THE PROBLEM WITH asking why there have been so many shocks at the Shanghai Masters is that most of them aren’t really shocks at all, at least not of the variety that register high on snooker’s Richter scale.

Six of the eight seeded players to have played in the last 32 have lost but they all lost to very good players, all of whom possess bags of experience.

Yes, Judd Trump was favourite to beat Dominic Dale but Dale has just had a good week’s snooker at the Six Reds event in Thailand, where he reached the semi-finals. He had never beaten Trump from five previous meetings and arrived in Shanghai only to discover the weight in his cue had come loose. Dale therefore had to switch to another cue. Not ideal preparation, then, but a peculiar psychology pervades in snooker and, in a strange way, it gave him something to think about other than the fact he was playing one of this season’s star men so far, or their personal head-to-head.

Trump was terse in his post-match press conference. He isn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last player to exhibit such disappointment in defeat. It’s a long way home when you’ve lost in the first round.

Dale (42) is one of three 40-somethings already through to the last 16. Alan McManus (43) got there yesterday and Fergal O’Brien (42) defeated Robert Milkins 5-1 to do so today.

Mark Williams, who turns 40 next March, edged Barry Hawkins 5-4 earlier. Again, though Hawkins started favourite this was not a huge upset. Williams is one of the game’s all-time greats with a particularly good record in Asia, where he has won six ranking titles, including three in China.

Mark Williams: beat Barry Hawkins in decider

Mark Williams: beat Barry Hawkins in decider

John Higgins was beaten by Ryan Day, another vastly experienced campaigner, while Ricky Walden, like Higgins a former Shanghai champion, went down 5-2 to Michael Holt, who reached the semi-finals of the tournament 12 months ago.

So the players sending the seeds tumbling are not new kids on the baize but established and dangerous campaigners with fine career records and reputations.

Jack Lisowski is at the other end of the spectrum: a young player, much admired, with clear potential but he failed to put Ding Junhui under enough pressure and the defending champion won 5-1.

It wasn’t the best standard to the interval but this 15 minute break gave Ding chance to get his head together and refocus, and he played much better in the last two frames. Defeat for him would have been a shock but, as other top 16 players headed for the airport, he moves serenely into the last 16.

Wednesday sees two other big hitters enter the fray as Neil Robertson plays Michael White and Mark Selby tackles Ken Doherty.


Photographs by Monique Limbos.