2014 Shanghai Masters Preview
Ding Junhui will be hoping for home comforts once again at the Shanghai Masters as he aims to win the title for the second successive year.
The 27-year-old is amongst the front-runners in the betting market to retain his title this year and if you want to get behind the World no.3, William Hill match any bet up to £50 with a free bet.
The Star of the East defeated Xiao Guodong 10-6 in the first-ever all Chinese ranking-event final but he remains behind Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby in the betting market.
Junhui enjoyed an incredible 2013-14 season, however, equalling Stephen Hendry’s 24 year record of winning five major ranking events in a single season.
The Chinese sensation began the run with victory in the Shanghai Masters last September before lifting the inaugural Indian Open, thrashing Aditta Mehta 5-0.
He then defeated Marco Fu in the International Championship, winning the final two sets as he edged his international compatriot 10-9.
And the inform Chinese star added the German and China Open titles to his trophy cabinet with a victories over Judd Trump (9-5) and Neil Robertson (10-5), respectively.
Ronnie O’Sullivan finally brought his dominance to an end, however, with an emphatic 9-3 victory over the World no.3 in the Welsh Open final.
Ding’s season then ended in further disappointment as he crashed out of the World Championship’s in the first round, 10-9, at the hands of World no.75 Mark Wasley.
If he can rediscover his best form of last year though there is no doubt he will be a contender in Shanghai.
O’Sullivan, meanwhile, lifted the title in 2009 while Mark Selby won the competition in 2011 and both are expected to do well again this year should they compete.
The Rocket was beaten 14-18 by Selby in the final of the World Championship’s in May and but lifted his 26th ranking title of his career with victory of Junhui in the Welsh Open.
The 38-year-old has missed the last two Shanghai Masters’, however, and could only reach the second of the tournament during the 2011/12 season.
Always a volatile and unpredictable character Ronnie may opt to miss the competition again this year, leaving the door open for Selby and others.
The reigning World Champion has competed in every year of the event since its inception in 2007, winning the competition in 2009 and reaching the semi-final on three more occasions.
Barry Hawkins defeated the 31-year-old in the last eight of the competition last year, however, triumphing 5-4.
The World No.1 has enjoyed a winning start to the 2014/15 season thought lifting the Riga Open in Latvia with a 4-3 victory over Mark Allen in the final.
Australia’s Neil Robertson has also enjoyed a winning start to the new season, lifting the 2014 Wuxi Classic in June with a 10-9 victory over close friend Joe Perry.
The 32-year-old is another Shanghai Masters’ regular although he has never gone further than the last-four.
Judd Trump reached the 2012 final, meanwhile, and after reaching just one Ranking tournament final last year the 25-year-old will be keen to improve on that record this year.
The Juddernaut has already lifted the Australian Goldfields Open this year when he defeated Robertson 9-5, and he too will arrive in China in good form.
With everyone looking to get their 2014/15 season up and running it promises to be a thrilling event in China.