Today marked the opening day of the Wuxi Classic in China.
The event is in its seventh year but this is only the third occasion that it has been held as a ranking event.
Ricky Walden won the first of these in 2012, beating Stuart Bingham in the final 10-4, while Neil Robertson overcame John Higgins in last year’s showdown.
All four of these men were supposed to be in action today but the defending champion Robertson benefited from the withdrawal of promising young teenager Alexander Ursenbacher.
The outcome of this encounter has led to some questioning over the recently updated rule book for the professional tour as Ursenbacher, who produced an excellent 5-4 victory over 2014 Crucible debutant Kyren Wilson to book his place in Wuxi, will now not receive any prize money having entered the event but subsequently withdrawn.
It is unclear so far as to the exact reason why the Swiss couldn’t fly to China but it appears that visa issues, the bane of so many snooker players these days, were of primary concern.
Whether this was because of a personal error by Ursenbacher or if it was due to a technical difficulty is so far unknown.
However, it does raise the point that if the situation was outside the 18 year-old’s control then is it right for him to be punished with such a severe penalty?
After all, this is now £3,000 that the youngster has lost, which probably would have amounted to his biggest payday to date and gone a long way in helping to support his future months travelling on the circuit.
Additionally, and if that wasn’t bad enough, with the new ranking system Ursenbacher now has absolutely nothing to show for his initial efforts in Gloucester and will ultimately feel like he is already playing catch-up this season.
It is understandable for World Snooker to try to ensure that players don’t just play the solitary match in England to earn a bit of dosh without any intention of flying to the foreign climates for international tournaments but it seems unlikely that Ursenbacher, with the prospect of playing former world champion Robertson on television, entertained this idea.
Anyway, it’s a shame for the boy and hopefully whatever visa problems he has he will be able to sort out as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile, the other three finalists from the last couple of years all safely advanced into the last 32.
Ricky Walden hammered Peter Lines 5-0, Stuart Bingham ousted Tony Drago 5-2 while John Higgins had breaks of 85, 61, 122 and 94 en route to a battling 5-3 win over fellow Scotsman Anthony McGill.
Seventh seed Marco Fu also progressed with a 5-2 victory over Craig Steadman, a potential banana skin for any opponent this season one thinks.
World Championship quarter-finalist Alan McManus is continuing his run of form after recording a 5-3 win over the dangerous Gary Wilson while another Crucible qualifier in Robin Hull edged Xiao Guodong 5-3.
Judd Trump, a player who will be hoping to enjoy a much better campaign this time around, beat David Grace 5-1, the same scoreline that Anthony Hamilton and returning pro Michael Georgiou earned over Kurt Maflin and Marcus Campbell respectively.
Ben Woollaston, Sam Baird, Cao Yupeng and Michael Holt are also all through to the next round, the latter coming from 4-2 down to pip Rory McLeod in a decider.
Three out of the four wildcard round matches ended in defeat for the professionals as Chinese amateurs Zhao Xintong, Yan Bingtao and Chen Zifan all upset the odds.
Robbie Williams was in no mood to follow in the footsteps of Andrew Norman, Yu Delu and Scott Donaldson out of the Far East, though, and booked an encounter with world champion Mark Selby with a 5-1 success over Niu Zhuang.