UK Championship Milton Keynes
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UK Championship Gets Under Way in Milton Keynes

The biggest ranking event of the season so far is the fifth on the 2020/21 calendar.

Former champions John Higgins, Mark Williams, and Mark Selby made it through their UK Championship opening-round fixtures on Monday in Milton Keynes.

The action commenced at the Marshall Arena, which is staging the 2020 edition instead of the UK Championship’s usual home of the Barbican Centre in York as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Williams wasted little time in getting beyond Ben Hancorn with a whitewash win, while Higgins didn’t need much longer in a 6-1 thrashing of Fergal O’Brien.

It was much harder for Selby, but the 2012 and 2016 champion eventually survived a tough battle with Michael White to prevail with a 6-4 scoreline.

Selby, who triumphed in the European Masters earlier this term, compiled a tournament-high break of 140 in the third frame.

Elsewhere, Yan Bingtao held off a firm challenge from tour rookie Sean Maddocks and was joined in the second round by his Chinese countrymen Li Hang, Chang Bingyu, and Pang Junxu.

The latter’s victory was particularly impressive, with the 20 year-old inflicting a 6-4 loss on former semi-finalist Tom Ford.

Among the other higher profile players to advance to the last 64 where Barry Hawkins and Graeme Dott, who recorded comprehensive 6-1 successes over Riley Parsons and Zhao Jianbo respectively.

A couple of fixtures on the first day went all the way to the deciding frame, with Andy Hicks fighting back from 5-3 behind to deny Ben Woollaston and the improving Jamie Clarke edging Martin O’Donnell by the same narrow margin.

Germany’s Simon Lichtenberg earned a surprise victory against Scott Donaldson and there were passages through to the next stage for David Grace and Gerard Greene as well.

Meanwhile, positive COVID-19 tests for both Ryan Day and Anthony Hamilton resulted in their withdrawals from this year’s competition, gifting Jak Jones and Xu Si byes into the second round.

On Tuesday, former UK Championship winners Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy will be among those entering the fray in Milton Keynes.

Live coverage of the first round is on Eurosport and via various other global services.

Click here to view the draw

Featured photo credit: WST

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