The players have been busy with the opening round of the China Open during the last couple of days, with the last 32 line-up now almost complete in Beijing.
Neil Robertson, champion in 2013 before being a beaten finalist twelve months ago, has been the highest profile casualty so far following an unexpected 5-4 defeat to Dechawat Poomjaeng on Monday.
What was even more surprising was the manner of the Australian’s defeat, missing a routine enough straight black for victory to allow his Thai opponent, visibly shocked at the gifted opportunity, in to pounce.
Robertson is the kind of player who wants to win every match and each tournament he plays in but there has been some debate this week on the actual merits of going all the way in the penultimate event of the campaign.
With the World Championship in Sheffield just three weeks away, some argue that Robertson’s chances for that title have become better with this early exit.
While it’s questionable to ascertain whether or not there is any benefit from a poor visit to China – or no visit at all as is the case with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen – it’s probably easier to confirm the disadvantages of a run to the business end of proceedings for a competitor ranked outside the world’s top 16.
That’s because all of these poor folks are required to play not one, not two, but three matches in order to qualify for the Crucible and therefore could well already be burned out by the time they reach Ponds Forge in a little over a week’s time.
Of course, this is all hearsay and, in reality, there’s nothing better for confidence than winning itself – so it’s highly unlikely that anybody will be too displeased with a strong performance in the coming days.
Anyway, one player who is certainly in desperate need of some good displays is the defending champion Ding Junhui.
The Chinese Sensation was winning his fifth ranking event of a stellar season a year ago but has endured a nightmare period since.
Ding, 28 in a few short hours, managed a morale-boosting 5-1 triumph over Marcus Campbell but faces stiffer competition in the shape of Mark Davis tomorrow.
Despite Robertson’s exit, all in all it was a relatively good showing from the higher seeds – that is except for Joe Perry who perhaps understandably had a bit of a hangover from his maiden ranking event success at the Players Championship last weekend in Bangkok and went down 5-3 to David Gilbert.
The player he beat in that final emerged from a potential banana skin with wildcard amateur Zhao Xintong, though, as Mark Williams came from 2-0 down to overcome the local teenager 5-2.
Two Englishmen, world no.1 Mark Selby and the in-form Judd Trump, who compiled a brace of centuries, both recorded 5-3 scorelines over Mark Joyce and Andrew Higginson respectively while countryman Shaun Murphy ousted Jamie Cope 5-1.
Meanwhile, Scotland’s Stephen Maguire further cemented his position as the final automatic qualifier for the Worlds by comfortably outscoring Ireland’s David Morris but his nearest rivals Michael White and Robert Milkins maintained the pressure with wins of their own.
Indian Open champion White narrowly edged another Irishman, Ken Doherty, in a decider while Gloucester’s Milkins inflicted a 5-3 loss on Nigel Bond.
In fact, it’s been a tournament to forget for the green army as Fergal O’Brien also fell at the first hurdle to Mike Dunn – a semi-finalist in 2014.
Elsewhere, Marco Fu and Ricky Walden both enjoyed whitewash successes while Barry Hawkins earned only his third victory of 2015 with a 5-2 win against Gerard Greene.
Stuart Bingham, John Higgins, Peter Ebdon and Dominic Dale also progressed to ensure a hatful of former ranking event winners remain in the draw.
Elsewhere, Jack Lisowski had an encouraging 5-4 triumph over Alan McManus while Zhou Yuelong is the only other home hope to join compatriot Ding in round two following the losses of Liang Wenbo, Cao Yupeng, Yu Delu and Zhang Anda.
Coverage continues on Eurosport.
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