DEFENDING champion Ding Junhui kicked off his defence of the Welsh Open title in impressive style with a win over Dechawat Poomjaeng.
Ding, who beat Mark Selby in last year’s final, was in sparkling form on the tournament’s opening day as two century breaks helped him beat his Thailand opponent in a 4-2 win.
Back to back centuries saw the world number nine cruise to a 2-0 lead before Poomjaeng, playing in his second major ranking event of his career, pulled a frame back.
Ding then re-established his two-frame advantage but Poomjaeng again showed his fighting spirit winning the fifth frame with a break of 51.
But the reigning champion clinched victory winning the sixth frame six by 70 points to set up a first round tie against London’s Mark King.
UK Championship and Masters winner Mark Selby continued his fine form after storming past the qualifying round with a 4-0 win over six-times world champion Steve Davis.
The Jester from Leicester showed the Newport Centre crowd just why he is the world’s number one player with a brilliant total clearance of 144 as well as breaks of 85, 53 and 50 to complete the rout. Selby faces Joe Perry in the first round.
But the tournament started off in a disappointing fashion for the home nation when Welshman Ryan Day was sent home early after losing his qualifying match to China star Liang Wenbo 4-1.
However, the Welsh crowd did have reason to cheer later on in the day when three of their home-grown talents recorded victories.
Mark Williams, the last Welshman to win the Welsh Open back in 1999, avoided being sent home before the first round coming through a 4-1 winner against Liu Chuang and a top run of 81 helped Matthew Stevens to victory against Alfie Burden.
And Dominic Dale booked a first round tie against world number two Judd Trump after beating fellow Welshman Daniel Wells 4-1.
Trump, who came to Newport in bad form following early exits in both the UK Championship and German Masters, bounced back to winning ways despite not being at his fluent best in his 4-0 win against Mike Dunn.
John Higgins launched his bid for his fourth Welsh Open title with a comfortable 4-1 win over amateur player Gareth Allen who was competing in his first ever match at a ranking venue.
Breaks of 101 and 93 sealed Higgins’ place in the last 32 and set up a first round tie against fellow former world champion Ken Doherty.