GRAEME Dott broke off from a heated debate on independence on Wednesday to set up a clash of former world champions against Shaun Murphy at the Shanghai Masters.

The 37-year-old Scot saw off Chinese wildcard Yan Bingtao 5-2 at the Grand Stage and will now take on England’s Murphy today [Thur] for a place in the quarter-finals.

But Rangers fan Dott’s time in China so far has been split between practice and arguing with John Higgins, Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus over Scotland’s future.

However world No16 Dott has not lost sight of the fact that several big guns, including Ronnie O’Sullivan, Judd Trump, Barry Hawkins and Higgins, are already out.

And keen to try and secure a berth for the Masters in January, reserved for the top 16 only, the Larkhall pro wants to take full advantage.

Dott said: “There was a discussion on the plane, especially with John. I think we agreed to disagree, but there have been plenty more discussions since we have been here.

“And rightly so, it’s a really big decision. It’s incredible how big it is. But I think the majority is yes from the people I speak to – apart from me. They seem to have timed the horse race perfectly.

“Personally I think it’s too risky, I don’t think they have answered enough of the questions I wanted to hear answered about how much it all costs, now we need to pay for it all.

“But Shaun will be a hard match, you are never going to beat him if you don’t play well so I’ll need to play as well as I did today or better.

“Yan is one of the better Chinese wildcard kids, so I am pleased to be through and played pretty well, with frame-winning breaks in one visit.

“Looking ahead this season you will have to play three matches to get to the World Championship if you are not in the top 16.

“So that is a big motivation for people in my situation in the rankings and my main goal – as is trying to make sure I am at the Masters in January.”

Maguire joined Dott in the last 16 – and will play fellow Scot McManus for a place in the last eight.

And the five-time ranking event winner was very unhappy with the condition of the tables despite a 5-1 win over Jimmy Robertson.

Maguire, 33, said: “Everything was wrong with them, and I can say it because at least I won. The table was running off, you’re getting kicks on every shot, the cushions are uncontrollable. It is impossible to play well.

“And I know I am playing well, I am cueing well and was really looking forward to this. It is a massive tournament, so it is heart-breaking.

“I am not surprised so many of the big names have lost already. It is just a leveller and in a 50-50 match anything can happen.

“But I know how some of them feel, they have travelled 6,000 miles to get here and are going home probably through no fault of their own.

“Kicks are difficult, no one really knows how to eliminate them altogether but if a table is rolling off that is not right. It means you hit everything hard, even if it isn’t the right shot.

“As for the independence thing I’ve mostly let them get on with it but I am a ‘Yes’ for sure. And if it wasn’t for Alex Salmond it would be a landslide, a lot of Scots don’t like him.”


Photograph by Monique Limbos