Next Monday sees the start of the 2016 Hanteng Autos World Open from Yushan, with the event back on the calendar following a two-year absence since Shaun Murphy’s victory back in 2014.
Continue reading for my preview of the biggest event of the new season so far…
- Click HERE to view the World Open draw
- Click HERE to view the World Open format
- Click HERE to view the latest provisional seedings
An event with a varied history, the World Open returns this year at a new venue for ranking event snooker in China in Yushan. As with the previous two events already held this season, the tournament saw its first round staged in Preston back in May, with the exception of four matches held over to the venue stages. Specifically, those are the matches involving reigning world champion Mark Selby, defending champion (albeit from three seasons ago) Shaun Murphy and Chinese duo Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo.
There will also be four wildcards taking part, with Hammad Miah, Zhang Anda, James Wattana and Matthews Stevens the professionals to have drawn the short straw..
Matches will be played over the best of nine frames with intervals up to and including the quarter-finals. This subsequently increases to the best of 11 for the semi-finals and best of 19 for the two-session final. There will be eight tables used for the first two rounds, decreasing to four for the last 16, two for the quarter-finals and one for the semi-finals and final.
With a £90,000 top prize on offer to the winner in Yushan (behind only the International Championship in terms of ranking events in China), 13 of the world’s top 16 will be in action next week. Of those missing, both Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen elected not to enter, while Martin Gould fell to Hammad Miah in qualifying.
We already know that Joe Perry will be the first player through to the last 32 stage, having received a walkover against Jamie Burnett.
The World Open also precedes the first seedings revision of the new season, with key positions still to be determined ahead of the Shanghai Masters qualifiers next month. Notable matches will be referenced below, however for in-depth analysis please see my preview from earlier in the week.
The Top Quarter
Heading up the draw is Shaun Murphy, who has been installed as top seed having won the previous iteration of the World Open back in 2014. It would be fair to describe the current period as one of change for Murphy, having recently become a married man and yesterday announced a new management deal, not to mention that he is soon due to become a father for the first time.
That said, he did not seem to let any off-table distractions affect him on the table recently in India, reaching the semi-finals before losing to eventual winner Anthony McGill. This week his draw sees him due to face Sanderson Lam and Cao Yupeng in his first two matches, with potentially Jimmy Robertson ahead in the last 32.
Elsewhere in his section, Michael White and Stephen Maguire could await in the last 16, although Xiao Guodong and Kurt Maflin will be hoping that isn’t the case, both previous ranking event finalists in China.
In the other half of this quarter Ding Junhui is the biggest name and is due to play his first match since the World Championship final against Michael Georgiou on Monday. A potential banana skin could await in the form of Finnish veteran Robin Hull in the last 64, with Gary Wilson and Ben Woollaston also around his section.
As mentioned above, Joe Perry has already received a walkover against Jamie Burnett and will await the winner of the match between Mark Davis and Tom Ford. A quick look at the head to heads reveals a very strong record for Perry against Davis, while meetings with Ford have been more even across all competitions.
The Second Quarter
Moving to the second quarter and immediately the names of Neil Robertson and Judd Trump stand out, the pair on a collision course for a quarter-final meeting as was the case in the Riga Open last month. On that occasion it was the Australian who came out on top on his way to the title, but will they each be able to make it through to the last eight in Yushan?
First looking at Robertson’s path, he begins with a match against Ian Burns looking to make it three wins from three meetings against the Preston potter, with either Luca Brecel or Chuan Leong awaiting in the last 32. Beyond that he could face either Barry Hawkins or Ryan Day in the last 16, Hawkins having memorably won their last match 13-12 at the quarter-finals of the 2015 World Championship.
Trump meanwhile faces Chinese opposition early on in the form of Yu Delu, with potentially a meeting with former world champion Peter Ebdon or Zhang Anda in the last 32. The highest ranked player he could face in the last 16 is David Gilbert following defeat for Martin Gould in qualifying, while Zhou Yuelong will be looking to continue his rise up the rankings with a run in his home country.
Another interesting name to keep an eye on is Rod Lawler, who has a significant amount of prize money to defend this season relative to those around him and so will be eyeing a strong run somewhere soon if he is to retain his position on the tour.
The Third Quarter
Turning to the bottom half and a section that contains the likes of Stuart Bingham, Ali Carter and Kyren Wilson in close proximity. In fact, Bingham and Carter could renew their rivalry as early as the last 32 in what would be a repeat of their memorable match at the same stage of this year’s World Championship in Sheffield. They will have to first get past Stuart Carrington and Mike Dunn respectively if that is to come to pass.
The winner could then play Kyren Wilson in the last 16, with Zhang Yong, James Wattana/wildcard and Daniel Wells also present.
Over in the other half of this quarter is a significant amount of experience, with no fewer than seven world titles between John Higgins, Mark Williams and Graeme Dott. First up for Higgins will be an intriguing clash with talented youngster Oliver Lines, with potentially Riga finalist Michael Holt or Fergal O’Brien next up.
Mark Williams meanwhile begins with a match against Andrew Higginson, who met most recently in the quarter-finals of the Shoot Out (for what relevance that has!), while Graeme Dott faces 23-year-old Welshman Duane Jones, who recently reached the last 32 of a ranking event for the first time at the Indian Open.
The Bottom Quarter
Down in the bottom section of the draw we find world champion Mark Selby, who faces Jimmy White in his held-over first round match for the right to take on Alfie Burden. Further on in the draw he could face either Mark King or Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in the last 32, with the likes of Liang Wenbo and Alan McManus next up.
Having decided not to enter the Indian Open, the World Open will be McManus’ first venue outing since he memorably reached the last four at the Crucible and he is set to take on Jamie Cope – who has beaten him already this season in qualifying for the Riga Masters.
Also in this quarter we find another Scot in Anthony McGill, who will play Lee Walker in his first match as a ranking event winner. It was interesting recently to hear from Joe Perry about how he felt becoming a ranking event winner for the first time changed him as a player and perhaps other player’s perceptions of him and I am looking forward to seeing whether McGill can now push on and take his game to another level.
A clash with either Ricky Walden, who of course has a strong record in China having won in Wuxi, Shanghai and Chengdu, or UK Championship semi-finalist David Grace would await McGill in the last 32, with Marco Fu and Matt Selt lurking further ahead.
How to watch
The action from the World Open this week will be available live on Eurosport TV and Eurosport Player.
Let me know who you think will come out on top in Yushan on Twitter @prosnookerblog or @wpbsaofficial