The China Open begins on Monday 28th of March, and it’s set to be a very open tournament with some big name players missing out for different reasons. Ronnie O’Sullivan is not competing in the tournament for the second year running, while Mark Selby pulled out for personal reasons.
That’s two of snooker’s top five players who will be absent, although the likes of Neil Robertson, Judd Trump, Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy will all be present. The latter recently won his first ranking title for two years when he beat Stuart Bingham 10-9 in the final of the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Llandudno in March, and at the time of writing he is still in contention for the Players Championship with a quarter final against Ben Woollaston to play. He looks a good bet to lift the China Open trophy and improve upon his previous best of two semi-final appearances in Beijing.
Meanwhile in the other half of the draw, Neil Robertson has a relatively kind draw to work his way through to the final, and the Australian has been in decent enough form over the last few months to justify his position at the top of the market for this competition.
Winners and Losers in 2016
While Ronnie O’Sullivan has been in formidable form this season, taking the 2016 Masters and Welsh Open, his absence opens the door for other players here. It was Robertson he beat to take his fourth Welsh Open crown with a dominant 9-5 victory. Martin Gould won the first ranking title of his career when he defeated Luca Brecel by the same scoreline in the German Open, and the 34 year-old Londoner will take his place in China with the knowledge that he has already jumped up to 15th from 20th in the world rankings.
Shaun Murphy returned to something near his best with victory in the World Grand Prix, although it was an epic battle with Stuart Bingham with Murphy eventually coming out the 10-9 victor. He said after the win that he was “in the zone” and is determined to keep it going while the hard work is paying off.
The Draw and Format
64 players will enter the tournament proper, once the wildcard qualifiers are out of the way, and they will compete for a first prize of £85,000. The first four rounds up to the quarter finals will be contested over the best of nine frames, with the semi-finals over the best of 11 frames, and Sunday 3rd of April’s final over an extended 19 frames.
Shaun Murphy fins himself in the top half of the draw, with the likes of Judd Trump and Stephen Maguire, but he’s worth backing at +1200 with SkyBet while he’s in such great form at the table.
After a disappointing 2013/14 season in which he failed to make an impact at the big tournaments, he showed improved form in 2014/15 to reach the finals of both the German Masters and the World Championship, and win the 2015 Masters. The World Grand Prix win saw him lift a trophy once again and that will have filled him with confidence as he continues the good run at the Players Championship before heading out to China.
He calls himself a “self-confessed snooker geek” and admitted that after the World Grand Prix win he was straight back on the practice table to push himself even harder. If he turns up in Beijing in that frame of mind he can give us a good run for our money at a very decent price.
It’s good to have a ‘runner’ in each half of the draw, and it’s hard to look beyond Neil Robertson at +450 with SkyBet in the bottom section.
The Aussie has been performing consistently well for some time since an extended break to recharge the batteries last summer, and UK Championship and Champion of Champions wins as well as an appearance in the final of the Welsh Open are testament to the quality snooker he is playing.
He won the China Open in the 2012/13 season, and reached the final the following year too, so we know he can perform in this part of the world, and he is also expected to go deep into the competition.
Shaun Murphy to win the China Open
Monday 28th March – Sunday 3rd April
Neil Robertson to win the China Open
Monday 28th March – Sunday 3rd April