Preview: Shanghai Masters

The Champion of Champions is still ongoing in Coventry but all attention will imminently turn to the Shanghai Masters, which gets under way on Monday in China.

Ding Junhui 2015 WC
Ding beat Selby 10-6 in last year’s final to become the first man to win the event twice. Photo credit: Monique Limbos

The Shanghai Masters has been a staple of the calendar for a decade, although its future was in doubt when the World Open took its regular September slot earlier this season.

With it being well-known that the former Shanghai Masters contract was to expire after the 2016 edition, it seems perplexing that it took until just a couple of months ago to properly secure another date for this popular tournament.

And what a date too!

Sandwiched in between an event in England and another in Northern Ireland, it’s fair to say that the general timetable of snooker events at present is a complete and utter mess.

This has been a long-term problem in the sport ever since an effort to become more global – one that is proving successful overall it’s worth admitting – gathered momentum.

Year after year, international events are taken from one month and placed into another, while newer competitions are mixed in without there ever really seeming like there’s any obvious plan in place to efficiently maximise the period spent in each location.

Taking the current stretch of events as a prime example, since the English Open in the middle of October we’ve flown from Barnsley to Daqing, back to Coventry, returning to Shanghai, before next week finally settling down in Belfast – all in the space of just five weeks.

It’s undoubtedly terrific to have all of these events creating a busy campaign with so much prize money on offer, but surely at this stage more can be done to try and ensure that there are better divisions constructed between the tournaments in Asia and those in Europe.

Even if the revolving door act can’t be manoeuvred in the short term, at least give more time than a couple of hours in between events on opposite sides of the world.

Ronnie O’Sullivan plays in the final of the Champion of Champions on Sunday evening at the Ricoh Arena while the Shanghai Masters begins just after midnight at 1:30am GMT in the early hours of Monday.

The “Rocket” has been pencilled in to play his first round match against Gary Wilson on Tuesday, though – how kind.

Luca Brecel, who is currently playing in the second semi-final, is in the same boat but his opponent Shaun Murphy failed to qualify from the preliminary round last month.

Aside from this, it’s still a relief that the Shanghai Masters has been saved and that it didn’t completely die out after its September demise – a date it held on the calendar since its second edition in 2008.

In the past, Shanghai has probably proven to be the best Chinese ranking event, with better crowds usually in attendance compared to the other Chinese tournaments.

That said, the format has changed this year to move in line with the majority of the other ranking events that have every player entering at the same opening hurdle.

The Shanghai Masters had previously been the only competition other than the World Championship to still utilise the old tiered seeded system, but with this new contract comes an increased prize fund and a venue that will have to accommodate 64 cueists, as opposed to just 32.

Then, while the top prize on offer has risen from the £85,000 that Ding Junhui pocketed for triumphing against Mark Selby last year to a whopping £150,000, it comes at a price as the action will be squeezed into a hectic schedule that runs until Saturday.

Reigning champ Ding is one of a number of players, including Mark Selby, John Higgins, and Liang Wenbo, who have had their last 128 qualifying encounters held over to the main venue. (Edit: Ding has since withdrawn from the tournament.)

The tie of the first round itself is arguably Mark Allen’s clash with Yan Bingtao, two men in form having each reached the business end in Daqing a mere week ago.

Elsewhere, Brecel will meet former UK and Masters champion Matthew Stevens, Judd Trump plays Alfie Burden, and Mark Williams entertains Wang Yuchen.

Live coverage of the Shanghai Masters will be on Eurosport and Quest TV throughout the week.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)

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  1. Shanghai Grand Stage and Shanghai Indoor Stadium are just the same venue…

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