Northern Ireland Open seeds
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Seeds mostly unscathed as Northern Ireland Open starts

The Northern Ireland Open seeds had no problems negotiating their heldover ties as the Home Nations event got under way on Sunday in Belfast.

Most of the first round was played in a preliminary stage back in August, with the top 16 in the world rankings having their fixtures saved for the venue itself.

It was generally a straightforward day for the higher-ranked contenders at the Waterfront Hall as the fourth ranking event of the campaign got under way.

World number one Ronnie O’Sullivan – winner of last week’s Hong Kong Masters – thumped Lukas Kleckers 4-0 while reigning champion Mark Allen recovered from a slow start to overcome Chang Bingyu 4-1 with the aid of a couple of century breaks.

Three-time Northern Ireland Open champion Judd Trump and Neil Robertson, who is looking to complete the set of all four Home Nations crowns having already captured the other three in his career, also comfortably advanced.

Mark Selby was far from his best but managed to outlast Reanne Evans in six frames, while 2017 champion Mark Williams edged Peter Lines 4-2 as well.

It was more routine for Kyren Wilson, Shaun Murphy, and Luca Brecel – the trio securing respective whitewash wins against Ken Doherty, Xu Si, and Joe O’Connor.

Yan Bingtao ousted fellow Chinese competitor Liang Wenbo in one of the standout ties of the last 128, while Barry Hawkins received a bye with scheduled opponent Farakh Ajaib competing and triumphing at Q Tour 3 in Belgium.

The only blemishes for the top 16 seeds at the Northern Ireland Open so far came in the form of defeats for Zhao Xintong and Ricky Walden.

The pair suffered 4-1 defeats to Lyu Haotian and Xiao Guodong, a particularly damaging result for Walden who in recent weeks has dropped to number 17 in the world rankings and provisionally out of the running for a berth in this term’s Masters.

Three more heldover ties are to take place when the play resumes on Monday with John Higgins, Jack Lisowski, and Zhou Yuelong entering the fray – the latter against local wildcard Robbie McGuigan.

The round of 64 will also commence with Allen, Robertson, and Williams among those back in action.

Click here to view the full draw

Live coverage is available via Eurosport and Quest in the UK and Ireland, with other options around the world also available.

Featured photo credit: WST

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