A busy opening day at the International Championship has come to a conclusion in Daqing on Sunday.
The fifth edition of the most lucrative ranking event in China began with a few upsets, but most of the star competitors managed early victories.
Liang Wenbo, perhaps understandably, suffered a hangover following his maiden ranking event success at last week’s English Open, but won the last three frames to pip fellow Chinese Mei Xiwen 6-5.
Mei, who has enjoyed a relatively successful return to the Main Tour this season following a six-year absence, looked like the man to take advantage of his opponent’s rustiness but just couldn’t manage to get over the winning line.
Three other encounters were held over to the venue with all of the other marquee names similarly progressing, albeit in vastly differing circumstances.
Home favourite Ding Junhui, the champion three years ago when the tournament was staged in Chengdu, like Liang required a gutsy comeback to deny Mitchell Mann in a decider.
Mann opened up a 5-2 lead and had several chances to complete what would have been a landmark victory – most notably in the penultimate frame when he was on course for a maximum break before breaking down on just 57 – but Ding responded in champion’s fashion to prevail 6-5.
World champion Mark Selby was also pushed almost all the way but eventually outlasted Paul Davison 6-4 in a high-scoring affair.
By contrast, Scotland’s John Higgins was also in a potting mood, as he compiled a terrific tournament-high 145 en route to a more comprehensive 6-0 rout of Sydney Wilson.
Meanwhile, in the last 64, Neil Robertson knocked in a brace of tons as he whitewashed Oliver Lines while Shaun Murphy, Ali Carter, Marco Fu and Stephen Maguire all advanced to the second round as well.
There were a few other shocks of sorts, though, with Indian Open winner Anthony McGill downed by young local talent Zhou Yuelong.
Zhou, still only 18, reached the last 16 here a year ago and was also a member of the Chinese World Cup winning pairing in 2015.
Michael White, Martin Gould and Matthew Selt were also dispatched of by Sam Baird, Mark Joyce and Kurt Maflin respectively.
Selt had won the highly secretive Haining Open during the week, an event which half of the tour wasn’t even aware was running again after the recent demise of the satellite Asian Tour.
Last year’s International runner-up David Gilbert couldn’t reproduce that kind of form as he was unexpectedly defeated by veteran Thai James Wattana, while Luca Brecel continued his patchy form with a 6-4 loss against Dominic Dale.
But former world champion Graeme Dott hammered Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien while ex UK and Masters king Matthew Stevens, Michael Holt and Jak Jones won too.
Elsewhere, the dreaded wildcard round resulted in all four of the invited amateurs beating the pros who had earned their spots fair and square through the preliminaries in Preston in late September.
Chinese foursome Yuan Sijun, Xu Si, Zhang Jiankang and Chen Zifan got the better of Ian Burns, Wang Yuchen, Ross Muir and Tian Pengfei respectively to compound the continued existence of the ridiculous wildcard stage.
On Monday the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump enter the fray.
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