MAJOR ranking event snooker returns to the calendar as the world’s top stars bid to be crowned Shanghai Masters champion.
The event is one of World Snooker’s most established outside the UK since launching in 2007 and with all but one of the world’s top 16 in action there is a sense the new season comes to life over the coming seven days.
There will be no Ronnie O’Sullivan in Shanghai but there should be plenty excitement as some of the world’s best will want to make a signal of intent
Defending champion John Higgins, who dramatically came back from 7-2 down to defeat Judd Trump in last year’s final, begins his defence on the opening day against Mike Dunn – a player who appears to have rediscovered some form after a difficult 2012/13 season.
Should Higgins win his opening clash he will then play recent Six Reds world champion Mark Davis, who beat the Scot in the World Championship this year, or Ali Carter who is playing his first major tournament since being treated for testicular cancer.
The opening day also sees six of the eight wildcard matches take place with the likes of Ryan Day, Cao Yupeng, Xiao Guodong, Mark King and Martin Gould hoping to avoid potential upsets and seal a place in the first round. The other first round clash on the opening day sees Shaun Murphy, bidding to win his first major ranking title since 2008, take on China’s Yu De Lu.
Marco Fu, who has enjoyed an impressive start of the season winning the Goldfields Australian Open and cemented himself back into World Snooker’s elite, will hope to keep up his good form – he meets the winner of the wildcard match between Cao Yupeng and Zhou Yuelong in round one.
As with every competition in China there will be much excitement when the nation’s biggest star Ding Junhui takes to the baize. The world number 12 will hope to better his first round exit last year with a good run and is on the same side of the draw as world number one Neil Robertson.
This year’s Shanghai Masters will certainly be one to remember for the likes of Kyren Wilson and David Grace who make their major ranking event debuts after winning all four of their qualifying matches last month. Their rewards are first round encounters with Stuart Bingham and world championship runner-up Barry Hawkins respectively.
Wilson spoke to The Old Green Baize earlier this month about his Shanghai challenge – read it here.
Matches up to and including the quarter-finals will be best of out of nine frames with the semi-final being a race to six. Sunday’s grand final will be the best out of 19 frames.
If the tournament continues where it left out last year with one of the best finals in recent history – then an exciting week awaits.
Shanghai Masters 2013 – First Round Draw
John HIGGINS vs Mike DUNN
Mark DAVIS vs Ali CARTER
Matthew STEVENS vs Peter LINES
Stephen MAGUIRE vs Xiao GUODONG/Yuan SIJUN
Stuart BINGHAM vs Kyren WILSON
Marco FU vs Cao YUPENG/Zhou YUELONG
Ricky WALDEN vs Martin GOULD/Zhao XINTONG
Judd TRUMP vs Michael HOLT
Mark SELBY vs Andrew HIGGINSON/Lin SHUAI
Robert MILKINS vs Mark JOYCE
Mark ALLEN vs Ryan DAY/Lu NING
Barry HAWKINS vs David GRACE
Shaun MURPHY vs Yu DE LU
Ding JUNHUI vs David GILBERT/Fang XIONGMAN
Graeme DOTT vs Mark KING/Zhu YINGHUI
Neil ROBERTSON vs Joe PERRY/Wang YUCHEN