Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Shanghai-lights so far...

The Shanghai Masters is already in full flow.

We're down to the last 16 of the tournament and we've already learnt plenty.

It's time for OnCue to share a few thoughts...

Coping with the best

Jamie Cope is continuing to be a bit of a surprise package this season. While there is no doubting his considerable talent, inconsistency has always plagued him. But has he turned a corner? So far this campaign he's managed to qualify for three of the four venues and he enjoyed his best result of all this week with a 5-1 defeat of defending champion and world number one Mark Selby. He reversed what everyone predicted in this match by nicking the tight frames. He showed great guts under pressure to capitalise on Selby's jet lag and has got people talking about a surge back into the top 16.

The Ding is dead, long live the King

I can't help but feel massively sorry for Ding Junhui as his struggles on home soil continued. No-one is taught to take the expectation of an entire nation on their shoulders, yet this is the demand placed upon Ding. From 3-0 up against Mark King, he ended up losing 5-4 as the pressure told again. He's now lost in the first round of four of the last five full ranking events held in China. There must be a way of using his huge home support to his advantage but as of yet he is void of answers. From the matches I've seen it looks as if he plays rash shots trying to force the win.This is a sure sign that the pressure gets on top of him.

Judd plays Trump card

Judd Trump gets plenty of criticism, but credit where credit is due. He recovered from 3-0 down against the winner of the last full ranking event, Barry Hawkins, to win 5-3. This excellent fightback highlights one of Judd's greatest qualities that is essential to be a top player. He knows exactly when to turn it on. When he looks in trouble, he has the ability to step it up a level and find that something extra to make the difference. I've seen Trump do this time and time again. Couple this fine attribute with his love of playing in front of a crowd and here's why he's always a candidate to win in China. 

Just what Maguire requires

I've always been a firm believer that coming through a decent first round test is the perfect preparation for a player hoping to go all the way to win a title. Stephen Maguire definitely hasn't made the last 16 here the easy way. He had to beat Peter Ebdon, who he lost to in the China Open final just five months ago, and that's never an easy match. He won the crucial eighth frame in no less than 75 minutes. He'll be more than ready for whatever this tournament throws at him now. 

Lee at sea

I didn't watch Stephen Lee's 5-3 win against Marcus Campbell, but I hear it was far from convincing. A few questions have been raised about the current state of his game given this performance plus back-to-back 5-1 defeats in the Premier League live on Sky. In front of the cameras he may be struggling but I saw the complete polar opposite watching him behind closed doors in Gloucester. He was happy to pick off his opponents from their mistakes and was clearing the table proficiently. Maybe when the cameras aren't rolling he's finding it easier to slip into care-free practice mode. Graeme Dott will provide stiff competition in the next round, but don't write him off yet. 

Wild, wild Welsh

It was a case of contrasting fortunes for the two Welshmen in the top 16. Mark Williams made light work of Mark Davis with a 5-1 win while Matthew Stevens lost out 5-2 to Joe Perry. Here are two vastly experienced and talented players in completely different places. Williams still looks capable of getting the job done wherever and whenever, but it looks more and more the case that Stevens needs to be someone near his best in most matches to score a victory these days. 

Close encounters

Six first round matches took a deciding frame to find a winner. This gives more evidence to the argument that the gap in quality between the top players is as minimal as its ever been. Shaun Murphy still needed to go the full distance to see off Dominic Dale 5-4 depsite racing into a 3-0 lead and Ricky Walden, winner in Wuxi, needed all nine frames to shake off veteran Steve Davis. Stuart Bingham, Ryan Day, Ali Carter and King were the other deciding-frame victors. There's no question about the depth in the game right now. 

Last 16 draw:

Jamie Cope v Stuart Bingham
Mark King v Shaun Murphy
John Higgins v Ryan Day
Ali Carter v Stephen Maguire
Mark Williams v Ricky Walden
Joe Perry v Neil Robertson
Stephen Lee v Graeme Dott
Mark Allen v Judd Trump

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