Day 2 at the China Open in Beijing saw the completion of the last 64 round: 20 matches were played over three sessions. It was a rather eventful day…
The first session, played in the morning in China, at ungodly hours here in Europe, saw most favourites go through: John Higgins, Barry Hawkins, Graeme Dott, Zhou Yuelong and Yan Bingtao all won with the first three in this list winning quite comfortably. Stephen Maguire however lost to the ever tenacious Fergal O’Brien and this means that he will now definitely need to win three matches next week to be at the Crucible.
The second session – afternoon in China, morning in Europe – again saw most of the favourites go through: Mark Selby, Kyren Wilson, Neil Robertson all won. Mark Selby was facing Scott Donaldson who had beaten him at the UK Championship last December in York, and Scott once again made the World Champion, and Defending Champion, work hard. This time though Mark Selby came out the winner, but, IMO, he will need to improve if he is to defend his title this week. The match was very close up to 4-4 and it could easily have been 5-5 too. The second frame of that match was quite special, watch it here:
Mark Selby gets a free ball at the start of the break, following a “foul and a miss” by Scott, takes the black as a free ball, then the black again and embarks into a 16 reds total 141 total clearance, but somehow in the middle of the break, he forgets that he started with a free ball and stops the play convinced that the marker miscounted…
Someone who didn’t win in that session and needed to if he was to avoid the qualifiers for the Crucible is Liang Wenbo, who lost by 6-5 to … Duane Jones.
The third and last session, in the evening in China, afternoon in Europe saw two big “shocks” – I hate that word because at the end of the day, all players involved are pros, they all can play and they all have off days now and again, so basically, there are no “shocks” just surprises.
Ronnie lost to Elliot Slessor… again. Elliot had already beaten him in the Northern Ireland Open. You can read all about it here . So Ronnie played terrible but made one marvellous break in the match, a 147. Amazingly, and amusingly, it’s not the first time that such a thing happens at the China Open. Indeed, in 2010, in the second round (! but it was last 16 then) Neil Robertson made a 147 … in the only frame he won against Peter Ebdon. You can watch it here:
(and it was published by one of the Snooker.org first team members!)
Shaun Murphy also lost, by 6-0 to Chris Wakelin. From what transpired on social media Shaun was in a lot of pain: his neck and shoulder injuries are far from healed. I’m sure alas that the long haul flights didn’t do him any good.
For Ronnie and Shaun, those early exits might prove a blessing in disguise, giving them more time to prepare properly for the Crucible and get there fresher than most.
And although it stayed a bit under the radar on social media, Anthony McGill also lost, to no other than the young Luo Honghua the recent winner of the inaugural WSF Mixed Gender Championship.
Of course, for players like Duane Jones, Elliot Slessor and Chris Wakelin the wins might prove crucial in the context of their survival on the pro tour.
Also a point that is, maybe, worth mentioning is that those lower players are, usually, a lot fresher that the top guys at this time of the season. Slessor and Wakelin for instance played 34 matches this season, each, in 17 tournaments. By comparison, Murphy played 71 matches in 22 tournaments, and Ronnie 59 in 14 tournaments. Also the format usually gets longer at the business end of tournaments, with finals being best of 17 or best of 19. Murphy played in 5 finals, Ronnie played in 7 winning 5.
Matt Huart as usual, keeps track of every move. So basically now, the current top 13 are safe, and only Mark King could realistically join the top 16 … by reaching the final. Other players could theoretically do it too, but they need to win the title. But the “places” in the draw could still change quite a bit especially if Stuart Bingham and/or Mark Allen go deep!