Only half of the Top 16 players remain in the Haikou World Open after the conclusion of the last 32 today in China.
Mark Williams, Matthew Stevens, Stephen Maguire and Martin Gould joined Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham on the losers list as well as absentees Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ali Carter, who both withdrew from the tournament prior to its start.
There could be many reasons for this given.
Firstly, the players are at a juncture in the season where two of the three major championships have come and gone – UK and Masters – while the big swan song in Sheffield is coming up sharply.
This may cause some distraction for some of the top performers as they fear a potential burnout in April following a long and arduous campaign so far that began way back in June of 2011.
Another consideration is that it is not unusual for a certain portion of the qualifiers to do well in events overseas – especially after such a long trip to the Far East.
It is normal for players to feel jet-lagged subsequent to an all-day flight and this can serve as a leveler for the lower ranked players, serving then as an incentive to take their chance while it is there in front of them.
Added to this the quite clear fact the playing conditions in Haikou have been sub-standard – the table and cloth, in particular, appear very heavy and, thus, slow – and the best cueists tend to lose some fluency.
This has been highlighted by the rather stark statistic of there only being four centuries compiled in the first round – a surprisingly paltry amount in this day and age on the baize.
Of the more established players that were successful today, Neil Robertson played particularly poorly in his 5-3 triumph over Stephen Hendry, though triumph might be a word too glorifying on this occasion.
Hendry was characteristic of his late career self by missing an array of easy pots while seemingly under a distinct lack of pressure so only had himself to blame for a match that slipped from under his grasp – especially having lost a pair of frames he ought to have won on the black.
Mark Allen had his usual moan after beating Jimmy Robertson 5-1 while world number one Mark Selby was made to work hard for his 5-3 victory over 18 year-old amateur Lu Ning.
Elsewhere, it was a happy day for a batch of English qualifiers with Mark King inflicting a heavy defeat on Mark Williams, 5-1.
Robert Milkins strung four frames on the trot from absolutely nowhere to beat Stephen Maguire 5-3, Jamie Cope three on the spin to edge Martin Gould 5-4 while Joe Perry knocked out Matthew Stevens by the same scoreline.
With the likes of Selby, Robertson, Trump, Murphy, Allen, Lee, Dott and Higgins still remaining in the draw, there is a strong chance that there’ll still be a routing semi-final line-up.
However, this year’s World Open just has the feel of that will continue to spring surprises and that at least one of these qualifiers could go all the way to Sunday’s final.