Let’s start by nailing one snooker myth: that Ronnie O’Sullivan can’t be bothered in China.
He’s actually won three ranking tournaments there, which is more than anyone else.
However, it’s worth pointing out that the two China Opens he won were played in December, not a couple of weeks before the Crucible.
Ronnie could be forgiven for saving his best for the Betfred.com World Championship. The thing is, though, that he doesn’t have to play his best to win the tournament.
At the Shanghai Masters last September O’Sullivan was not at his awesome peak but still came home with the trophy. How much this pleased him I don’t know but his fans were happy and he has several million of them in China who will cheer for him even though he’s playing one of their own today.
Tian Pengfei was the best wildcard and duly came through at the expense of Mark Davis. I’d be amazed if he beat O’Sullivan but he can hopefully contribute to what should be a match played in a great atmosphere.
Yesterday, all eight top 16 ranked players who played first round matches were successful.
Can this hit rate continue? If it did it would surely be the first time ever (unless an anorak out there knows different).
Stephen Hendry will certainly hope so when he faces Andrew Higginson in the day’s first TV match.
Hendry won the first ranking event staged in China 20 years ago. He’s not lost a first round match in a ranking event this season and, though Higginson is a very solid campaigner, I’d expect that pattern to continue today.
Peter Ebdon was a surprise winner in Beijing last year based on his poor form leading up to the event. Judd Trump is a dangerous opponent but if he plays his normal go-for-everything game they’d better go in, because Ebdon played very well in the Championship League and will take advantage if he’s left in.
Shaun Murphy and Mark Selby will play their first matches for two months against Nigel Bond and Rod Lawler respectively.
All things being equal Murphy and Selby would be big favourites to progress but sluggishness as a result of the enforced lay off may mean that an upset or two is not impossible.