Before this tournament, we heard a lot of talk about player's trying to save their form for The Crucible, and this being a less then significant warm up event. Personally, I think this has been proven wrong. Though, I was at work, and some of the matches were spoiled by moments of madness when I looked at snooker websites on work break, forgetting I was taping a match, and saw results, I still thoroughly enjoyed this year's China Open.
Mark Williams vs Stephen Lee was an excellent match, and it has to be one of the best of 9s ever. I'd put it in one of the best matches of all time, somewhere in the top-10. If we're talking best shorter frame matches, then it is in the top one. Though the qualifier won, there was no concept of Mark trying to save best form for The Crucible whatsoever. Four centuries, and a 50 break and he still loses. Mark Williams was trying. Hard.
And what a final. Again, the top seed threw everything he could into the match, and still lost. And Judd Trump surprised me with his maturity of play. The way he played against Martin Gould a couple of weeks back suggested Trump still wasn't the complete player, and was failing to live up to the hype. Not so here. Trump looked solid in break building, safety play and keeping his head. He is develloping into an all-rounder. He was a pleasure to watch this week, even if Murphy did all but let him win. Selby played excellently, and almost beat Mark Williams mentioned earlier to the 'harshest loss of the week' category. In five years time, when a new young poster comes on this site and asks us to post match recommendations, that will be one of them. The Perfect final.
We had Ding nearly lose to a Norwegian ranked 90-odd in the world, but come through. Why, oh why wasn't that match televised? That would've been the best days televised snooker ever. Also, we got Ding vs Hendry. A match that the Chinese take to their hearts. The Legend vs The Local Hero. Though, that match didn't live up to the hype, it was good to see Ding come through, and get to the semis. It took immaculate, entertaining safety play by Selby to win that match. Ding had no answer.
Sure there is a side issue of Neil Robertson and Judd Trump in the coming week. It didn't interest me before, and it does now. And not just because Trump won, but because of the relatively unnoticed fact. Ebdon crucified Robertson. Who in turn was crucified by Trump.
I do feel though, that people reading this site might think that this whole week was only about Trump and Robertson. It wasn't. Selby played a massive part. We had at least two perfect matches, as mentioned before. Higgins vs Murphy was none too shabby. What with the lighting keep appearing on the table, the continual usage of mobile phones, the Chinese referees and the reapparance of the Chinese Lady Ref, there was plenty of off table talking points here too.
The China Open. Warm up for the big one? Not taken seriously by the top players? Needs it's own identity? Not a bit of it. We can discuss identity all we want, but there is no substitute for good snooker. And that's what we got this week. If Barry Hearn thinks that short matches, asking players to play quicker on shots, bringing in models to parade around before or after frames, or any other gimmickry is going to make snooker more exciting, he should remember one thing. This tournament needed no gimmicks, it was one of the best tournaments of the year. And yet, how many people outside the hardcore snooker faithful even knew it was on....
Worth thinking about.
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