Despite a few minor tournaments over the summer months, the Shanghai Masters is generally considered the start of the winter snooker season. It will run from Monday the 19th September to Sunday 25th, and with the game’s top stars in attendance it is eagerly anticipated.
The biggest name of all of course, is Ronnie O’Sullivan, and he’ll be returning to Shanghai after an absence of two years. It’s rare that Ronnie plays as far afield as China in recent years, but having slipped to 11th in the rankings it’s possible that he’s motivated to maintain his top 16 position.
Last year’s surprise winner Kyren Wilson is a man we had our eyes on during last season, and his rise up the rankings has been very impressive after beating Judd Trump 10-9 in a memorable final to claim his first ranking tournament win. He’s classed 14th in the world right now, and although he hasn’t won another tournament yet, he did reach the final of the recent Indian Open.
The likes of Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, John Higgins, Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham make up a very strong field.
Shanghai Masters Draw and Format
The tournament has a total prizepool of £465,000, with a huge £85,000 in store for the winner. There will be eight wildcard matches played on the first day to determine the complete draw, with the likes of Stephen Maguire and Indian Open winner Anthony McGill hoping to make the last 32.
The last 32, last 16 and quarter finals will be played over the course of nine frames, with the semi finals best of eleven, and the final best of nineteen frames. The draw has been announced, and it has thrown up some potential big name battles, so let’s take it quarter by quarter.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is in the first quarter of the draw, which on the face of it looks a tough task. Assuming both win their opening games, Ronnie is likely to face defending Champion Wilson in the next round, with either Mark Allen or Ding Junhui possible quarter final opponents.
Junhui’s form has been up and down over the last two years, but he won the recent Six-red World Championship, so comes here in fine fettle. Wilson had that Indian Open final appearance, and is bound to be enthused by a return to the venue of his greatest triumph. Mark Allen, Anthony McGill and Michael Holt should also be in this section, so it’s going to be tough for all of the players.
The second quarter features Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy, who are on course for a quarter final match up if they win their respective matches. Trump says he is taking a different approach this season by missing out on some of the smaller tournaments to concentrate on the larger ones. This, he hopes, will give him the motivation that he’s struggle with in the past, and he’s practising more than ever. It will be interesting to see how it works out for him with a different strategy. Shaun Murphy on the other hand, has recently become a father for the first time, and one has to wonder how much the sleepless nights might have affected his game.
He’s said he’s a player who love to travel to play his snooker, and he’s in good form too after his recent Six-red World Championship final appearance. He won the Shanghai Masters in 2014/15 and went all the way to the semi finals in 2015/16, so this is certainly a city and a venue that he can play at. He’s still ranked number two in the world and the price looks a great each way bet.
Finally in the last section of the draw we have two big-hitters in Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, and their presence in the same quarter makes it difficult to back either from a betting point of view. It’s the toss of a coin who wins when these two stars meet, and as so often it probably comes down to who is better on the day. For that reason we’ll steer clear of backing either, because at least one of them will not progress beyond the quarter finals.
Ronnie O’Sullivan to Win the Shanghai Masters
19th September – 25th September
Stuart Bingham to Win the Shanghai Masters E/W
19th September – 25th September