Today saw the start of the International Championship in Chengdu and already the wildcards have again made their presence felt, while top seeds Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy have moved safely into the last 16…
Neil Robertson is through to the last 16, following a terrific performance which saw the Australian hit three century breaks this evening in Chengdu. It was not without a scare, as opponent Ryan Day took a 2-0 lead with a top run of 85, before Robertson battled his way to parity at the mid-session interval.
On their resumption though it was largely one-way traffic, Robertson hitting breaks of 70, 79, 137, 118 and finally 115 to edge out the former Shanghai Masters finalist and progress. Certainly from what I saw of his performance, Robertson looked to be cueing very well and will be looking to improve upon his relatively poor run of results in China during his career to date.
Next up for him will be either Matthew Stevens or local man Zhao Xintong, the latter coming through 6-5 against former world champion Ken Doherty today to take a notable scalp for the wildcards. Having recovered from 5-2 down to force a decider, it looked as though Doherty would escape, but recording just two breaks of 50 or above in the match, he would eventually succumb to a disappointing defeat.
Also falling at the wildcard stage was Welsh youngster Michael White, who lost the last four frames against young Chinese prodigy Lu Haotian, going down 6-5 in the opening session today. As suggested in my tournament preview, I am not particularly surprised given Michael’s relative inexperience in this situation compared to that of his opponent, but I feel that it is nevertheless disappointing to see another player exit at the wildcard round, having previously qualified for their first major venue. Credit though to Lu, who at 14 years of age has now recorded wins against both White and Marco Fu in recent weeks.
With the withdrawal of Ronnie O’Sullivan from the tournament earlier in the week, Lu now advances straight to the last 16, where he is joined by Shaun Murphy, who produced a fine performance to whitewash Andrew Higginson in the opening session. With four 50+ breaks, Murphy gave his opponent little to go at for the majority of the match and will now await the winner of the match between Ding Junhui and Zhou Yuelong.
Another 6-0 winner today was Jamie Burnett, who ended the hopes of wildcard Niu Zhuang without trouble, while Fergal O’Brien was the day’s final winner, taking the final three frames against Chen Feilong to avenge his loss to the local player at the Shanghai Masters.
Finally, both Aditya Mehta and Cao Yupeng were also able to come through against wildcard opposition, both requiring a deciding frame to do so, Cao having trailed 5-3 against Wang Yuchen.
The action continues tomorrow…