Ricky Walden’s defence of the International Championship ended before it really began as he was dumped out of the competition by Tian Pengfei on the opening day in Daqing.
Walden’s qualifying round with the Chinese player was held over from Barnsley to the main event but the Englishman probably wishes he had gone out back at the Metrodome so he could have saved on a taxing journey home.
The three-time ranking event winner in China would have been feeling confident after his run to the final of the Haining Open just a couple of days ago, but Tian prevailed in a tight tussle 6-4.
Home favourite Ding Junhui, who overcame Walden to claim the Asian Tour event on Friday, narrowly avoided a similar fate before eventually edging amateur Sam Craigie in a long battle by the same two frame margin.
The 28 year-old began the match confidently with runs of 52, 66 and 98 helping him open up a 3-1 advantage at the interval.
But Craigie, the 2010 world under-21 champion, compiled breaks of 100 and two 75s to draw back level before a series of close frames led to a nervy conclusion that Ding finally was finally able to make his experience count in.
Aside from the reigning champion’s early exit, most of the results on Sunday’s first day of action went true to form.
World no.1 Mark Selby beat Mike Dunn 6-3 to set up an intriguing clash with Anthony McGill, who wasted little time in whitewashing Sean O’Sullivan.
McGill, of course, inflicted the Curse of the Crucible on Selby when he beat him in the second round of the World Championship as a debutant back in April.
The majority of the other top seeded players managed to reach the last 32 unscathed.
Mark Allen pipped friend Joe Swail in an all-Antrim battle 6-4 while former world no.1 Mark Williams enjoyed a 6-3 success over Ian Burns.
Barry Hawkins, Marco Fu and Graeme Dott all progressed as well but Australian Open runner-up Martin Gould suffered an unexpected 6-2 defeat at the hands of Zhou Yuelong, with the Chinese contingent having a distinctly good start to the tournament.
As per usual with the events in the Far East nation, there was the dreaded wildcard round and inevitably one of the pros tend to come a cropper to one of the invited local amateurs.
On this occasion the short straw was drawn by Aditya Mehta, with the struggling Indian going down 6-4 to Wang Yuchen.
Thankfully the other three pros were able to negotiate the extra game, including Ireland’s Ken Doherty who comfortably ousted Chen Zifan.
It was a good day for the Dubliners as Fergal O’Brien knocked in breaks of 100, 83, 71, 62 and 54 in an impressive 6-4 victory over Tom Ford to reach the second round.
Meanwhile, Shanghai Masters champion Kyren Wilson emerged from a tricky tie against Jamie Cope while Ryan Day, Jimmy Robertson, Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and Sanderson Lam also remain in the hunt for the £125,000 winner’s cheque that will be presented to the winner this time next week.
At the time of writing, Dechawat Poomjaeng holds a narrow 5-4 lead over Indian Open champion Michael White while Rod ‘The Plod’ Lawler is perhaps unsurprisingly featured in the day’s final game – currently locked in a 3-3 tug-of-war with Michael Holt.
On Monday, the likes of Shaun Murphy and Neil Robertson enter the fray, while world champion Stuart Bingham plays his first round match after a 6-1 triumph over Steven Hallworth today in one of the other qualifying rounds held over.
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