Ding Junhui’s season of turmoil continued today as he was dumped out of the German Masters following a dramatic 5-4 defeat to Ryan Day.
In a match strewn with errors from both competitors, Ding took on a tricky final pink with the rest in the penultimate frame that would have earned him a 5-3 victory but saw it wobble in the jaws before his opponent duly dished to force a decider.
In the 9th frame the defending champion didn’t even have a chance as Wales’ Day avenged his 6-5 loss to the Chinese in last year’s semi-final with a break of 82.
At this point during the last campaign, Ding was already a three-time ranking event winner and would enjoy further success in Berlin and at the China Open for a record-equalling period.
However, since then he has crashed in the opening round of the World Championship, the Wuxi Classic, the International Championship and the Masters.
While Ding in fact won two qualifying matches to get to this stage, this defeat in the last 32 constitutes yet another significant setback.
That he is officially ranked as the world no.1 at the point of his career when he is arguably producing his worst sequence of results is ironically amusing.
The reason, of course, is for the two-year rolling money-earned ranking system which tallies the winnings he received from all his successes of what now seems like a long time ago.
If his form continues he will not remain in the top spot for long.
Indeed, the trio of Neil Robertson, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Selby all have a chance of regaining the number one position themselves come Sunday’s conclusion at the Tempodrom.
What Ding needs is a succession of wins, no matter how ugly they come, and it looked for all money as if he was going to get the first of those in today’s battle with Day.
Yet, the 27 year-old was left to rue a lot of missed opportunities – ones he would have taken so ruthlessly this time 12 months ago.
With the World Championship in Sheffield only a short couple of months away, Ding’s undoubted bogey event, it seems further away now more than ever that we’ll be seeing a maiden Asian triumph at the Crucible.
For Day, he too will be disappointed with his own display which was, at times, dreadful, but he knocked in a steely break in a single visit to win it and will be a big favourite against Alfie Burden, who beat Michael Georgiou 5-3, in the last 16.
The quarter has completely opened up for Stuart Bingham, though, who must be fancying his chances of a deep run into the business end after a tough 5-3 victory over the in-form Matthew Selt.