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After Eights

Eight Top 16 seeds have now been knocked out of the first round of the World Championship in Sheffield – equalling the record set in 1992.

World no1 Mark Selby and Chinese Sensation Ding Junhui have joined the growing casualty list in this spectacular tournament that has now been thrown completely wide open.

Shanghai Masters champion Selby went down 10-3 to Barry Hawkins in convincing fashion but was obviously still feeling the ill-effects of a neck injury that forced him out of the China Open last month.

Leicester’s Selby was only able to start practicing again last week and could only manage a few hours in preparation for his trip to Sheffield but the hindrance evidently prevented him from playing his best.

Resuming 6-3 down, Hawkins won a protracted opening frame and then subsequently extended his lead in another close frame as Selby mental approach began to wane.

It is a shame for the 2007 runner-up, who is a consummate professional on the Main Tour, attending all the of the events on the calendar, as this injury has just arrived at completely the wrong time.

Having said that, it’s a fantastic win for Hawkins who this time last year came into Sheffield having never won a single match in the city but has now claimed back-to-back first round scalps.

For Ding Junhui, the Welsh Open champion won five frames on the bounce to go from trailing 6-4 to leading 9-6 and within one of triumph but succumbed to nerves as Welshman Ryan Day fought back.

It is a morale-boosting success for Day, a former top 8 player but now ranked outside the Top 32, who has suffered from a lack of confidence and form in the last few years having always given the impression he could join the elite bracket of proven winners.

Ding, though, reacted completely out of character in his post-match press conference as the controversy and drama surrounding this year’s championship continues.

The 25 year-old was clearly angry in defeat and partly blamed the table conditions and the crowd inside the Crucible crowd for disturbing his concentration as the important climax approached.

Ding hasn’t been known in the past for reacting in such a furious manner so his comments can be taken as just a sheer act of disappointment having, quite frankly, bottled it, but it was still surprising to hear such insinuations – indeed, referencing how press and players on this side of the world are quick to ridicule Chinese crowds in his home country.

Elsewhere, Joe Perry completed his rout of former champion Graeme Dott with a shock 10-1 demolition job while pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump came from behind to beat Dominic Dale 10-7.

As the first round nears its conclusion it looks like the seeds will at least match the number of qualifiers in the second round as Mark Williams leads Liu Chuang 6-3 and Ali Carter takes a convincing 8-1 advantage over Mark Davis into tomorrow’s final session.

So the 2012 event keeps on springing up shock results and the question now has to be asked if an unseeded player could go all the way to claim the title.

If not, with the likes of Judd Trump, Stephen Maguire and Matthew Stevens still in the draw, will there at least be a new name etched on the trophy?

I’m still going for Neil Robertson but all predictions are out the window at this stage.

The full draw, latest and results can be viewed by clicking here

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