MD's BLOG - CASHING IN CHINA (THE TOP 5)
Ali Carter's World Open victory a fortnight ago continues the succession of different major Chinese ranking event winners in recent times. There have been 10 different champions of the last 10 events held in the Far East - a sequence stretching back to Shaun Murphy's 2014 World Open glory.
Since the arrival of Barry Hearn in 2010, China has been a huge player on the professional calendar in terms of wanting and staging events. Hearn inherited and improved the fairly established China Open and Shanghai Masters, but he has also added other majors there in the form of the International Championship, World Open and Wuxi Classic. We also saw the introduction of the now defunct 'Asian Players Championship Tour' (minor ranking), and the World Team Cup (invitational / non-ranking) was held there last year too.
Whilst it has been suggested from some quarters that China's interest might be slightly cooling (perhaps offset with Ding Junhui's run to the Crucible Final, though?) there is still a quartet of competitions in the country scheduled for this season; each boasting a prize fund of at least £465,200. In the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 campaigns they actually hosted all five.
It is safe to say that Chinese events (all overseas events I guess) can conjure up some bemusing and unlikely results. I guess variables such as fatigue, jet lag, environmental & playing conditions can have influences on results.
Since 2010/2011 there have been 23 major ranking events in China. Considering the streak we are on at the moment, it may surprise you to know that 8 players have won multiple titles there in that time.
With the 10th Shanghai Masters coming up next month (an event that has been won by 9 different people so far!), I thought I'd go through the 'record books' and see who has performed best in China's major events during this exciting spell. I have managed to compile a countdown of the 'Top 5'.
*** I have not counted events from the Asian Tour or the World Cup ***
The honourable mentions
Mark Allen, Ricky Walden and Ali Carter have each picked up two major trophies in China during the last seven seasons, but they just miss out on the Top 5 cut.
Carter is in eighth place with £255,000, mainly courtesy of his 2010 Shanghai Masters and most recent World Open win (the first and latest Chinese majors in this Hearn administration). 'The Captain' would have likely been higher up this list had he been able to compete in the all events - mainly because of his health issues, he was absent in 6 of the 23 competitions.
Walden (£356,925) is somewhat seen as an overseas specialist; a modern day John Parrott perhaps! All 3 of his major ranking wins have come in China; the 2008 Shanghai Masters (doesn't count on our list though), 2012 Wuxi Classic and 2014 International Championship. He also reached the final of the China Open back in April.
Allen is placed 6th on the list after banking exactly £400,000. The Northern Irishman enjoyed a golden spell in the Asian country between March 2012 to October 2014. In that time he won his maiden major in the 2012 World Open, defended it in 2013, reached the Last 4 in 2014 and was runner-up in the 2014 Shanghai Masters and International Championship.
5th - JOHN HIGGINS (£413,000)
A memorable final win over Judd Trump in the 2012 Shanghai Masters and victory in the 2015 International Championship sees the Scot into the Top 5.
On the whole, Higgins has been very consistent in China. Other than those two title wins, he was also the runner-up in the 2013 Wuxi Classic and has notched up a further 2 Semi-Final and 6 Quarter-Final appearances.
4th - MARK SELBY (£423,500)
Obviously besides his World Championship victories, Selby's impressive record in China is evidence why he has been the World Number 1 for much of the last few years.
He has featured in 5 finals; 2 he won (2011 Shanghai Masters and 2015 China Open), 3 he was runner-up in (2011 China Open, 2013 China Open and 2014 World Open).
He also picked up significant pay packets by making 4 other Semi-Finals and 5 Quarter-Finals.
3rd - JUDD TRUMP (£447,000)
Judd has very fond memories of China. His first major ranking trophy, and real breakthrough on the professional scene, was his capture of the 2011 China Open as a 21 year old qualifier. He has since won that title back in April of this year.
The £125,000 he scooped for his International Championship victory in 2012 helped him on his way to becoming the World Number 1 for a short period too.
Trump did have a lean spell in the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 seasons in the country though as he failed to reach a Quarter-Final in 9 possible attempts. But either side of that, he also made the final of the Shanghai Masters in 2012 (losing to Higgins in an epic) and 2015 (losing to an inspired Kyren Wilson).
2nd - DING JUNHUI (£460,425)
Despite being 2nd on this list, the general consensus is that Ding struggles to perform in his homeland.
Looking at the stats I compiled, it does seem to be 'All or Nothing' a lot of the time for China's Number 1, but he did 'make hay while the sun shined' during his record equalling 2013/2014 campaign. In that season, he went on an extraordinary streak which included the 2013 Shanghai Masters, 2013 International Championship and 2014 China Open. Along with more modest efforts in Wuxi and the World Open, he totted up a staggering £304,500 in those five tournaments alone - nearly two thirds of his overall total!
1st - NEIL ROBERTSON (£518,925)
I must admit, for some reason, I was surprised Neil had accumulated so much prize money in China during this spell - the only player to break the half a million pound mark.
It is obviously nothing to do with me doubting his supreme ability, but perhaps I was thinking too much about how long it relatively took for him to lift his first major in China - the 2013 China Open. In fact, it was only earlier in that season he had reached his first final in the country too (2012 International Championship).
But the classy Australian's record speaks for itself. Other than that 2013 success in Beijing, he then won the next major to be staged in China with the 2013 Wuxi Classic, and retained it the following year too.
He was the beaten finalist at the 2014 China Open when trying to defend, and he has chalked up a trio of Semi-Final and Quarter-Final finishes overall as well.
I think the key to Robertson topping the table is the fact he entered ALL 23 events, and in ALL of them he has cashed. He is the only player in the 8 mentioned in this article who has that record.
2010 Shanghai Masters - Ali Carter beat Jamie Burnett
2011 China Open - Judd Trump beat Mark Selby
2011 Shanghai Masters - Mark Selby beat Mark Williams
2012 World Open - Mark Allen beat Stephen Lee
2012 China Open - Peter Ebdon beat Stephen Maguire
2012 Wuxi Classic - Ricky Walden beat Stuart Bingham
2012 Shanghai Masters - John Higgins beat Judd Trump
2012 International Championship - Judd Trump beat Neil Robertson
2013 World Open - Mark Allen beat Matthew Stevens
2013 China Open - Neil Robertson beat Mark Selby
2013 Wuxi Classic - Neil Robertson beat John Higgins
2013 Shanghai Masters - Ding Junhui beat Xiao Guodong
2013 International Championship - Ding Junhui beat Marco Fu
2014 World Open - Shaun Murphy beat Mark Selby
2014 China Open - Ding Junhui beat Neil Robertson
2014 Wuxi Classic - Neil Robertson beat Joe Perry
2014 Shanghai Masters - Stuart Bingham beat Mark Allen
2014 International Championship - Ricky Walden beat Mark Allen
2015 China Open - Mark Selby beat Gary Wilson
2015 Shanghai Masters - Kyren Wilson beat Judd Trump
2015 International Championship - John Higgins beat David Gilbert
2016 China Open - Judd Trump beat Ricky Walden
2016 World Open - Ali Carter beat Joe Perry
Written and published by Michael Day on the 14th August 2016