Ding Junhui played his best snooker of recent weeks in a 5-1 thrashing of Mark Davis to reach the last 16 of the Baic Motor China Open.
China’s top player has suffered a series of early exits from major tournaments this season, but could yet finish the campaign strongly. Defending champion Ding, celebrating his 28th birthday today, knocked in breaks of 86,86 and 66 in a fine display against Davis.
“I’ve never experienced losing so many matches in a row before,” said Ding. “I’m coping easily. I think I care less about the results now. Nothing can change my determination to practise and to win.”
Ding now meets in-form Mark Williams who saw off Michael Leslie 5-0 with a top run of 80. Williams said: “He gave me a lot of chances and he should have won the first couple of frames. But overall I played well.”
Michael White and Robert Milkins are set for a last 16 showdown which will end the loser’s hopes of qualifying automatically for the Betfred World Championship. The winner will still have a chance to jump into the 16th and last seeding position.
Indian Open champion White edged out Stuart Bingham 5-4 thanks to a break of 53 in the decider.
“We both missed a couple of balls today, but overall it was a good match, and the way I played the last frame was brilliant,” said Welshman White. “I held myself together. I didn’t play well in Thailand last week but I feel now my form is coming back to where it was in India. I’ve still got to get to the semi-finals even to have a chance of the top 16 so I’m not thinking about that. I’ll be trying my guts out this week anyway, that’s what I do.”
Milkins came from 4-1 down to beat Zak Surety 5-4, making an 80 in the decider.
“I made a good break in the last frame,” said Milkins. “My attitude was terrible today, sometimes my head is not right. Maybe I’ve got one eye on the World Championship. I had to apologise to Zak at the interval. After that it was better. Zak had chances to win but in the end I got a lifeline and took it. I’ll have to raise my game against Michael otherwise I’ll lose.”
Stephen Maguire remained in control of the destiny of that 16th seeding position by coming from 4-2 down to beat Ryan Day 5-4, making a vital clearance from last red to pink in the decider.
“I thought Ryan was the better player, if I’m honest,” admitted Maguire. “I was just clinging on as tight as I could. I feel very lucky. All of the boys are trying to catch me for the last spot for the Crucible so there’s a bit of pressure, but that doesn’t make me try any harder.”
Mark Selby eased fears of a recurrence of his 2012 neck injury by beating Elliot Slessor 5-0 with a top break of 126.
“The pain has definitely eased today,” said Selby. “It hasn’t gone completely, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was a few years ago. With a bit more rest, hopefully I’ll be fine.”
Judd Trump cruised to a 5-1 win over Peter Ebdon with top runs of 52, 66 and 127.
“I felt that if I played how I have been recently, I would be tough to beat, and that’s how it proved,” said World Grand Prix winner Trump. “I just concentrate on my own game and don’t worry about how other people play. I have played well all season and hope to keep that going.”
He will now meet John Higgins, who won a Scottish derby against Graeme Dott 5-2 with a top break of 58.
“It’s a very good win for me because it’s always tough against Graeme,” said Higgins. “I think he’ll be one of the most difficult draws in the world qualifiers next week because he is playing well. Judd Trump is probably the best player in the world now so that will be hard for me but I will try my best.”
Masters champion Shaun Murphy came from 4-3 down to beat Anthony McGill 5-4, finishing strongly with breaks of 113 and 72 in the last two frames.
“It was a great match, we both played really well,” said Murphy. “There are 16 great players left in the tournament so it’s too early to think about winning.”