Ding Junhui took another step towards keeping his top 16 place by beating David Gilbert 4-1 as the Ladbrokes Players Championship got underway at Event City in Manchester.
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China’s Ding has shown improved form in recent weeks, reaching the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open, the semis of the World Grand Prix and he’s now into the last 16 this week to face Luca Brecel or Michael White.
Those results have seen Ding climb from 19th to 17th on the projected rankings and if he can get into the top 16 by the end of next week’s China Open then he’ll avoid having to qualify for the World Championship and will be sure of a tenth consecutive appearance at the Crucible.
“I played well and made it difficult for my opponent,” said 11-time ranking event winner Ding, whose top breaks today were 104 and 56. “I’m not putting too much pressure on myself, I’m just going for my shots.
“I’m starting to trust and believe in myself. I’m not sure about the rankings, I’ll just keep going and do my best in the last three tournaments.”
World Grand Prix champion Shaun Murphy remained on course for back-to-back ranking titles with a 4-1 win over Liang Wenbo. Murphy made two breaks of 74 and one of 91 as he set up a match with Mark Williams or Dominic Dale. Liang sits precariously in 16th place in the projected rankings so may need a good run at the China Open to keep his place.
Marco Fu edged out Alan McManus 4-3 in a dramatic finish to earn a second round match with Tom Ford or Ricky Walden.
The first six frames were shared, with McManus making breaks of 51, 76 and 90 while Hong Kong’s Fu compiled 65, 77 and 69. In the decider, Fu potted the last red and cleared to the blue to lead by 16 points. McManus got the snooker he needed on the pink and, after a safety exchange, had a chance at the pink to a baulk corner, but missed and left it for his opponent to seal victory.
Ben Woollaston edged out Jimmy Robertson 4-3 in another tense finish. Leicester’s Woollaston made a break of 106 in the second frame and later won the decider by getting the better of a safety battle on the brown.