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Shanghai Masters Preview

The 2014 Shanghai Masters gets under way on Monday as 15-Red snooker returns to our screens.

After winning the Shanghai Masters in 2013, Ding went on to win a further four ranking events last season - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

After winning the Shanghai Masters in 2013, Ding went on to win a further four ranking events last season – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Now in its eighth year on the calendar, the Chinese ranking event is firmly becoming one of the most important.

All the top players are keen to get their hands on the trophy, highlighted by the names who have been etched on the silverware in the past.

After victories for Dominic Dale and Ricky Walden in the opening two stagings, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ali Carter, Mark Selby, John Higgins and Ding Junhui have all emerged triumphant.

All but one of those – Carter as he continues his recovery from a cancer battle – will be looking to add a second crown to their collection this week among a high quality field.

Defending champion Ding returns to competitive snooker for the first time since June when he won the Yixing Open, also on home soil.

The 27 year-old will be among the favourites for glory again but could be rusty after such a long period off, while his first round opponent in Jack Lisowski could cause him many problems.

O’Sullivan, to the delight of the Shanghai ticket holders I’m sure, has decided to contest the tournament for the first time since 2011, when he lost to Anthony Hamilton in the second round.

The five-time world champion has one of the most difficult last 32 ties, though, as he faces the challenge of veteran Alan McManus.

The Scot has continued the magnificent form that saw him reach the quarter-finals of the World Championship and has won 13 of his 17 matches so far during this campaign.

Indeed, McManus has only lost against high-quality opponents Barry Hawkins, Judd Trump and Mark Allen, and twice lost to a player who has gone on to win the event.

World champion Mark Selby will face the winner of the wildcard round, of which there are eight matches once again, between Ireland’s Ken Doherty and local amateur Huang Jiahao while Doherty’s fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien has qualified through to play Robert Milkins.

Elsewhere, Stephen Maguire, presumably full of confidence following his success in the Six Red World Championship yesterday, will hope that he can translate his good form into the more traditional format when he plays Jimmy Robertson.

An entertaining week in store anyway and, with the evening stretch subsiding as we get into September, we can really sense the 2014/15 campaign beginning to gather momentum.

The full draw for the Shanghai Masters can be viewed by clicking here.

Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.