The China Open was a crucial event for a number of players. As the last event on the calendar before the World Championship, a dozen players were battling to squeeze into the top 16 of the rankings to ensure qualification for the Crucible.
Yet the tournament also provided an opportunity for players to develop a run of momentum going into the premier competition of the season. One player, in particular, took the opportunity to put a surprisingly lacklustre season behind him to peak at the perfect time for the World Championship.
Selby passes Wilson test
Defending World champion and the best player on the planet for the last three years, Mark Selby, has rarely featured in the latter stages of ranking events. Going into the China Open, he had just one competition victory to his name, made the semi-finals of only one other tournament and was ranked eighth on season points.
Selby had lost eight of his last 12 games going into the competition but dropped just eight frames in his opening three matches. He continued that good spell of form against Mark Williams, one of the best players on the circuit this year, defeating the Welshman 6-2.
Kyren Wilson will cause problems for anyone he faces at the Crucible and he pushed Selby all the way in the semi-finals. Despite falling 5-1 and 8-5 behind, the young prodigy fought back to draw level at 8-8. However, Selby was able to lean on his tactical prowess during a match that did not have one century break to squeeze out the final two frames to his advantage.
The Jester cruises past Hawkins
The final was a much more straightforward affair for Selby who has climbed up to second, behind Ronnie O'Sullivan, on the season points list with this victory. Barry Hawkins ended the Crucible hopes of Tom Ford before seeing off Neil Robertson who had previously thrashed Stuart Bingham 6-0 with every frame containing a break between 62 and 143.
Yet Hawkins could not find any sort of rhythm in the final despite taking the opening frame. Selby recorded five successive frames, although the last two of that streak were by less than 17 points.
Hawkins did take frame seven but it only served to spark Selby into his best snooker of the week and possibly the year. He went on to win six of the next seven frames with breaks of 90, 75, 112, 83 and 132 to peak at the perfect time of the season.