Professional Snooker - 2016 Ladbrokes Players Championship
22nd-27th March 2016 / Event City, Manchester, England
MANCHESTER'S DAY 1 REVIEW
After over a weeks absence, the World Snooker Tour returned with the Players Championship; the culmination of this season's European/Asian Tour series which features the best available 32 players from the Order of Merit lists.
Ding Junhui opened up the £350,000 event with a 104 break in Frame 1 of his match with David Gilbert; he would convert this promising start into a 4-1 victory and become the first player through to Thursday's Last 16.
A former winner of this title in 2013, Ding extended his lead to 3-0, and although Gilbert avoided the whitewash by taking the fourth, China's number 1 sealed the deal with the aid of a 56 in the fifth.
Ding's upturn in results and momentum continues, after quarter and semi-final appearances in the recent Welsh Open and World Grand Prix respectively.
Whilst that TV match was briskly complete in just over an hour, Marco Fu and Alan McManus spent double that time on Table 2 in a tie that went all seven frames.
Hong Kong's Fu, though, made it an Asian double, as he captured success on the final pink in the deciding frame after McManus had got the snooker he needed with just those last two colours remaining.
It was a high quality and enjoyable match with never more than a frame between the players. Both made a trio of half centuries in their winning endeavours (Marco - 65, 77, 69 / Alan - 51, 76, 90) before a nervy finish made it a dramatic climax.
The second batch of matches in the afternoon session resulted in exactly the same outcomes as the first.
Recent World Grand Prix champion, Shaun Murphy, kept his hopes alive of claiming back to back majors for the first time in his career when he eliminated Liang Wenbo 4-1.
After the opening brace of frames were traded, Murphy made his second 74 break of the tie to go 2-1 up.
Last December's UK finalist Wenbo looked poised to level it again, but he jawed an elementary frame ball yellow. Shaun stepped in to clear the remaining colours for 3-1, and it wasn't too long before 'The Magician' wrapped up proceedings with a quick 91 in the next.
Due to Mark Selby's withdrawal, the very top section of the draw looks very open indeed. Ben Woollaston managed to stay in contention after ousting Jimmy Robertson 4-3.
Robertson fashioned runs of 63 and 54 either side of a 106 by Woollaston to lead 2-1.
The pivotal moment may have been in the fourth frame, when Jimmy was very unlucky after successfully escaping from a snooker on the green ball. He hit the green, only to see the cue ball cruelly go in-off, and leave his opponent an ideal opportunity to square it.
Ben made it 3-2 in his favour before an 86 from Jimmy made sure of the second consecutive decider on that table.
After a small delay whilst a broken bottom right hand pocket was fixed before the start of the last frame, Robertson took the early initiative with a 42-0 advantage.
However, errors in his game crept in as he moved closer towards the finish line and Woollaston would eventually nick it on the final blue.
In the evening act at Event City, Michael White recovered from 2-0 down to get the better of Luca Brecel 4-2 in a real exciting youthful clash.
Brecel had totted up a 92 break in the first frame, but efforts of 62 and 77 from World Number 15 White put him through.
Another stand out fixture from Round 1 between Martin Gould and Judd Trump followed.
In what looked likely to be a close affair, Trump restricted his rival to just 14 points as breaks of 88 and 63 helped him to a very cushy 3-0 profit.
Despite his lack of table time, Gould rattled in a defiant 135 (the high break benchmark), but it would be his solitary success as Judd won the fifth 77-30.
Elsewhere, Ali Carter followed Trump's winning pattern to dispatch former World Champion Graeme Dott 4-1. Carter posted 77, 59 and 58 to set up a meeting with Judd next.
Mike Dunn completed the day's list of winners when he saw off Rory McLeod 4-1 (Dunn 62 / McLeod 52).
Written and published by Michael Day on the 23rd March 2016