of that. I wouldn’t say Bingham has a completely easy draw but we know he’ll be prepared and with two or three bigger names in his section still in the English Open as late as Thursday last week, Bingham should be best prepared and can go well at the prices.
The other player I will take my chances on this week is Pang Junxu who might well be the next Chinese player to come through and win a tournament. We are only just over six months since he made his first ranking event final when he went down to Mark Selby in the WST Classic and in his homeland I would imagine he will be more suited to the conditions than some others. He would run into Ronnie O’Sullivan fairly early in the competition which would be a snag but he ran him close at the Crucible and you never really know what mood the Rocket will be in. I think there is improvement in Pang and at 66/1 I’ll see if that all comes out this week.
Back S.Bingham to win Wuhan Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Coral (1/2 1-2)
Back P.Junxu to win Wuhan Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: