Ding Junhui Fights Back in UK Opener

Ding Junhui just about survived in the first round of the UK Championship as he required a 74 clearance to steal victory from Igor Figueiredo in York on Tuesday.

Ding Junhui 1
Ding was UK champion in 2005 and 2009 – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos

Two-time champion Ding appeared set to be heading for an early exit when he lost four frames in a row to trail the Brazilian 5-4.

Figueiredo had produced some excellent snooker with breaks of 57, 55 and 105 in going to within one of the first major shock of the second most prestigious ranking event on the calendar.

Even though Ding managed to force the decider, the 39 year-old opened up a 60-point advantage in the final frame only to see his more established opponent mop up to pinch the win on the final black.

For the Chinese no.1, it narrowly prevented what would have been a fifth quick casualty in York in succession, having not reached the quarter-finals since 2011.

Ding tends to be able to shake off these indifferent initial displays well, highlighted by his triumph in the Shanghai Masters earlier this season when he was also taken the distance at the first hurdle, so his name could be one to keep an eye on as the fortnight progresses.

The 29 year-old will meet Ross Muir in the last 64 after the young Scot fought back from 5-2 behind to deny Joe Swail 6-5.

There was a big upset at a well-attended Barbican Centre on day one, though, with Kyren Wilson falling in a meek performance to Mitchell Mann.

Wilson wasn’t able to replicate the kind of form that saw him overcome Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams in Belfast last week, as he tamely succumbed to his fellow Englishman 6-3.

Indian Open champion Anthony McGill was within a whisker of joining Wilson on the sidelines only to compile runs of 52, 67 and 104 in overturning a 5-3 deficit to Craig Steadman.

However, the remaining higher seeds mostly endured a more comfortable time of it.

Northern Ireland Open runner-up Barry Hawkins didn’t suffer from any mental hangover following his crushing deciding frame defeat on Sunday as he routed David John 6-0.

Hawkins recorded a 129 en route to victory which temporarily stands as the highest break of the tournament so far.

Meanwhile, Judd Trump, Marco Fu and Ryan Day each notched up respective 6-2 successes.

2011 champion Trump wrapped up his defeat of James Wattana with a 109, while Fu knocked in a 114 in ousting Ireland’s Josh Boileau.

Day bettered that by making a 126 as he pulled away from 2-2 with 1992 champion Jimmy White for a relatively routine win.

Elsewhere, Dublin’s Fergal O’Brien compiled runs of 95, 93, 64 and 59 as he beat China’s Zhang Yong 6-2, a popular scoreline of the day.

Rory McLeod, who had earlier made headlines in his claim that World Snooker don’t do enough to encourage black players into the sport, had his afternoon match pulled off for slow play but returned before midnight to wrap up a 6-3 triumph over Jak Jones.

Chinese duo Zhang Anda and Zhou Yuelong enjoyed straightforward wins while Riga Masters runner-up Michael Holt, Sam Baird, Oliver Lines and Kurt Maflin all also advanced.

On Wednesday the morning sessions are added to the schedule which means there’ll be a total of 24 matches contested on a busy second day in Yorkshire.

Among those in action are Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark King – who must still be flying high following his maiden ranking event victory at the age of 42 only a few days ago.

Click here to view the draw. 

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