This is the poster, or maybe it’s the banner. Nevermind, Two out of three of those players failed to qualify, Jimmy Robertson, the defending Champion and Judd Trump, the World Champion and World n°1.
It’s a 32 men event, and the fitters are already at work for a couple of days.
Actually it’s a 31 men event now, as Yan Bingtao withdrew because of a back injury, giving Jackson Page a pass to the last 16.
So this is the draw:
The first quarter
The most interesting match IMO in this quarter is Tian v Carter. Tian is a very dangerous player, very solid, and Carter may be a bit tired from his exploits last week. Also, although European audiences are usually quite good and supportive of all players, this may feel to Carter as a “come down” after the splendor of Ally Pally. It will be interesting to see how he reacts.
I expect Ding Junhui or Kyren Wilson to emerge from this quarter.
The second quarter
This one is “loaded” with John Higgins, Thepchaiya Un-nooh and Neil Robertson all in there, plus liang Wenbo who can never been dismissed if he finds some form.
John Higgins faces Fergal O’Brien and it’s the kind of opponent who could give him problems if John doesn’t find his best potting. Fergal is schrewd and infinitely patient. He won’t be bothered if things get awkward, quite the opposite. He will not try to force the issue, if the table gets messed up. He will play safe – skilfully – a thousand times if needed. And he will take his time. This might be one for the purists.
For me Neil Robertson should be the one “winning” this quarter, but only if he plays better than he did last week. How he lost to Maguire from 4-0 and 5-1 up is still puzzling me. Graeme Dott could be a dark horse in this quarter.
The third quarter
With Yan Bingtao not playing and both Mark Williams and Barry Hawkins looking low on form and motivation, Mark Selby has to be the hot red favourite to win this quarter. But maybe it’s a golden opportunity for one of the young ones? Zhou Yuelong, Jackson Page? Will they step up to the plate?
The fourth quarter
This is a quarter of two halves. From the first half of it, I fancy Lu Ning to get to the QF stages. The second half is packed: Gary Wilson, Luca Brecel, MIchael White and Zhao Xintong. All hugely talended but all with something to prove. I can’t choose a winner amongst those four. Whoever it is, he should get to the semi finals … “should”, because it would be a mistake to dismiss Lu Ning. His game may not be as “brilliant” as others’ , but he’s a tremendous fighter.
Now… as usual … I’ve probably jinxed a few players. Sorry guys.