Three of the major favourites for the 2013 World Championship got off to winning starts yesterday as Mark Selby, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui all advanced to the second round in Sheffield.
Despite the relatively comfortable looking scorelines of all three, Selby was the only player who was truly never really troubled throughout.
The world no.1 didn’t make many big breaks but totally outclassed Matthew Selt tactically en route to a 10-4 victory.
Some critics will question whether or not the ‘Jester from Leicester’s’ performance was up to scratch but, in truth, he did exactly what he needed to do – get into the last 16.
Because now the format becomes even longer, offering the likes of Selby even more time to settle into their game and shift through the gears as the championship progresses.
Two players who had no such problems in finding the high gears early on were Trump and Ding.
The duo, like Selby, are seeking to add a maiden world trophy to their already impressive trophy cabinets and saw off stern opposition in the forms of Dominic Dale and Alan McManus 10-5 respectively.
McManus, in particular, put Ding under serious interrogation having won the opening three frames of the second session to get back from 7-2 to 7-5.
The Scot’s defensive qualities are as good as ever, and he certainly lived up to his nickname of ‘Angles’, producing a flurry of stunning escapes and safety play, but his Chinese opponent dug deep to grind out the victory.
This test could be just what the doctor order for the 26 year-old as with Mark King and potentially a quarter-final date with Selby to come thereafter, his upcoming encounters could be of similar style.
Trump’s pot and safety success were both excellent as he regained some of the early season form that earned him the International Championship but Dale too didn’t let the 23 year-old have it all his own way.
Indeed, the Welshman had a very respectable run at a 147 attempt when 9-4 down only to break down on the 13th red.
Trump’s opponent in the second round will be Marco Fu after the Hong Kong native stumbled over the line 10-7 against Matthew Stevens.
Fu had looked the far better player throughout and punished a succession of the former two-time finalist’s mistakes to open up what appeared a commanding 9-4 advantage.
But the German Masters runner-up looked tired and lost three frames in a row to make things more interesting.
Stevens had chances in the 17th frame to narrow the gap even further but missed frame-clinching blue, before Fu himself knocked in a stunning pink to close out the win.
In the two remaining first round encounters to get under way, China Open champion Neil Robertson knocked in a spectacular 143 total clearance to lead the high break list but could only muster a one frame 5-4 lead over Jimmy White’s conqueror Robert Milkins.
That was in complete contrast to England’s Stuart Bingham, who is well on his way to hammering debutant Sam Baird after establishing an ominous 8-1 overnight lead.
On Thursday, those two matches come to a conclusion while the second round, played over 25 frames, commences.
Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott compete in a battle of the 2005 and 2006 world champions while new Thai hero Dechawat Poomjaeng begins his quest for a quarter-final berth against fellow Crucible new boy Michael White.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.