The eyes of the snooker community are once again trained on Beijing this week as the the city plays host to the fifth and final ranking event to take place in China this season,the China Open.
The proximity of this tournament to the world championship has always sparked debate as to it's importance,but maybe now,with so much snooker been played over a long season it provides much needed clues as to who still has something left in the tank ahead of the 17 day Crucible marathon.
If this is indeed the case it will be hard to see Judd Trump or John Higgins lifting the famous trophy on the first Monday in May after both exited here in the first round for the second successive tournament.The two month period earlier in the season,where it looked as though both these men were set to dominate now seem a long way time ago,as apart from a few flashes of form both have largely struggled since.
Here Higgins again lost a close match this time to Robert Milkins by a scoreline of 5-4.Higgins has lost a few matches like this of late and a this stage of his career every close match he loses must hurt that little bit more.
Trump for his part,still has a long career ahead of him but also will need to up his game a bit if this season is't to end in a whimper for the young man.Here he went out in a high quality and highly entertaining match against his former housemate and fellow young gun jack Lisowski.As happy as I'm sure Lisowski had been in the last couple of years to see his great friend having such success,there must surly be a part of him wishing it was him.he showed here that he certainly has the talent to compete at the very top level and maybe he is just one good run in a tournament away from convincing himself of that fact as well.
It has seemed,after his impressive display in Galway last week,that Ding Junhui might finally be playing well enough to put his poor home record behind him but once again he failed to negotiate the early rounds.losing here 5-3 to Barry Hawkins despite launching a spirited fightback from 4-0 down.
Also exiting in this round was defending champion Peter Ebdon who despite reverting to his old cue failed to rekindle the form that saw him lift the trophy here last year. he went down here 5-3 to Marcus Campbell.
Someone who has begun to show some form here after seemingly going off the boil following his mid season successes in the UK and The Masters is Mark Selby.His match today will be remembered for the missed final black when attempting a 147 but he really did play well and will be a force for anyone to contend with this week.He also has the added incentive of a possible return to the no.1 ranking following Trumps exit.
Also impressive was Neil Robertson who whitewashed namesake Jimmy 5-0.He will now play Mark Allen in the last 16 in the standout tie of the round.
Other still involved are Bingham,Maguire,Carter,and Mark Williams so this one is shaping up to be an interesting week.I will blog in more detail tomorrow when the last 16 has sorted itself out.