Ding Denied by Woollaston

Defending champion Ding Junhui crashed out of the Players Championship Grand Final on the first day on Tuesday.

The four-time ranking event winner this season appeared to be cruising into the second round when he established a 3-0 lead over Ben Woollaston only to crumble as his opponent completed an unlikely comeback to prevail 4-3.

It was an unusual performance from Ding, one that mirrored a temperament of the past that he seemingly had vanquished during this campaign.

The 26 year-old’s head dropped as soon as he failed to complete the whitewash and Woollaston’s momentum gathered.

The Chinese Sensation, so often cool under pressure in the last number of months, looked edgy as he missed successive easy pots.

For Ding fans, it was a concerning display given that the World Championship is on the horizon – a tournament where he has consistently under-performed in.

For England’s Woollaston, it was a fantastic turnaround that brought him his first triumph over world no.3 Ding.

It also banished any memories of the occasion when Woollaston found himself 4-0 up on Ding in a best of nine only to surrender his advantage in a devastating 5-4 loss.

The 26 year-old’s best run in a ranking event came here 12 months ago when he reached the quarter-finals and he will be hoping to at least match that this week following his excellent start.

His task doesn’t get much easier, though, as he faces four-time world champion John Higgins in the last 16.

Scotland’s Higgins was well-tested by Jimmy Robertson, finding himself 2-1 down to a superb 130 clearance from the challenger.

But the 38 year-old has appeared in better form in the last couple of tournaments subsequent to a struggling few months and he was able to gain a stranglehold on the contest – eventually triumphing 4-2.

The standout tie of the day was between world no.1 Neil Robertson and the in-form Shaun Murphy, winner of March’s Haikou World Open.

And in a tight affair it was the latter who emerged victorious to continue the upsurge in his fortunes of late.

Australia’s Robertson, despite winning two frames, also failed to add to his tally of 92 centuries this season, meaning there are only two more tournaments left in the calendar to complete the century of tons.

Again, Murphy’s mission to earn a third title in as many months doesn’t get much easier as he faces Judd Trump for a place in the quarter-final.

Trump had a potential banana skin against the only amateur in the draw, China’s Ju Reti, but was able to avoid that with a comfortable enough 4-1 success over the 31 year-old.

Elsewhere, Mark Williams overcame talented teenager Lu Haotian 4-1 while Marco Fu had the only whitewash of the day as he hammered Gary Wilson.

Finally, Gerard Greene shocked Ricky Walden 4-1 and Anthony Hamilton prevailed in a marathon four-hour encounter with Sam Baird 4-3.

Today, the rest of the opening round will be completed with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby in action.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.

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