DING JUNHUI’s hopes of securing a guaranteed place in this year’s World Championship are far from certain after he crashed to a shock first round loss in the China Open.
China’s number one star may have to win three qualifying matches in the next few weeks to ensure a spot at the famous Crucible Theatre after his 5-1 defeat to world number 76 Lee Walker.
Ding is currently ranked in the provisional top 16 snooker rankings but his early exit means other players could overtake him should they progress to the deeper rounds of the Beijing tournament – the final ranking event before the World Championship.
The former Masters and UK champion looked like he was back in form after reaching the semi-finals of the World Grand Pix earlier this month but he was unable to repeat that performance level in his home tournament.
The opening day of the tournament also saw another major shock as former China Open winner and world number three Neil Robertson suffered a 5-3 defeat to Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham.
Another surprise scoreline saw Liang Wenbo suffer a 5-2 loss to Peter Lines – a result which meant the china star and this season’s UK championship finalist missed out on a guaranteed World Championship spot and therefore must qualify.
World champion Stuart Bingham showed more signs he was returning to his best form after he thrashed Cao Yupeng 5-0 with a break of 128 in the process.
Elsewhere, Scot Stephen Maguire boosted his Crucible hopes by beating last year’s surprise China Open finalist Gary Wilson 5-3.
Fellow Scot and former world champion Graeme Dott enjoyed a good day’s work beating Matthew Stevens 5-1 with breaks of 82 and 79.
Other Scores From Today’s Matches
Martin O’Donnell 5-0 Wang Yuchen
Yuan Sijun 5-3 Andrew Higginson
Tian Pengfei 5-1 Niu Zhuang
Ian Burns 5-3 Guan Zhen
ROUND ONE (Last 64)
Dominic Dale 5-1 Jamie Jones
Jack Lisowski 5-1 Michael White
Alfie Burden 5-0 Joe Perry
Rory McLeod 5-0 Mitchell Mann
Robert Milkins 5-4 Ross Muir
David Gilbert 5-1 Gerard Greene
Mark Joyce 5-2 Luca Brecel
John Higgins 5-2 Zhou Yuelong
Michael Holt 5-2 Nigel Bond