MAJOR ranking event snooker returns with a bang tomorrow (Monday) when the Shanghai Masters kicks off with Ronnie O’Sullivan playing his first significant match since suffering Crucible heartbreak four months ago.
The five-times world champion, who was denied a sixth world title when defeated by Mark Selby in this year’s World Championship final, takes on Scotland’s Alan McManus in the opening round.
O’Sullivan’s announcement earlier this summer stating his desire to play in the Shanghai Masters for the first time since 2011 certainly indicates an aim to put his first World Championship final defeat quickly behind him moving into the new season.
It will be interesting to see which O’Sullivan shows up. As we’ve seen previously he could rise to the occasion and make a strong signal of intent as the snooker calendar returns to full swing with many events between now and the end of 2014.
But given the fact he has only played the Paul Hunter Classic event so far this season – fans could expect to see some rustiness on the baize. One man certainly hoping for that will be McManus – who enters the tournament having had a great year after reaching the quarter-finals of the World Championship and the World Open.
And the Scot, a previous Masters winner of course, has followed his good form into the new season reaching at least the last 16 from all the events he has played so far.
With contrasting styles and the differences in form the first round tie certainly has all the makings of a classic.
Defending champion Ding Junhui will make his first appearance since suffering a shock defeat in the Wuxi Classic qualifiers earlier this summer when he takes on Jack Lisowski in the first round.
China’s number one star won this event for the first time last year in a memorable and historic final beating fellow countryman Xiao Guodong – securing one of five ranking titles in an unforgettable season.
Neil Robertson and Judd Trump will be targeting more silverware success after winning the Wuxi Classic and Australian Open titles respectively. The Australian will no doubt be eager to return to the top of the world rankings over the course of the coming days.
One of the sport’s most established events – the Shanghai Masters really sees the season take off. We fascinatingly wait to see what direction Rocket O’Sullivan amongst others will be heading.
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Shanghai Masters First Round Draw
Ding JUNHUI vs Jack Lisowski
Joe PERRY vs Martin GOULD
Graeme DOTT vs Liang WENBO/Yan BINGTAO
Shaun MURPHY vs Joe SWAIL
Judd TRUMP vs Dominic DALE
Stuart BINGHAM vs Li HANG/Chen ZIFAN
Stephen MAGUIRE vs Jimmy ROBERTSON
Ronnie O’SULLIVAN vs Alan McMANUS
Neil ROBERTSON vs Michael WHITE/Niu ZHUANG
John HIGGINS vs Ryan DAY/Xu SI
Mark ALLEN vs Andrew HIGGINSON
Barry HAWKINS vs Mark WILLIAMS/Zhang YONG
Marco FU vs Matthew SELT/Zhao XINTONG
Robert MILKINS vs Fergal O’BRIEN
Ricky WALDEN vs Michael HOLT/Yuan SIJUN
Mark SELBY vs Ken DOHERTY/Huang JIAHAO