New professional Louis Heathcote was among the early winners as the 2019/20 campaign began with the Riga Masters qualifiers on Monday in Sheffield.
Day triumphed in the 2017 Riga Masters so had happy memories of this tournament but the Welshman won’t even appear in Latvia this year after a rusty display at Ponds Forge.
It isn’t that unusual to see the bigger names struggle in the early parts of the season and it was perhaps unfortunate for the 39 year-old that he was drawn against a Q School graduate – players who have a lot of recent competitive snooker under their belts.
Heathcote, still only 21, emerged from Q School in May with a dramatic 4-3 victory in the final round over Si Jiahui.
The Englishman trailed 3-0 and required snookers in both the fourth and fifth frames, but somehow managed to survive and earn his pro ticket via a dramatic decider.
The victory over Day wasn’t vastly different as Heathcote started his tenure on the Main Tour perfectly with a gritty 4-3 defeat of the world number 18.
The majority of the other higher ranked players did still manage to avoid early exits, though, as the new term tentatively got under way.
A format that resulted in only the top 16 seeds avoiding each other meant that Yan Bingtao was paired with Anthony McGill in the pick of the preliminary ties.
The Chinese youngster edged a scrappy affair 4-2, launching a campaign that many are predicting could be the one that sees him breakthrough as a credible star.
Meanwhile, experienced English trio Ali Carter, Ricky Walden, and Michael Holt all safely negotiated their initial hurdles.
The latter, runner-up in this tournament three years ago, outplayed teenage Irishman Ross Bulman, who is among a number of amateurs in the field making up the numbers.
Bulman just missed out on one of the four additional spots available for the Main Tour from the Q School Order of Merit but will likely have the opportunity to compete in most ranking events this season as an extra top-up.
Belgium’s Luca Brecel produced one of the most convincing performances, knocking in breaks of 70, 59, and 54 in hammering returning pro Andy Hicks.
Mike Dunn also recorded a whitewash win over Mitchell Mann while Alan McManus, who compiled a brace of tons, and Jak Jones surrendered only one frame in successes over Billy Joe Castle and Thor Chuan Leong respectively.
🏅PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY🏅
Professional rookie Louis Heathcote defeated former Riga Masters winner Ryan Day in a decider on debut, but our #performanceoftheday goes to the clinical scoring Alan McManus. pic.twitter.com/UXsnSbpZ9V
— The Cue View (@ViewCue) June 10, 2019
Veteran Rod Lawler and fellow Englishman Sam Craigie mustered 4-2 victories over Chinese debutants Si and Long Zehuang.
However, it was a decent day for the contingent from China in general as joining Yan on the flight to Eastern Europe will be Zhou Yuelong, Yuan Sijun, Mei Xiwen, Chen Zifan, and Chang Bingyu.
The Riga Masters qualifiers continue on Tuesday with the likes of Jack Lisowski, Stephen Maguire, and Graeme Dott in action.