The 2018 World Open has taken a completely new shape after a purge of the marquee names sent a host of key contenders crashing out at the last 32 stage on Wednesday in Yushan.
Defending champion Ding Junhui’s 5-4 defeat to Robert Milkins concluded an evening of upsets as a significant number of seeds exited the competition before the business end of proceedings.
Ding had numerous opportunities to escape from a hard-fought and error-strewn battle with Milkins in the decider but the pair’s handshake was accompanied by a tell-all headshake in bewilderment as the latter ultimately scrambled over the finishing line.
It will be interesting to see what effect Ding’s demise has on the crowds for the remainder of the week because his involvement has just about been the only thing keeping the staging in Yushan respectable over the last couple of years.
It probably won’t help the local fans’ appetite that a number of the other high-scoring, attack-minded competitors crashed out as well.
Riga Masters champion Neil Robertson‘s perfect start to the new campaign ended with a 5-3 defeat to Ricky Walden – despite adding another brace of tons to his tally from this term that has already reached an incredible 14 century breaks.
Judd Trump was also sent packing after falling foul of a similar scoreline to Gary Wilson while five-time ranking event champion Stephen Maguire was pipped in a nail-biting decider with Joe Perry.
Masters champion Mark Allen, a two-time winner of the World Open in China, was another victim but his defeat was arguably one of the least surprising as it came in typically frenetic fashion against Jack Lisowski courtesy of a 5-1 drubbing.
Lisowski, the runner-up in Latvia a couple of weeks ago, has been a star on the rise ever since reaching the semi-finals of the Shanghai Masters just under a year ago and it looks as though his pedigree is finally being fulfilled.
Other notable names that went by the wayside were multiple ranking event champions Ali Carter and Ryan Day, who were dumped out by David Gilbert and Noppon Saengkham respectively.
Carter’s crumble was particularly surprising as he let slip a 3-0 lead in falling to a 5-3 loss to Gilbert, who wrapped up the turnaround success with a terrific tournament-high break of 140.
Another standout performance on a thrilling day of action came from Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien, with the veteran sensationally overturning a 4-0 mid-session interval deficit to Luca Brecel by reeling off the final five frames for a memorable comeback win.
Believe it or not, there were a few results that went according to plan as the last 16 took shape and the favourites for the title became more clear.
Mark Selby again looked rusty but the world number one eventually emerged as a 5-2 victor against Jamie Jones and everyone knows just how dangerous the three-time world champion gets the longer he remains in the hunt for glory in a tournament.
The most recent three-time Crucible champion, current king of Sheffield Mark Williams is also through to the midway point after a more convincing outing against Ben Woollaston.
Kyren Wilson, still seeking his second ranking trophy three years after capturing his maiden piece of silverware, ended the spirited challenge of European amateur champion Harvey Chandler, setting up an intriguing tie against Lisowski that is likely the tie of the round.
Consistent threats Barry Hawkins and Marco Fu have also reached the third round, the latter continuing his resurgence after his spell on the sidelines through injury, while former German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton is in the hunt too after fighting back from 4-1 down to prevail in a decider with Mei Xiwen.
That leaves the last remaining player from China as Xiao Guodong, who actually looked the most impressive out of the lot in moving forward to the next stage after compiling five half century breaks in hammering Jak Jones with a whitewash display, after Matthew Selt’s late 5-3 triumph against Yan Bingtao.