The tournament has lost its defending champion right away: indeed Mark Selby, whose first round (last 128) match was held-over went out by 6-3 to Craig Steadman. Craig played really well, but, it has to be said, Mark Selby was poor in this match. Claiming that he played well is either delusional, or driven by the will not to appear to belittle his opponent performance.
Ding Junhui had an easy passage to the second round. His opponent, 20 years old Zhang Jiankang struggled for cue ball control from start to finish. He had chances, because Ding wasn’t at his best at all, but he couldn’t build much from them. Towards the end of the match Ding appeared to play much better. He finished with a 139.
Neil Robertson beat Kishan Hirani easily. No surprise there: he is one of the men in form at the moment. Yet, Neil wasn’t a happy bunny, judging by this tweet:
Very fortunate having played in front of packed crowds every match for the last 3 months. This week the players get to feel like footballers being forced to play behind closed doors. I love China but the players hate the crowd/ticket price situation that prevents people watching
The World Champion, Mark Williams, also had his last 128 match held-over, and was given a serious test by rookie Harvey Chandler. Harvey had runs of 130, 95 and 70 but was still beaten by 6-4. The 130 was his highest break as a professional so far. “Willo” scored breaks of 106, 62, 101, 102 and 72. It was a really good match, and, once again, I feel that it’s not right that Harvey will go home without any prize money – nor ranking points – having made the trip to China, and given the reigning World Champion a seriously good game. There was nothing mediocre about that performance. Mark though came on twitter later, lamenting that his tip got damaged. Fortunately, Gerard Greene, who also won today, was able to come to the rescue.
… and Anthony McGill managed to get docked a frame…
Selby won this event in Beijing in 2015, 2017 and 2018 but this time he faces an early flight back to the UK. It has been a patchy season for the Leicester cueman, his only real highlight coming at the China Championship in September when he beat John Higgins in the final.
Selby will head to the Crucible later this month lacking sharpness, on a streak of four consecutive defeats going back to February’s Welsh Open. Today’s result also means that Ronnie O’Sullivan will be world number one going into the World Championship.
Beating Selby in this lucrative event, which has total prize money of £1 million, is perhaps the best result of 36-year-old Steadman’s career so far. He goes through to the last 64 to face Dominic Dale on Tuesday.
Breaks of 64 and 99 helped Selby take a 3-2 lead but he didn’t score a point in the next three frames as Lancashire’s Steadman fired runs of 77, 108 and 86 to go 5-3 up. Frame nine lasted 53 minutes and came down to the colours, with Selby making a crucial error when he attempted to pot the yellow but sent it flying off the table. Steadman eventually potted the brown to seal the result.
“Craig was unbelievable, he played as well as a top 16 player,” said Selby. “From 3-2 I didn’t do much wrong. Sometimes you just have to say ‘well played’ to your opponent. It seems to be going that way for me at the moment, I am playing well and still losing.
“Hopefully my results will turn around. I had the number one spot for four years but sooner or later I was going to lose it, and Ronnie has played well this season. It will make me stronger, to try to get it back. I’ll go home now and prepare for Sheffield.”
Steadman said: “It’s a really big win on TV against a top player, especially as Mark is defending champion and has a good track record in China. I felt comfortable all the way through, I was calm and in control.”
Anthony McGill beat Nigel Bond 6-4 despite being docked the first frame for arriving late at the venue. The match was due to start at 2.30pm but Glasgow’s McGill was still asleep in his hotel room until two minutes earlier. If he had arrived at the venue later than 2.45pm he would have been docked the second frame as well, but made it in time and compiled a break of 77 to level at 1-1. He then fell 3-1 behind but hit back to win five of the next six frames with top breaks of 133, 100, 86 and 61.
“I have been sleeping a lot since I got here, so I didn’t bother setting an alarm,” explained 28-year-old McGill. “I woke up during the night, practised for two hours then went back to bed at 7am. The next thing I knew, my phone was vibrating. It was 2.28pm, it was (tournament director) Martin Clark ringing me. I got dressed in 60 seconds and ran down to the hotel foyer. I didn’t even have a shower or brush my teeth. My shoelaces were still untied, it was like a movie scene.
“I managed to get a car to the venue quickly so I got ready for the match in the car. I was thinking I would be quite happy to be 3-0 or 4-0 down as long as I got to play. When I got to the venue and found I would only be 1-0 down, I couldn’t believe it.
“After that I played pretty well. I have been practising really hard and I am feeling good about the game. I feel I have been playing better than my results suggest, but that’s all in the past and I’m looking forward to the future.”
China’s top player Ding Junhui saw off Zhang Jiankang 6-1 with a top break of 139. World Champion Mark Williams had a tougher test against Harvey Chandler but came through 6-4 with top runs of 106, 62, 101, 102 and 72.
Stuart Bingham was in superb form in a 6-0 win over Elliot Slessor, firing breaks of 92, 140, 101 and 104. Neil Robertson top scored with 119 and 138 in a 6-2 win over Kishan Hirani.
Ali Carter came from 4-2 and 5-4 down to beat Kurt Maflin 6-5, making a 73 in the decider. Promising Chinese wild card Chang Bingyu beat Mark Davis 6-4.
David Gilbert beat Matthew Selt 6-4 with top breaks of 108 and 100, a result which boosts Gilbert’s hopes of being a seeded top 16 player at the World Championship for the first time. His nearest challenger Ryan Day must reach at least the quarter-finals this week to overtake him. To keep an eye on that race click here.