You could make a reasonable case for any of the eight China Open quarter-finalists to win the title.
John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and Peter Ebdon are all world champions. Ding Junhui is a former winner while Stephen Lee, Mark Selby and Ali Carter have won ranking titles. Judd Trump is a fearsome talent and regarded as a dangerman by his fellow pros.
But the man to beat remains Higgins, as he has done since returning to the circuit last November.
His application and sense of purpose seems unshakeable and, allied to the best all round game of the era, it makes the Scot near unbeatable when he’s playing at his best.
I think John would admit that in recent years he wasn’t that bothered by the Chinese events. In fact, he only really got motivated by the bona fide majors.
The possibility of losing his playing rights has focused the mind, though. He now treats every frame of every match of every round of every tournament the same.
Murphy has come from behind twice in successive rounds to take his quarter-final place but doesn’t yet seem to be scoring as heavily as he needs to. However, he relishes the big occasion and the chance to put an end to Higgins’s great run may well inspire him.
Ebdon expertly undid Neil Robertson yesterday and will surely fancy doing the same to Trump.
Trump is often criticised for going for everything but he needs to play his natural game against Ebdon, rather than getting sucked into playing in a manner he doesn’t like and will come off second best in.
Lee has had a great week already and, to use the hoary old commentary cliché, his ‘Rolls Royce’ cue action has got him motoring towards his first major title in five years.
Ding – who turns 24 today – wasn’t at his best against Stephen Hendry but didn’t need to be. The seven times world champion, after a bright start against Matthew Stevens, reverted to more recent type and found it hard to take advantage of what chances came his way.
Selby v Carter is a repeat of the Shanghai Masters semi-final from earlier in the campaign. Carter is aiming to become the first player to do the Chinese double in the same season and if his match with Selby isn’t close I’d be surprised.