I was in Shanghai for the first ranking event staged there, the 1999 China International.
It’s a fascinating place mixing western commercialism with glimpses of the old China.
A colleague and myself once took a trip around the city, taking in various sites of cultural interest. We went to the top of what was, at the time, the tallest hotel in the world. We called into the hotel where Noel Coward wrote Private Lives. We went to the KFC.
The Roewe Shanghai Masters is a classy tournament, promoted and supported with great energy by the Chinese.
It has proved a difficult tournament to call in terms of who is going to win. I remember Neal Foulds suggesting Dominic Dale could win the 2007 title as it was the first of the season and he could be guaranteed to have been practising.
I smiled politely at Neal and didn’t give it much more of a thought until Dale ended up beating Ryan Day 10-6 in the final.
A year later, Ricky Walden knocked down a succession of big names – Stephen Hendry, Neil Robertson, Steve Davis, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan – to capture his first ranking title.
Many punters are wary of supporting O’Sullivan in China but, as ever confounding expectations, he produced the goods last year and beat Liang Wenbo 10-5 to win his only title of the season.
What is different in 2010 is the fact there has already been so much competitive snooker played. Some have played more than others and will feel sharp and raring to go.
Ding Junhui has played only once since the Wuxi Classic in June and looked badly out of sorts against Shaun Murphy in the Premier League last week.
Robertson has so far failed to make much progress in the Players Tour Championship but, on the other side of that coin, Selby has already won a PTC title and the Six Reds World Championship in Thailand.
The PTC has got everyone playing but it is televised ranking events that really get the juices flowing and, with the added pressure of crowds, ranking points and financial reward, will, as ever, sort the men out from the boys.