The second day in Shanghai saw the first round conclusion in the morning, and half of the last 16 played in the afternoon and evening.
Stuart Bingham miserable start of the season continues as he was beaten by Liang Wenbo in the first round, despite scoring more heavily than his opponent. Watching Liang Wenbo dominating the close scrappy frames was unexpected. But that’s what he did. I have the feeling that his game has matured. It’s obvious that he prepared himself well for this event.
David Gilbert whitewashed Cao Jin, a wildcard. Going by the frames scores, the first frames were close(ish), but as the match unfolded Gilbert became increasingly dominant.
In the afternoon, Shaun Murphy confirmed his return to form by beating Mark Williams, by 6-5. Both players scored heavily, they had ten 50+ breaks between them – five each – including two centuries by Shaun. Shaun currently holds the tournament high break – 136 – an honour he had to share with Ronnie who equalled it in the evening. Shaun clearly has made a few technical changes, his bridge is shorter than it used to be. He’s also better in tactical play. He credited Fergal O’Brien for the latter: now that Shaun lives in Ireland, they practice together and he finds himself in tricky situations every day…
Jack Lisowski beat Mark Selby quite comfortably. It seems to me that Jack was taking a bit more time on the shots as compared to previous seasons. Jack was very happy with the win, but also said that he had luck on his side. I doubt that luck alone explains a three frames difference in the scores. What is happening to Mark Selby since the summer of 2017 is hard to explain really.
Finally Kyren Wilson eventually beat Xiao Guodong in a slow going match. Frame 6 was a kind of turning point in the match. Xiao looked the better player and Kyren’s body language was uneasy and “defensive”. Then Xiao lost frame 6, when he should have won it really, and Kyren, all of a sudden, became a lot more positive and assured.
Ronnie O’Sullivan got his season up and running with a 6-0 whitewash of amateur Zhang Yi at the Shanghai Masters.
The Rocket hasn’t lost in Shanghai for over three years after winning the title in 2017 and 2018. O’Sullivan pocketed £200,000 for his victory last year, when the event transitioned to the 24-player format which saw it become the most lucrative invitation event in snooker.
There were few signs of ring rust this evening as the five-time World Champion powered to victory with a top score of 136.
O’Sullivan recently lost his world number one spot to current Crucible king Judd Trump. However, he feels his longevity sets him apart from his rivals down the years.
O’Sullivan said: “I’ve been at the top of the game for 26 years. For the last nine or ten years I have been the leading player every season along with other players. Selby in the past, last year it was Trump. Other years it has been Higgins and Williams.
“My longevity has been pretty good. I wouldn’t say I am the best in all departments, but I am efficient in most. There are a lot of tournaments up for grabs this year, but also a lot of great players. It should be an exciting season.”
He will face Kyren Wilson in the last eight after the Kettering potter saw off the challenge of Xiao Guodong 6-4.
Wilson and O’Sullivan met in last year’s semi-finals, when O’Sullivan came out on top 9-6. They also faced off in the Champion of Champions final, where O’Sullivan again edged a thrilling match by a 10-9 scoreline.
Shaun Murphy continued his rich vein of form with a thrilling 6-5 win over 22-time ranking event winner Mark Williams.
The Magician had looked like he may not qualify for this event off the back of a poor 2018/19 campaign. However, he looked to be back to his best at his most recent outing at the International Championship, where he reached the final before losing out against Judd Trump.
Murphy had taken control of this encounter when century runs of 136 and 123 put him 3-1 up at the mid-session. However, three-time Crucible king Williams surged back into contention after the break.
The Welshman took four of the next five frames to lead 5-4 and had looked to be in for the win, before breaking down on 56. Murphy stepped up and fired in a sensational clearance of 70 to force a decider, which he won to clinch a quarter-final clash with Jack Lisowski who beat Mark Selby 6-3.
Murphy said: “I certainly had a lot of opportunities to learn from my mistakes last season. I must credit Fergal O’Brien. I have been practising with him since moving to Dublin and he has me in those sort of situations all of the time. The tactical frames towards the end were ones I perhaps couldn’t have won before moving to Ireland.”
Liang Wenbo overcame Stuart Bingham 6-4 in the opening session of the day. While on the other table David Gilbert beat Cao Jin in a 6-0 whitewash.