Thursday, September 20, 2012

Last 16 in Shanghai - From deciding frames to decisive victories

There's lots of places you can find the draw for the 2012 Shanghai Masters, but this isn't one of them. To make sense of what I'm yammering about in this article, please consult Wikipedia here2012 Shanghai Masters

In the first couple of days in Shanghai, the results have been good for the bookmaker's with a couple of big upsets and a surprising number of ninth-frame thrillers. We saw Stuart Bingham buckle down with a 5-4 win over Tom Ford after leading 4-2 and Dominic Dale put in a solid performance coming back from the same scoreline only to ultimately lose the decider to Shaun Murphy. Three of the wildcard matches went to deciding frames, most notably the match involving Marco Fu who was ousted from the competition by recent IBSF Under-21 world champion Lu Haotian, who is only 14 years old and potted 9 reds and blacks in the final frame. Jin Long, a former professional who was relegated from the tour, ruined Jimmy Robertson's chance to get into the main draw after battling his way through qualifiers, again 5-4. Robert Milkins just scraped through his wildcard bout against Zhou Yuelong, plus Ryan Day was pushed to the final frame before securing a victory against Martin Gould having led 3-0.

But that's not all! How about Steve Davis, trailing 4-1 to Ricky Walden but then winning three on the spin to prove he can still mix it up with some of the best at the tender age of 209. As mentioned in my previous article, Ding Junhui couldn't close out the match despite leading 3-0 and 4-3 and lost a deciding frame to Mark King. Finally, Robert Milkins would go on to lose yet another deciding frame to Ali Carter, meaning that he came to Shanghai, played 18 frames and still lost in the first round.

But after a series of close contests just to decide the last 16, the second round has proven to be a bit of a different story, with not only a handful of severe beatings to report, but several severe beatings that have gone in favour of the underdog--similar to Jamie Cope's first round slaparound that took out Mark Selby.

Cope would lose decisively to Stuart Bingham, 5-1, which is not as much of a surprise as his appearance in the second round to begin with. John Higgins, who has been repeatedly written off and appears to be "out of form" in every match he plays these days, duly whitewashed Ryan Day 5-0. He will meet Ali Carter, who somehow managed to sweep Stephen Maguire clean off the table by the same 5-0 score. This has to be demoralizing for Maguire who was quoted as saying that he underestimated his opponent after losing the Crucible semi-final to Carter back in spring. Surely he hasn't underestimated him again?

Ali Carter: Regularly underestimated.
Photo by Monique Limbos
Mark Williams had little trouble dispatching Ricky Walden 5-2 and he will meet, in the most shocking result of the tournament so far, Joe Perry, who trounced Neil Robertson 5-0! Since winning the Masters and then being outclassed by Ronnie at the Crucible, Neil Robertson hasn't quite looked the same but I expect he'll come around and win something this year. To be shut out entirely by Joe Perry is a complete surprise to me, though--it's raining locusts in Shanghai, boils are popping up all over the faces of the officiating staff, the end is nigh.

Of course, the best news of the day came when I woke up this morning to discover Graeme Dott leading Stephen Lee 2-0. A poor record of 2 wins and 9 losses against Lee for Graeme was a dark omen, but then the lead became 3-0...then 4-0 at the interval. Dott is not the type of player I would ever expect to collapse from 4-0 up in a best-of-9 and would eventually come through a 5-1 winner in yet another decisive victory. Graeme meets the winner of Mark Allen and Judd Trump, who are now throwing figurative hands in the seventh frame with Allen trailing 4-2. Either match will be a tough quarterfinal for Dott, but there aren't exactly a lot of easy matches in the last 8 of a ranking event these days and you often do have to get through Trump to win big.

Nine matches went to deciding frames in the first round, including the wildcards, while in the second round, we've seen three 5-0 victories, and two matches finish at 5-1. Judd Trump has now finished off Mark Allen 5-2 and so, the result of Shaun Murphy and Mark King is all that's left to be decided for the quarterfinalists. John Higgins will meet Ali Carter, Joe Perry plays Mark Williams, Dott is stuck with Judd and Murphy or King will play Stuart Bingham.

This weekend, the 2012 Alberta Snooker Championship, the provincial championship held in Canada gets underway and I'll be busy running the show, so that's all I've got to say on the subject of this year's Shanghai Masters.

Unless Graeme wins it of course, in which case I'll likely mention it a couple of times throughout the season.

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