There weren’t many surprises at the China Championship today.
The wildcard round saw Zhao Jianbo and Pang Juxu qualify for the tournament proper. Zhao beat Ali Carter in Shanghai earlier this month, and Pang Juxu impressed me inSheffield last April. Nothing unexpected there. Pang was beaten by Tom ford later today, but Zhao is through to the last 64: his last 128 opponent, Ken Doherty withdrew.
The held-over matches saw all the top seeds progress, quite comfortably in most cases. Mark Selby though needed eight frames, but scored heavily in those he won. The only close match was the one involving Yan Bingtao: the experienced Mei Xiwen lead most of the match that went to a decider. Yan had two matches to play today; his last 64 match also went the distance as he needed to come from 4-2 down to beat Sam Baird 5-4.
There were a number of very close last 64 matches today as you can see here on snooker.org
Defending champion Mark Selby saw off a strong challenge from world number 86 Chen Feilong to progress on day one of the Evergrande China Championship in Guangzhou.
Three-time Crucible winner Selby picked up the title last year after outlasting 30-time ranking event winner John Higgins to win a gruelling final 10-9.
That was Selby’s most recent ranking event victory. His last three have all come in China and seven of his 15 career ranking titles have been won on Chinese soil.
Selby took the opening frame of today’s heldover tie thanks to a break of 53. However, consecutive frames from Chen saw the Chinese cueman take a surprise 2-1 lead.
From there Selby moved his game up a gear. The Jester from Leicester fired in breaks of 53, 108, 66 and 137 to claim four of the next five frames and secure the 5-3 win. He will face Lu Ning in the next round.
After the game Selby credited part of his impressive record on Chinese soil to his friend Bobby Lee who he travels with.
Selby said: “Snooker can be a lonely place at times. There are a lot of tournaments and there is a lot of travelling. When I do come to China I have my good friend Bobby who lives out here. To have a companion helps to keep me relaxed and keeps my mind off snooker when I’m not playing well. When I am back home I can overanalyse everything. I think it is down to Bobby why my record in China is so good.
“I feel like I am playing better than last season. If you don’t get the results that doesn’t count for anything though. I feel good on the table and I feel like I am going to score every time I get a chance. I just need to get those few wins under my belt.”
John Higgins secured his place in the last 32 with a 5-1 demolition of Andrew Higginson.
Scotland’s four-time World Champion Higgins has enjoyed an eventful season so far. He won the World Cup alongside Stephen Maguire and was runner-up to Maguire at the recent Six Red World Championship in Bangkok. Next up for Higgins this week is a last 32 clash with China’s Li Hang.
World Champion Judd Trump eased past Thai legend James Wattana by a 5-1 scoreline. While Wales’ 22-time ranking event winner Mark Williams defeated compatriot Kishan Hirani 5-1.
What Mark Selby said regarding how Bobby Lee’s presence is helping him is interesting. Judd Trump credited his brother Jack’s support for his last season successes, Mark Allen decided to walk away from coaches but to have someone close to him as a travel companion. New trend?