IN THE AESOP fable of the tortoise and the hare, the tortoise was victorious. Albeit, they weren’t playing snooker but Peter Ebdon may take heart from this old tale as he prepares to play Judd Trump for a last 16 place at the China Open in Beijing on Wednesday.
They have played each other three times before in this tournament. Trump won in 2011 – and went on to land the title – but Ebdon was successful in 2010 and again last year.
Ebdon always seems to come good in this event, winning it in 2009 and 2012. He is into Reiki now so maybe there’s something in his chakras – whatever they are – but a clash of styles beckons for his meeting with Trump.
Judd has been racking up the money this last week, the obvious highlight being his triumph at the World Grand Prix in Llandudno. In defeating Andrew Higginson in the last 64 on Tuesday he took his century tally for the season up to 71 and, in a little milestone, equalled at the age of 25 Steve Davis’s career total of 338.
Trump continues to score heavily and continues to demonstrate a positive attitude. He has been determined this season to play as much snooker as he can and, in doing so, has played himself back into title-contending form.
Ebdon presents a significant challenge because of the slower pace at which he plays and also because he is one of the hardest players to predict in terms of shot choice. What he doesn’t lack is bottle. He goes for some audacious shots at times under pressure and frequently gets them.
His longevity is down to this approach and also his fitness, which he has maintained over almost a quarter of a century as a professional. There’s no one he hasn’t beaten or fears. Trump starts favourite but by no means a certainty.
Mark Selby rather laboured to his 5-3 defeat of Mark Joyce, racing 3-0 in front and then getting involved in a bit of a struggle.
But Selby will be expected to progress further when he faces Elliot Slessor, a second season professional from the north east of England who achieved his best run in a ranking event by beating Matt Selt 5-3, having knocked out Xiao Guodong in the pre-qualifying round.
Joe Perry is heading home having failed to maintain the momentum in Beijing from his Players Championship win in Bangkok, but Dave Gilbert, who beat him 5-3, is one of those players many feel should be ranked higher than he is.
Michael White maintained his push for a Crucible seeding with an entertaining 5-4 victory over Ken Doherty. It would be nice if White, a genuine new young star of the game, was put in front of the TV cameras. In three matches since winning the Indian Open he hasn’t been.
With all due respect to Stuart Bingham and Peter Lines, was their match really going to be more attractive than White v Doherty, or for that matter Perry v Gilbert?
However, this is one of the side effects of taking so many players to the venue – good matches go by unseen.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.