Ronnie O’Sullivan’s long-awaited return to the Shanghai Masters ended in an early defeat at the hands of veteran Alan McManus in China yesterday.
The ‘Rocket’ had only contested the event once since he lifted the trophy back in 2009 but the large expectant crowds were left disappointed after a lacklustre display.
As expected, McManus gave an excellent account of himself as the return to form in his twilight years continues.
The Scot has won 14 out of his 18 matches so far this season, clearly still buoyed by his run to the quarter-finals of the World Championship four months ago, and even two of those losses have come against competitors who have gone on to win the tournament.
With O’Sullivan competing in only his second competition since the Crucible it was expected that he was going to be rusty and that McManus would prove a tricky opponent, although the result still constitutes as an upset.
O’Sullivan’s 139 in the third frame represented flashes of the brilliance that he can produce but it was few and far between elsewhere, and McManus capitalised by winning the final three frames for a 5-3 victory.
The other last 32 tie between Shaun Murphy and Joe Swail was even closer, going all the way to the deciding frame.
A topsy-turvy affair that saw one hold the advantage and then the other, with never more than one frame between them, climaxed with a break of 75 in the last by Murphy to pinch it.
The 2005 world champion also compiled runs of 80, 102, 65 and 56 as he scored heavily at times but was still made to work very hard for his victory.
The remainder of the matches on the opening day were in the much detested wildcard round and, as ever, one of the professionals succumbed to a defeat before they even got the opportunity to play in the tournament proper.
Former finalist Liang Wenbo went down to countryman Yan Bingtao, although to be fair the amateur did play well with breaks of 85, 70, 53 and 46 to his credit.
Elsewhere, the other pros fared a lot better as Mark Williams, Ryan Day, Michael White, Michael Holt and China’s Li Hang all advanced to the last 32.
Ken Doherty plays Huang Jiahao at the ill-fated stage today, while fellow Dubliner Fergal O’Brien is also in action against Robert Milkins in the first round proper.
However, the primary focus will undoubtedly be on the tie between defending champion Ding Junhui and heralded youngster Jack Lisowski.
Ding hasn’t played competitively since capturing the Yixing Open title in June so this could be a decent opportunity for Lisowski to spring a surprise.
As already written on this website, after being hyped for many years the time is approaching whereby England’s Lisowski needs to prove his undoubted potential on the table.