Tian got the better of Walden in a high quality match
Ricky Walden’s defence of his International Championship title failed at the first hurdle as he lost 6-4 to China’s Tian Pengfei in Daqing on Sunday.
World number 11 Walden enjoyed his best moment in snooker a year ago when he beat Mark Allen in the final to capture the £125,000 top prize at the sport’s richest event staged outside the UK. And he looked in good form ahead of his defence, having reached the final of the Haining Open on Friday.
But after a 2,000 mile trip to the north of China, Walden was unable to reproduce that form and lost to world number 66 Tian.
Ruhr Open finalist Tian led 3-1 at the interval, making a break of 106 in frame four. Walden fought back to 4-4 by taking three of the next four with runs of 92, 80 and 86. But Tian dominated the ninth with breaks of 70 and 64, and sealed victory in the next with 48 and 45.
Home favourite Ding Junhui, who won his first title in 16 months at the Haining Open, survived a rigorous opening test against amateur Sam Craigie, eventually coming through 6-4. Ding led 3-1 with a top break of 98 before Craigie fought back to 3-3. The next two were shared then Ding crucially cleared from brown to black to go 5-4 ahead, then made a 74 in the next.
“It was a tough match because Sam played well apart from a mistake in the last frame,” said Ding. “He wasn’t missing much. I felt a bit numb today because for seven or eight days in a row I’ve been in either practice or competitions. It has been like playing in the World Championship. So I might feel a lack of energy compared to other players.”
Mark Selby is seeking his first title of the season
World number one Mark Selby enjoyed a 6-3 win over Mike Dunn, winning the last four frames with a top break of 88.
“Mike was probably the better player, just a few things went my way which helped me win,” admitted Selby. “I’ve been in China for five days and not slept well, I only had two hours last night, so hopefully I can get some rest before my next match.”
World Champion Stuart Bingham eased to a 6-1 win over Steven Hallworth, closing out victory with a run of 80. “I’m very happy to win 6-1 in the first round,” said Bingham. “It’s cold and dry here so hopefully the conditions will be good all week. I haven’t had great results this season but I got to the semi-finals in Shanghai and I’d love to go further this week.”
Large crowds turned up on the opening day of the first ever pro tournament in Daqing
Last year’s runner-up Allen enjoyed a 6-4 win over fellow Ulsterman Joe Swail with a top break of 88. “It’s no fun playing one of your best friends, I didn’t enjoy it,” said Allen. “I made some good breaks and always felt in control. although you are never comfortable until you get over the line.”
Shanghai Masters champion Kyren Wilson came from 3-2 down to beat Jamie Cope 6-4.
Chinese prodigy Zhou Yuelong beat Martin Gould 6-2 with a top run of 79 while Anthony McGill top scored with 84 in a 6-0 whitewash of Sean O’Sullivan. “I played well, although the scoreline could have been closer,” said McGill. “I’ve been in good form this season and I’m just waiting for a long run.”
Barry Hawkins came from 3-1 down to beat Chris Wakelin 6-4 with a top run of 112 while Mark Williams saw off Ian Burns 6-3 with a best effort of 93. Marco Fu made a 137 in a 6-2 win over Matthew Stevens.
Michael Wild, who scored a shock 6-0 win over Judd Trump in the qualifying round, lost by the same scoreline to Sanderson Lam. “I’ve put a lot of hours in for this event and I’m happy with the way I played,” said Lam. “Every win gives me condfidence.”
In the wild card round, Ken Doherty scored a 6-2 win over Chen Zifan and said: “The wild cards have good pedigree, they are dangerous and they have nothing to lose. You have to be up for it. We have been well received here in Daqing. It’s a long way to come but the venue and hotel are beautiful and the playing conditions are very good. It’s nice to explore different cities.”