Ding Downed Again

Ding Junhui’s season to forget continued on Tuesday as he was dumpedĀ in the opening round of the Welsh Open by Lee Walker in Cardiff.

Ding has reached only one ranking event semi-final this season - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
Ding has reached only one ranking event semi-final this season – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

At this point of the last campaign, Ding had already tallied four ranking event titles and would finish runner-up in this event to an equally rampant Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The Chinese then went on to add the China Open trophy to his collection in a record-equaling year.

The 2014/15 season could not have been any more different and, despite becoming Asia’s first world no.1 through the anomalies of the rolling ranking system, Ding has become somewhat of a forgotten force.

Of course, with the 27 year-old’s talent this drop in form is unlikely to last forever but that it has stretched this long at all is certainly cause for concern.

The only positive that may come out of it is that, should his poor set of results continue for the next two months, Ding may enter the World Championship – his reputed bogey event – under the radar and with slightly less pressure on his shoulders.

That said, with literally millions and millions of fans in his home country, and with no other Chinese competitor seemingly able to join him in the higher echelons, the expectation on Ding may well be just as high as ever.

Meanwhile, again most of the top seeds other than Ding advanced into Wednesday’s last 32, although another player struggling with his game of late in world no.5 Barry Hawkins also made an early exit at the hands of India’s Aditya Mehta.

World champion Mark Selby knocked in breaks of 135 and 120 as he beat Marcus Campbell 4-2 while Stephen Maguire repeated the scoreline over Liam Highfield in the second round.

Maguire’s countryman John Higgins had a 134 in his 4-0 rout of Alex Borg while two more Scots in Graeme Dott and Alan McManus booked their place in round three as well.

Ranking event winners this season Stuart Bingham and Ricky Walden are safely through, as is former world champion Peter Ebdon who booked an intriguing clash with Selby today.

Arguably the most exciting encounter of the day, though, is between two of the sports potential future stars in Luca Brecel and Oliver Brown.

Belgium’s Brecel fired in the highest break of the tournament, a 140, en route to victories over Robert Milkins and Tian Pengfei while amateur Oliver Brown, one year older than the ‘Bullet’ at 20, upset Mike Dunn and home favourite Ryan Day.

With 95 matches already completed in a hectic opening couple of days, the tournament now reverts to a more typical schedule with only four tables in use inside the main arena.

There are still two more rounds to be played under the short best-of-seven format so expect another few upsets before the quarter-final line-up is completed on Thursday.

The full draw can be viewed here.

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