Day two in Wuxi as the big names entered the fray and it was a day of shocks (on paper at least), as four of the top 16 seeded players, as well as Michael White in the wildcard round, were sent packing from the tournament today…
Much is made of Ding Junhui’s record in China and today he suffered another early exit in his homeland as he suffered a 5-2 defeat at the hands of qualifier Mark Davis. It was Ding who made the stronger start in taking the opening frame with a break of 84, but from there it was Davis who asserted himself on the match and was able to gain a measure of revenge for defeats to the Chinese number one at the UK Championship and Welsh Open tournaments last season.
For Ding it is a disappointing start to what could be an important season for him with a large number of ranking points due to fall from his tally this year, which with a poor run could even threaten his top 16 status, as unlikely as it might seem. Obviously however it is very early days and he could just as easily win the next tournament as he has demonstrated on numerous occasions previously.
Today was about Mark however and he now moves on to a tie with Jamie Burnett, after the Scot knocked out 2010 world champion Neil Robertson by an emphatic 5-1 scoreline. Having won four matches this season prior to today including his wildcard match yesterday, it is perhaps not as surprising as it might appear that Burnett was able to emerge the winner, particularly given Neil’s record in China which is largely unremarkable.
Interestingly, the last time that Jamie reached this stage of a ranking event also came in China back at the 2010 Shanghai Masters, when he actually defeated Mark 5-4 in the quarter-finals, having at one stage trailed 3-0 and 4-1. Since then, Mark has got his own back to some extent with a 4-2 win against Jamie at the Welsh Open qualifiers last season, but it remains a match that could go either way.
Also exiting the tournament was Martin Gould, whose poor 2012 continued with a 5-3 defeat to Jamie Cope, winner of the last two frames with the scoreline delicately balanced at 3-3. World Championship finalist Ali Carter was another casualty, losing 5-3 to Fergal O’Brien as the Irishman gained useful points as he looks to reclaim a place in the top 32 over the coming months.
It was not all bad news for the seeds though as both Stuart Bingham and Mark Allen were able to progress, Stuart taking a decider against Peter Ebdon having initially been pulled off at 4-4, while Allen made light work of wildcard Rouzi Maimaiti.
On the subject of wildcards, there were mixed fortunes for the two professionals in action today as Ken Doherty fought back from 4-2 down to defeat the dangerous Lu Ning, while Michael White lost out to 14-year-old Zhou Yuelong.
As ever during the Chinese events, the validity of having the wildcard rounds in the competition has been a hotly-debated subject on Twitter and the various snooker blogs out there, Michael Holt in particular offering probably the fairest assessment tonight with his view that while at one stage they were necessary to spread the word of snooker, the sport is now well enough established to no longer need them.
My view remains that wildcards are fundamentally unfair, but if they really are necessary on a commercial level then it is hard to argue against them too fiercely. When I turn on the television to see banks of empty seats however, it is hard not to wonder just what the commercial benefits really are…