China Open 2012: Ding Survives, Seeds Progress

Day two in Beijing proved to be one for the favourites as all six last 32 matches played were won by the seeded player, but it could have been different as recent Championship League winner Ding Junhui slipped 4-0 behind against Ben Woollaston at the mid-session interval of their match…

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A year ago Ding Junhui faced the prospect of an early exit in Beijing as he trailed Norway’s Kurt Maflin 4-1 at the last 32 stage, only to produce an impressive comeback to win 5-4. As it would transpire, today would prove to be a similar story as having trailed Leicester’s Ben Woollaston 4-0 at the break, he recovered with top breaks of 111, 69 and 64 to edge into the last 16.

Judging by their post-match quotes at World Snooker, the partisan crowd played a part as they encouraged their favourite, and you would expect that they will have to do so again in the next round as Ding will meet Mark Selby, a comfortable 5-0 winner against wildcard Li Hang today. Impressively, Mark’s tournament high break of 139 was the 55th of his 2011/12 campaign to date, surpassing his own previous record set last season and he will now be hoping to repeat his victory against his Chinese rival at the recent PTC Grand Finals.

Elsewhere there were solid wins for Scottish duo Stephen Maguire and Graeme Dott against Barry Hawkins and Mark King respectively, while the circuit’s form man Stephen Lee recorded a comfortable win against Tom Ford to keep alive his hopes of a second consecutive ranking title.

The battle of the left-handers between Judd Trump and Jimmy White was to go to form as Judd recorded a 5-3 victory, though from 4-1 down Jimmy gave it a real go without quite being able to secure the win. Encouraging signs though for Jimmy as he prepares his latest attempt to qualify for the Crucible for the first time since 2006, while Trump awaits the winner of tomorrow’s clash between Stuart Bingham and Joe Perry.

Away from the first round, today also saw the final two wildcard matches of the tournament played to a conclusion and they proved to be contrasting affairs as Rory McLeod came through a 5-0 winner against 14-year-old Zhou Yuelong, but Fergal O’Brien exited at the hands of the experienced Jin Long. The defeat proved to be particularly tough on Fergal as with the clock approaching four hours he held a comfortable lead in the decider, only to fall victim to a steely clearance of 65 by his opponent.

Looking ahead to tomorrow there is another great day of snooker in prospect as the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams get their tournaments underway, as well as Shaun Murphy and Ali Carter who confirmed earlier on that he has now arrived in China having missed the recent World Open due to illness.

On an unrelated note, Barry Hearn today commented that he does not intend to alter the format of the World Championship in a hurry. As something of a traditionalist, I hope he keeps to that promise.