It was a bad day at the office for all of the Chinese players attempting to qualify for the first of their five home ranking tournaments on the calendar this season.
The Wuxi Classic had established itself in recent years as one of the top invitational events and has now received an upgrade in status, continuing an upsurge in the amount of baize action in the Far East nation.
However, apart from possibly Hong Kong’s Marco Fu, who has his qualifying tomorrow, there’ll be nobody joining top 16 player Ding Junhui at the venue stages as the last remaining quartet bowed out in Sheffield today.
Possibly the main contender to break into the world’s elite bracket in the foreseeable future is Xiao Guodong, but the 23 year-old was convincingly beaten by Welshman Michael White.
White, only 20, is widely regarded as one of the next big things in the game among the inner community of bloggers and social media-ites, and along with fellow young hopeful Jack Lisowski, who saw off Tony Drago by the same scoreline, powered into the final qualifying round without too much trouble.
With the sport losing two legends in the last month in Stephen Hendry and Ronnie O’Sullivan – the latter for now at least – there is room for others to start making their breakthrough into the big-time and the prime contenders are the likes of White, Lisowski and indeed Xiao.
While Lisowski has appeared in the last 32 of tournaments a number of times, White – no relation to Jimmy – is looking for his maiden appearance at a ranker and will fancy his chances against Anthony Hamilton, a player who while still dogged hasn’t really done anything of note in the last few campaigns.
Of the rest of the Chinese, Li Yan and Liu Chuang fell to Gerard Greene and Robert Milkins respectively while the ever inconsistent Liang Wenbo was defeated 5-3 by Rod Lawler.
It continues a remarkable run for the Liverpudlian, who only came through Q-School to guarantee his return to the circuit a couple of weeks ago.
Elsewhere, it was a bad day at the office for the two oldest guys on the Tour as Steve Davis, beginning his 35th season as a professional, was ousted 5-3 by Kurt Maflin with a thoroughly out-of-sorts Jimmy White being heavily beaten by Aditya Mehta.
The Indian didn’t play well for his 5-1 triumph but wasn’t required to and now has only one more obstacle between his debut at a ranking event venue.
Likewise Passakorn Suwannawat, after the Thai 26 year-old overcame Ben Woollaston 5-1 as well.
There was to be no more heroics just yet from Luca Brecel with Belgian teenager surrendering a lead to Jamie Burnett to eventually lose it in a decider.
Jimmy Robertson and Matthew Selt both won 5-3 while there was a flurry of victories for some of the game’s elder statesmen as Barry Pinches, Rory McLeod, Dave Harold and Peter Lines all advanced to the final qualifying round.
In the final match of the third qualifying round, World Championship last 16 player David Gilbert withstood a sterling fightback from Scot Anthony McGill to scramble over the winning line 5-4.