The 2018/19 snooker season commenced on Monday with the start of the Riga Masters qualifying round at the Preston Guild Hall.
There were no upsets of note to speak about as the top seeds in action safely negotiated their opening task of what will ultimately prove to be another long and arduous campaign.
A little bit of rustiness is usually anticipated as the players exchange blows for the first time after a lengthy off-period following April and May’s World Snooker Championship and it is generally expected that some of the marquee names will crash out earlier than what is the norm as they attempt to get up to speed.
However, there was no such concern for the seeded competitors on day one as Shaun Murphy, Barry Hawkins, Ali Carter, and Liang Wenbo all managed to reach the main event in Latvia later this month.
While the other trio all recorded routine whitewash wins, Murphy was made to work the hardest for his place in the last 64 as he fought back from 2-0 down to deny Sanderson Lam 4-2.
Indeed, had the “Magician” not pinched the third frame on the black to avoid going three frames down with four to play, it could have been a very different story, but subsequent runs of 50, 98, and 59 ultimately secured his safe passage.
Meanwhile, Zhou Yuelong, Robbie Williams, and Mark King all emerged from dramatic deciding frame thrillers, with the latter overcoming fellow veteran Peter Ebdon in a marathon match that lasted well over three hours and concluded on the final black.
Three-time ranking event winner Ricky Walden, who showed plenty of signs of a return to his old form during last season after a spell in the doldrums, began this term confidently with a 4-1 triumph over John Astley while Jamie Jones whitewashed German rookie Simon Lichtenberg.
Lichtenberg’s countryman Lukas Kleckers, who sensationally beat then defending champion Neil Robertson in the first round twelve months ago before going on to experience a disappointingly difficult debut season on the pro circuit, overcame Alexander Ursenbacher 4-1.
Elsewhere, there were victories for Englishmen Chris Wakelin, Rod Lawler, Stuart Carrington, Nigel Bond, and amateur David Lilley, who upset Hammad Miah with a 4-2 success.
Chinese duo Xu Si and Mei Xiwen also progressed with respective victories against Matthew Selt and Soheil Vahedi.