China in our hands

The snooker calendar gathers pace next month with the return of two of the Chinese tournaments, the Shanghai Masters and the China Championship. Some of the tour will have competed in the Six Reds prior to these events in Thailand but whoever wins that will really have to go through his paces to make any significant inroads in these events. Ronnie O’Sullivan has already confirmed that he will take part in the Shanghai Masters but be prepared for him to be rusty in a match situation as the last time he was seen on television was at the World Championship. Make no mistake that Ronnie is however up for this as he wouldn’t have thrown his hat into the ring but besides that O’Sullivan enjoys coming to China and spends time experiencing the culture off the table and with his love for Asian food he is right at home in the far east.

Last years Shanghai masters finalists Ronnie O’Sullivan and Barry Hawkins

Judd Trump is the bookmakers’ choice and mine as well. Even if there is a Ronnie resurgence , he will be hard pressed to get past Judd. Trump has already won the World Championship and now the International Championship this season and shows signs of adding titles to his cabinet as the season progresses. Rather like a pedigree horse race, there are other contenders with Barry Hawkins having won the last event in Furth, Germany. Don’t also discount the runners-up in these events too with last year’s Paul Hunter Classic, winner Kyren Wilson pipped at the post by Barry Hawkins in a deciding frame this year and Shaun Murphy returning to form after a poor patch in form, performing very well in the International Championship but heavily beaten by Judd in the final.

China has definitely staked its claim in the modern game in recent years and has potential winners for these events too with Yan Bingtao winning this year’s Riga Open and Ding Junhui showing signs of a return to form. After disappointing audience numbers at the International Championship, hopefully these two events will attract larger numbers. Empty seats shown on television do nothing for the image of the sport and are a negative contrast to the star attraction of players on show. Snooker is two fold and can’t rely on television audiences alone when the people who applaud and cheer the players are the ones at the venue itself.

Make no mistake in the near future, snooker tournaments in China will accelerate at an increased speed and the players who participate in Asian events will get younger and better. This could be a potential trip hazard for any player in the first round especially those from the top sixteen. Snooker loves a shock exit and the press especially. Top players are vulnerable especially when they are suffering from jet lag and may have already just traveled from a previous tournament to compete in the one in question. China is definitely an exciting place for players to play today and provides a piece in the jigsaw of the current, professional tour.

Check out Ronnie’s victory in the Shanghai masters final last year….