Stuart Bingham became the first big-name casualty in the first event of the season as he crashed to a 4-0 defeat to Niu Zhuang in the qualifying round for the Riga Masters on Tuesday.
The 2015 world champion appeared to be in rusty shape as his opponent took advantage of a scrappy affair to seal the whitewash win and move forward to the venue stages in Latvia later this month.
Bingham’s exit has been, somewhat surprisingly considering the two-month summer break, the only major upset of the first two days so far with several marquee names moving forward comfortably.
Former Riga Masters champion Neil Robertson was made to work hard for his 4-2 success over another Chinese competitor, inaugural WSF Championship winner Luo Honghao, with the Australian requiring a brace of centuries and two further runs above 50 to see off the rookie.
It was easier for Stephen Maguire, last year’s runner-up, who was at his free-scoring best in rattling off a flurry of frame winning contributions to thump Michael Judge – one of the amateur top-ups – with a whitewash display.
Fellow former ranking event winners Michael White and Joe Perry also safely negotiated their first hurdles of the campaign, recording 4-1 scorelines against Gary Wilson and Lu Ning respectively.
There were a couple of matches that went the distance at the Preston Guild Hall as Scott Donaldson traded breaks of 137 with Noppon Saengkham before edging the Thai in a decider while later in the evening amateur Luke Simmonds won the last three frames to deny tour newcomer Zhang Jiankang.
Seasoned pros Robert Milkins, Kurt Maflin, and David Gilbert all got this term off to winning starts while stalwarts Lee Walker and Gerard Greene advanced easily too.
Elsewhere, Chinese Li duo, Yuan and Hang, enjoyed victories over Paul Davison and Duane Jones, and Robin Hull, Craig Steadman, and Joe O’Connor also progressed to the last 64.
Wednesday’s action will see the likes of Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson enter the fray, while arguably the match of the round takes place between Martin Gould and Yan Bingtao.