The 2020 Masters began with an upset as Joe Perry beat Ding Junhui 6-3 in the first round on Sunday at the Alexandra Palace.
Ding had been a heavy favourite after claiming a fourth Triple Crown title only last month when he triumphed in the UK Championship.
But the Chinese number one’s standard was a shadow of what he produced in York and Perry’s confidence grew as the match progressed.
The 45 year-old, whose last Masters appearance was in 2017 when he went all the way to final before being beaten by Ronnie O’Sullivan, was never behind after winning the opening frame.
After the first six frames were shared, it looked as though a nervy finish was in prospect.
However, Perry’s timely contributions of 93, 83, and 71 in the second half of the battle helped him to ease into the last eight at the 2011 champion’s expense.
It’s the third time that Perry has beaten Ding in the event, which has become an unhappy stomping ground for the 32 year-old.
Indeed, since the Masters moved to the Ally Pally in 2012, Ding has won a measly three matches at the venue.
Joe Perry’s place in this year’s edition was only confirmed in December when he managed to safeguard his return to the elite top 16 in the world rankings at the Barbican Centre.
The Englishman, a former ranking event winner, faces the prospect of another former winner of this competition in the next round.
Perry will meet either Shaun Murphy or the reigning champion and world number one Judd Trump, with a semi-final berth at stake.
Never underestimate Joe Perry, that’s always been my motto. #MastersSnooker
— Christopher Sleet (@sleetopher) January 12, 2020
Later today, three-time champion Mark Selby opens his account against Ali Carter.
Newly introduced this year is a crown symbol on the waistcoat of any player who has claimed the career Triple Crown – the hat-trick of Masters, UK, and World Championship titles.
Selby then will be the first to show it off his membership within an exclusive club with Trump, Murphy, Neil Robertson, Mark Williams, and John Higgins also looking forward to revealing their crowns later on in the week.