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Leo Fernandez Prolongs Ding Junhui’s UK Woes

Leo Fernandez caused one of the biggest upsets in UK Championship history as the prestigious event got under way on Tuesday in York.

Leo Fernandez

Fernandez is ranked outside the top 100. Photo credit: Lianne Robertson

The Irishman fought back from 5-1 down to incredibly deny twice former champion Ding Junhui in a decider, 6-5.

Ding appeared to have been coasting when he established a healthy four-frame cushion thanks to runs of 91, 87, 80, 66, 60, and 55 but dramatically fell apart in the final frames as Fernandez seized the opportunity in a thrilling deciding frame that was ultimately settled on the final colours.

It marks the 41 year-old’s first victory on the Main Tour since returning from a 15-month suspension for spot-fixing.

Fernandez once reached the last 32 of the World Championship at the Crucible but this will likely count as one of his most famous wins.

For Ding, it continues an awful stretch in the UK Championship since he captured the crown for the second time in 2009.

The Chinese number one has only once reached the quarter-finals stage since then, a barren run that has also included three first round exits.

Ding had pulled out of the defence of his Shanghai Masters title earlier this month, citing an eye problem, and it’s unknown whether that had any impact on the conclusion to his game but, considering he was initially in such a commanding position, it seems unlikely.

Question marks are again surfacing with regard Ding’s consistency and temperament, something that most people thought he had ironed out of his game in recent times.

Meanwhile, all of the other heavy-hitters had no such problems on day one.

Former champion John Higgins and Stephen Maguire inflicted 6-1 thrashings on Chris Totten and Yuan Sijun respectively, while 2008 runner-up Marco Fu conceded just one additional frame in ousting Nigel Bond.

Ryan Day, fighting for one of the last remaining Masters invitations, hammered Jamie Curtis-Barret 6-0 courtesy of a brace of centuries and three further tallies above 80.

In fact, one of those tons could have been a 147 only for the Welshman breaking down on the final green.

Sunday’s Northern Ireland Open runner-up Yan Bingtao put the disappointment of his narrow defeat quickly behind him with a resounding 6-1 success over Zhang Yong while Kyren Wilson, another ranking event finalist from this campaign, repeated the trick against Sean O’Sullivan.

Chinese duo Cao Yupeng and Zhao Xintong scored two of the other victories that went the distance, eclipsing Tian Pengfei and Rory McLeod 6-5 respectively.

Elsewhere, Elliot Slessor wasn’t able to maintain his form that saw him unexpectedly reach the last four in Belfast as he fell in the remaining decider to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Un-Nooh’s fellow Thai Noppon Saengkham dispatched of Zhang Anda 6-2 but Boonyarit Kaettikun suffered a whitewash loss to Mark King.

Ben Woollaston, Mike Dunn, and Jak Jones were among the other names to progress to the last 64.

On Wednesday, the likes of Mark Selby, Judd Trump, and Shaun Murphy enter the fray at the Barbican.

Live coverage of the first round is on the Eurosport Player.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.

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