Things have gone from bad to worse for Mark Selby after losing to Craig Steadman in the China Open on Monday.
It was only last week when the Englishman’s four year reign as world number one ended after Ronnie O’Sullivan’s success in the Tour Championship.
Selby would have been hoping to bounce back in familiar territory, having emerged as the China Open champion the last three times he’s participated in the ranking event.
However, the 35 year-old’s first defeat in Beijing since 2014 consigned further misery in what has been a turbulent spell for the three-time world champion.
With the World Championship just around the corner in Sheffield, Selby is suffering from a prolonged period of bad form and it’s difficult to envisage him mounting a serious threat at the Crucible on this occasion.
China had been the Leicesterman’s place of refuge in recent times as he managed to maintain his stranglehold at the summit of the pecking order with sporadic strong performances in the country, despite rarely threatening on home soil.
But Steadman took advantage of another lacklustre display, recording a 6-3 triumph to advance to the last 64.
Mark Selby is guaranteed to be the third seed at the Crucible and will definitely be on the same side of the draw as O’Sullivan.
Only time will tell if the winner of eight Triple Crown titles can rediscover his form in time to set up a seemingly improbable semi-final clash against the “Rocket” in the sport’s blue riband tournament.
💬 “I’m really proud to have held it as long as I have”
If @markjesterselby lifts the XingPai China Open trophy on Sunday, he’ll have his world number one status back (and the top prize of £225,000!) 💷💷💷
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) April 1, 2019
Elsewhere, the majority of the other seeds have so far made it through their opening tests.
Neil Robertson, winner of the Welsh Open and runner-up to O’Sullivan in both Llandudno and previously at the Players Championship in Preston, continued his impressive hot streak with a 6-2 beating of Kishan Hirani.
Last month’s Gibraltar Open champion Stuart Bingham wasted little time in hammering Elliot Slessor 6-0, helped by a total clearance of 140.
Ali Carter and Anthony McGill advanced unscathed despite hard-fought outings against Kurt Maflin and Nigel Bond respectively.
Tour stalwarts Joe Perry and Mark King were among the others to win on the first day.
Still, there was the inevitable loss for one of the top pros against an amateur top-up, with local player Chang Bingyu upsetting Mark Davis 6-4.
Xiao Guodong also progressed from the home contingent with a 6-1 drubbing of Soheil Vahedi.
China’s number one Ding Junhui gets going in Monday’s final session against Zhang Jiankang while world champion Mark Williams faces Harvey Chandler.