Mark Selby suffered first round defeat in the Australian Open after a shock 5-3 loss to Jamie Burnett in Bendigo today.
The world no.1 had come into the event with a great chance of extending his lead at the top of the world rankings given the absence of nearest rivals Judd Trump, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire.
However, the Englishman could not take advantage and will rue a wasted opportunity to add to what many believe to be a paltry titles tally for the sport’s leading figure.
Selby still only has two world ranking events to his credit, as well as two Masters trophies, and it was widely regarded that either he or Ding Junhui would go all the way to the final this week, instead the Leicester man has suffered from early season rustiness.
Burnett’s win, though, proves the strength and depth in snooker at the moment with this result complimenting Matt Selt’s deciding frame defeat of defending champion Stuart Bingham yesterday.
36 year-old Burnett did not qualify for a single tournament last season and has clearly motivated himself with the realisation that the points tally for his run to the final of the 2010 Shanghai Masters will soon be taken away – thus being the method for the two-year points system.
The Scot reached the last 16 of the Wuxi Classic last month and will challenge Marco Fu for a quarter-final berth Down Under.
Meanhwile, Irishman Ken Doherty could not repeat his heroics of last season when he got to the last four, going down 5-3 to out-of-sorts Martin Gould.
It will be a disappointing scoreline for the Dubliner following a promising start to the new campaign having qualified for both of the first two ranking events and he’ll feel it was a missed opportunity against a player who has been distinctly poor of late.
Elsewhere, Barry Hawkins hammered Xiao Guodong 5-1 while Ding himself had no such trouble in manoeuvring his way past the opening round as he whitewashed veteran Alan McManus in front of a large crowd.
Along with home favourite Robertson, Ding is the main poster boy for the Aussie event and the longer they both remain in the tournament the more likely the ticket sales will continue to rise.
Indeed, it would not be surprising to see both men contest the final on Sunday as they are now the overwhelming favourites to do so.
Two competitors who will have plenty to say about Ding’s progress are Shaun Murphy and Stephen Lee, both of whom enjoyed comfortable victories in the second round this afternoon.
Murphy cued well in a 5-1 triumph over Tom Ford while Stephen Lee knocked in a 126 century break en route to ousting Jamie Cope 5-2.
Murphy is scheduled to play Ding in the last eight if the Chinese Sensation can dislodge tricky Peter Ebdon but Lee will be particularly pleased with how Wednesday turned out as his route to the semi-finals has now opened up following Selby’s demise.