Following his victory against Sam Baird in yesterday’s wildcard round, China’s Jin Long caused a real shock today at the Haikou World Open by sending home favourite Ding Junhui crashing out of the tournament with a 5-1 win. Elsewhere, there were wins for 2011 world finalists John Higgins and Judd Trump, as well as Michael Holt who maintained his recent strong form…
Recent Welsh Open champion Ding Junhui became the highest ranked player to exit the World Open today as he slipped to a 5-1 defeat against experienced wildcard Jin Long. While Ding was by all accounts out of sorts from the off, Jin grew in confidence as the match progressed, leading 3-1 at the interval before he added the next two frames with a top break of 76 to secure victory.
Twice a winner of the Asian Championship and a regular on the main tour in previous seasons, this nevertheless marks Jin’s best result in a full-ranking event, topping his last 32 appearance in the 2010 Shanghai Masters, also as a wildcard, when he lost out to Ding in a decider having at one stage led 5-4. Strangely enough, it may be the man that he defeated in the wildcard round that year who he faces in the last 16 in Haikou, as Robert Milkins takes on Stephen Maguire tomorrow.
Jin commented after the match:
“I made some mistakes but had a little more luck and Ding didn’t grab his chances. He was feeling the pressure as I led at the interval and I tried to take it easy and try my best. Ding is a great player and hard to beat so I am very happy indeed with the victory!”
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the wildcard system, I am pleased for Jin as I remember having a long chat with him outside of the EIS in Sheffield a couple of years ago as he smoked a cigarette and he explained to me the difficulty that players from China faced in order to get onto the tour at the time via the now-defunct PIOS system. As we have seen this season following the impression made by the likes of Li Yan and Yu Delu, perhaps that situation is now beginning to change.
For Ding the result will be a disappointment following his recent victory in Wales and it is interesting to note that he appears to be a player gaining a reputation for not playing at his best in his homeland, presumably due to the huge weight of expectation upon his young shoulders. I too had this perception as I prepared to write my tournament preview for this event at the weekend, but a look at his track record over the past few years does not particularly bear it out, with runs to the semi-finals and final in the last two years at the China Open.
Elsewhere, a low on confidence John Higgins secured an important opening round win against the dangerous Marco Fu with a 5-3 success today. His progress was not without a scare however as having led 3-0 early on, Marco closed the gap to 4-3 before John secured the victory with a break of 77. John told World Snooker after the match:
“I was lucky to be 3-1 ahead at the break – the correct score should have been 2-2,”
“Marco came back very well but I got a good break in last frame to win. I needed lots of luck though, and I’ll have to get a lot better as I’m lacking a bit of confidence.”
“Marco was a tough match as the Chinese people wanted to see him win so I was happy to beat him this time. My confidence is way down at the moment and you have to start winning matches to get it back.”
Also through were Shaun Murphy and Graeme Dott, who both came through tough encounters against two of the most in-form qualifiers at the moment, Ricky Walden and Barry Hawkins to move into the last 16. Interestingly, Shaun commented on the conditions after the match on Twitter:
“Yeah very sticky and damp in the arena. It’s the weather, it’s cold, windy and rainy”
Otherwise the remaining matches proved to be a tale of three whitewashes as Stephen Lee and Judd Trump swept aside Dominic Dale and Andrew Higginson respectively, while Michael Holt boosted his chances of a return to the top 32 at the season’s end with a fine 5-0 victory against Stuart Bingham.
The action continues tomorrow from 6:30am…