Ding Junhui began the 2019 Shanghai Masters with a 6-2 victory over Zhao Jianbo as the lucrative invitational got under way on Monday.
Ding, a two-time former champion, grew in confidence after a slow start to eventually see off the gallant challenge of his young compatriot.
Zhao was one of four home amateur players to receive a wildcard and he began well, sharing the opening four frames to enjoy parity at the mid-session interval.
Yet, Ding didn’t let the prospect of an upset hamper him too much and, despite a few poor misses, the former world number one played a patient game as he eased towards the winning line.
Tougher tests await the 32 year-old, who hasn’t collected any silverware in two years, with Neil Robertson representing his upcoming proposition in the last 16.
Arguably the biggest result of the 2019 Shanghai Masters so far, though, occurred earlier in the day when Ali Carter was dumped out by another wildcard, Zhang Yi.
The “Captian”, who emerged victorious in the event nine years ago when it was previously staged as a ranking tournament, began strongly with a break of 117 and led 2-1 after another single scoring visit of 80.
But Zhang, the winner of the qualifying tournament at the weekend, dug deep to grind his more experienced opponent down.
The 25 year-old could only tally high breaks of 55 and 54 but appeared to control the scrappier frames, eventually winning five out of the last six for an unlikely victory.
Zhang’s reward is the ultimate test, with the returning Ronnie O’Sullivan set to begin his defence with an unexpected clash against an amateur wild card.
O’Sullivan’s last match on the professional circuit, of course, was against another amateur when he crashed to a shock defeat to James Cahill at the Crucible in April.
Meanwhile, Barry Hawkins avoided a similar fate to that of his fellow Englishman Carter, edging an entertaining encounter with Yan Bingtao in a decider on the final black.
💬 “If you can do well in a big tournament like this, that is the boost of confidence you really need.”
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker) September 9, 2019
A see-saw duel ebbed one way and the other, with both cueists notching up sizable contributions to lead at various junctures.
Riga Masters champion Yan appeared to steal a march when he pinched the ninth frame with a 66 clearance to the black to lead 5-4.
However, Hawkins responded with the next frame to make it all square, a decider in which after a lengthy safety battle he managed to clear the colours for victory.
Earlier in the day, there were more routine triumphs for top 16 players Shaun Murphy and Jack Lisowski.
Murphy compiled a 135 en route to a 6-1 thrashing of Lyu Haotian while Lisowski repeated that scoreline with a straightforward defeat of up-and-coming teenage star Wu Yize.
In the final fixture to conclude on day one, Xiao Guodong easily overcame a Stephen Maguire who looked as though he was suffering from a mental hangover following his Six Red World Championship success of just two days ago.
Xiao, the 2013 runner-up, to his credit scored heavily – making a century in the last frame to add to five prior contributions above 50.