World number two Neil Robertson suffered a surprise 5-4 defeat against Dechawat Poomjaeng on the opening day of the Baic Motor China Open in Beijing.
Robertson was runner-up to Ding Junhui at this event last year, but this time he fell at the first hurdle at the last tournament before the Betfred World Championship.
The Australian led 3-1 after a break of 63 in frame four, but Thailand’s Poomjaeng hit back to win the next three frames with a top run of 74. Robertson levelled at 4-4 and led 44-0 in the decider, but it came down to the colours and Poomjaeng eventually potted the final black to reach the last 32.
China’s Ding, who has suffered a series of early exits in major tournaments this season, scored a much needed 5-1 victory over Marcus Campbell. Ding fired in breaks of 55, 51, 66, 58 and 50 in an impressive display.
Stephen Maguire boosted his hopes of keeping his top 16 seeding – with the cut-off for the Betfred World Championship coming at the end of this event – with a 5-1 defeat of David Morris, highlighted by breaks of 64, 80 and 57.
“It was a tough match today because David is a very good player and he’ll be up the rankings soon,” said Glasgow’s Maguire. “I was focussed on just winning the match because I’m in the 16th spot for the Crucible so it’s in my hands. It’s in the back of my mind but I know if I keep winning it doesn’t matter what happens in other matches. I’m sure other guys want me to get beat, but I’m just worried about myself.”
World number five Barry Hawkins has struggled for form in recent months but he saw off Gerard Greene 5-2 with a top break of 124.
“That was the best I’ve played for a while, which is a good sign,” said Hawkins. “Lately I’ve been losing early doors a lot so it’s just nice to win a match. I haven’t done that well in China in the past so it would be nice to have a run here and build some confidence ahead of the World Championship. It was exciting to go to the Olympic Stadium yesterday for the press conference and the players really appreciate the support we get here.”
Kurt Maflin came from 4-2 down to beat Ali Carter 5-4, making vital clearances of 47 in frame seven and 43 in the decider.
“My season has been terrible so that’s a big win for me,” said Norway’s Maflin. “I was getting edgy towards the end. Winning a few matches here would set me up for the World qualifiers next week as I’ve never made it to the Crucible before.”
Ricky Walden thrashed Cao Yupeng 5-0 while Gary Wilson made a 114 in a 5-3 win over Liang Wenbo.