The Shanghai Masters qualifiers got under way on Tuesday at the Barnsley Metrodome.
In one of only two tournaments which still carries the traditional format of tiered seedings and multiple rounds of qualifying before the higher ranked players enter the fold, the cueists ranked between 65 and 128 began their quest to win the four preliminary rounds necessary to compete in the biggest ranking event of the campaign so far.
Irishman Josh Boileau’s miserable start to life on the Main Tour continued with a fourth defeat in as many matches, on this occasion losing 5-2 to Chris Wakelin.
Boileau, the European Under-21 champion, started the season with high hopes but has so far failed to adapt to the higher level on the pro circuit.
On the other end of the spectrum is Jimmy White, who at 54 is competing in his 37th consecutive term as a professional.
However, the ‘Whirlwind’ was unable to build on the momentum of his run to the quarter-finals of the Paul Hunter Classic last weekend as he fell 5-2 to Welshman Daniel Wells.
Wells has improved quite a lot over the last number of months and is in touching distance of breaking into the top 64 in the world rankings for the first time, but faces a tricky opponent in Tom Ford next.
Ford is the understandable favourite after reaching the final in Furth on Sunday before narrowly missing out on his maiden ranking event trophy to Mark Selby.
Meanwhile, it was a mixed day for the many Chinese in action who were all hoping to secure a safe passage back home for this event.
Cao Yupeng, Wang Yuchen and Fang Xiongman all lost heavily to Craig Steadman, Adam Duffy and Eden Sharav respectively but there were more promising results for six of the other contenders from China.
Talented teenager Yan Bingtao whitewashed Noppon Saengkham 5-0 while another young prospect Zhao Xintong hammered Liam Highfield 5-1.
Zhao was a twice beaten finalist in the IBSF World Amateur Championship before turning pro, and his stock is so high that Betway has him as a 4/6 favourite to beat experienced stalwart Joe Swail in round two.
Chen Zhe, Zhang Anda, Zhang Yong and Mei Xiwen were the others from the large Chinese contingent to make it through their opening tests.
Indeed, there was quite an international flavour to the first round winners, with the usually dominant English, such is their vast number on the circuit, not having it all their own way on the first day.
Thai veteran James Wattana, a former world no.3, beat Sydney Wilson 5-1 and was joined by compatriots Akani Songsermsawad and Kritsanut Lertsattayatthorn, who both emerged successfully from deciding frame thrillers.
Pakistan’s Hamza Akbar was also taken the distance before denying Zak Surety, Thor Chuan Leong of Malaysia triumphed against Chris Keogan while Michael Georgiou, now representing Cyprus, won by 5-0 against Mitchell Mann.
Elsewhere in the busy draw, Scots Ross Muir, Rhys Clark and Scott Donaldson advanced while joining Wells from Wales was Lee Walker, Gareth Allen, Duane Jones and Ian Preece.
The rest of the first round winners unsurprisingly hailed from England.
Andy Hicks was the only amateur, one of six invited to make up the numbers, to prevail after a 5-3 defeat of Sam Craigie despite the latter boasting a break of 134 which stood as the highest of the day.
Sean O’Sullivan, Paul Davison, Jamie Barrett, Allan Taylor, Hammad Miah, Jamie Cope and Martin O’Donnell all moved onto the next stage as well.
On Wednesday, the players ranked between 33 and 64 enter the fray which means the likes of ranking event winners Matthew Stevens, Dominic Dale and Fergal O’Brien.
1997 world champion Dubliner Ken Doherty also begins his attempt to qualify against Gareth Allen.
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