The China Open last 128 qualifying round was played in Barnsley over the last four days. Ronnie has entered the event, but, just like Mark Selby, Ding Junhui and Liang Wenbo, he has his first round match held over to the venue early April.
As you can see most of the highest ranked players won their match. There were two notable exceptions though: indeed Ryan Day and Judd Trump failed to qualify. I didn’t watch those two matches so it’s hard to know exactly what happened. Day was facing the young Lyu Haotian who is extremely talented and very dangerous on his day. I saw Lyu playing in China in 2012 – he was only 14 – and he was impressive. His first experience as a pro was a disaster: clearly he was too young and didn’t have the right people around him maybe. But now, with the Vic Snooker Academy to support him, he’s starting to live to his potential. So Day’s defeat is only half a surprise. But Judd Trump going out to Jak Jones? Ok, Jak of course can play, he wouldn’t be a pro otherwise, he’s a very decent break-builder. And, yes, the match should have been on the streamed table, but wasn’t eventually because the previous match over-ran badly. Still… This is very worrying for Judd and his fans.
Other players, I would have expected to qualify, and didn’t, are Robert Milkins, Matthew Selt and Li Hang.
Anthony Hamilton looked all at sea and was playing really badly in his match against David John, but dug deep and somehow found a way to win 6-5 from 5-1 down. It only took him six hours… he’s the one responsible for shifting Judd Trump to table 4. We have to hope for Anthony that he will find a better form when he’s starting his German Masters defence this afternoon in Berlin! But as it was, it was fascinating to watch.
In general nobody played well in any of the matches I watched. The likes of Mark Allen, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy were well below their usual level. Maybe the conditions weren’t great, I’m not sure, although I’m 100% sure that the fitters work very hard and try their best, but, they only have two hands and 24 hours in their days. What I’m certain though is that playing in those qualifiers is utterly uninspiring for the top players. Neil Robertson compared this venue to a morgue earlier this season and urged Hearn to make access free for the public. It is now free but it didn’t change much to the fact that the venue looked almost empty for most sessions. I’ll say this again: if the flat draw with 128 is the way forward, then it should be played, in one go, at the venue and there should be no qualifiers.