The four favourites for the China Open comfortably reached the second round on Tuesday in Beijing.
Ding Junhui delighted his legion of home fans with a 5-0 drubbing of Paul Davison, in doing so setting up a highly intriguing last 32 tie with young countryman Zhou Yuelong.
Ding appeared in fine fettle as he compiled a 138 total clearance along with four other 50-plus contributions to continue his progress at his home event.
Tomorrow’s clash between the 29 year-old and Zhou is particularly interesting as the latter represents arguably the most likely competitor from China to challenge Ding at the higher echelons of the sport in the coming seasons.
Meanwhile, Mark Selby, Judd Trump, and Ronnie O’Sullivan also all progressed with the minimum of fuss.
World champion Selby had struggled in the early stages of his held over qualifying round fixture on Monday, at one point even looking like he might be heading for the unlikeliest of early exits against Polish amateur Adam Stefanow.
However, from 2-1 and 3-2 behind the world number one reeled off a hat-trick of centuries to survive the scare, and he carried the superb form into today’s encounter as he inflicted a whitewash drubbing on a helpless Burden.
Selby had forgotten his chalk as the players emerged for their opening frame but that was as flustered as he would get as he knocked in runs of 104, 95, 88, 87, and 74 to power into the last 32.
The 33 year-old has been having a relatively quiet 2017 so far by his own high standards, failing to reach beyond the quarter-finals of any event this calendar year, but it looks as though he is rediscovering his form at just the right time with the defence of his World Championship crown imminent.
Tallies of 108 and 105 for Trump, his fourth and fifth centuries of the week already, helped the the defending champion to a 5-1 victory over amateur Ashley Hugill while O’Sullivan was convincing too in his 5-0 whitewash of Gareth Allen – albeit the Welshman really should have won a couple of frames to make it closer.
John Higgins, another of the heavy-hitters in the midst of a strong season, also enjoyed a relatively easy time of it as he compiled four half century breaks in a 5-1 triumph over Ian Burns.
Elsewhere, Kyren Wilson won the last three frames as he fought back from 3-2 down to beat Xiao Guodong 5-3 – in what was in general a disappointing day for the Chinese contingent as English Open champion Liang Wenbo suffered a surprising 5-2 defeat to Rory McLeod.
Wildcard Fan Zhengyi, who benefited from the withdrawal of Robbie Williams from the tournament, could only muster a solitary frame as Martin Gould continued his push for a top 16 berth and with it an automatic place at the Crucible.
Gould requires a run to the semi-finals to leapfrog Ryan Day in the world rankings and avoid the dreaded world qualifiers at Ponds Forge.
Scotland’s Alan McManus was also in with a slim chance of breaking into the elite bracket but suffered a heavy 5-1 defeat to former UK and Masters champion Matthew Stevens.
Another ex-UK and Masters winner in Jimmy White couldn’t advance to the last 32, though, as he was narrowly edged out in a 5-3 defeat to Michael Holt.
The “Whirlwind” now definitely needs at least one victory in World Championship qualifying to avoid losing his professional Main Tour membership.
Holt is another who is hoping for a big week to scramble his way into the seeded mix in Sheffield, as is 2008 China Open champion Stephen Maguire, who overcame Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien 5-3.
Among the other names to move onto the next stage were last year’s runner-up Ricky Walden, Andrew Higginson, Martin O’Donnell, and Daniel Wells.
Coverage continues on Eurosport and Quest TV.
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