The only thing lucky for Ding Junhui today is the fact the airport is situated next door to the Titanic arena where the snooker Northern Ireland Trophy is taking place. That’s right, Ding has been knocked out of the first round by Yu Delu by 4-2.
The world No.4 has had a mixed bag season so far. A shaky start to the season followed by a big win at the Shanghai masters in September. Last week at the Champion of Champions Ding lost narrowly in the semi finals to John Higgins who went on to win the tournament.
Initially Ding took at 2-0 lead over his fellow Chinese man but from there it was all about Yu Delu. Breaks of 53, 104 and 67 from Delu was plenty to see Ding head a short distance to the airport. Is it a bad thing though?
With some of the top players choosing not to play this week to stay at home to prepare for the UK’s next week, a week of rest and practice could go a long way towards being ready for the second largest tournament on the calendar. With so many not playing, it’s a great chance for the lower ranked snooker players to gain valuable ground and have match experience.
Elsewhere it was an all Scottish affair on the other table with Stephen Maguire and Alan McManus. McManus has failed to do much since reaching the 2016 World Championship semi final last April/May but today was a very nice display for him. Breaks of 52, 64, 118 and 68 showed that he can still turn it on periodically.
Maguire gave him a run for his money though, forcing a deciding frame but it was McManus who proved his worth on the snooker table by knocking in a 60 break to complete a 4-3 win.
Later today Mark Williams, Liang Wenbo and Mark Allen are all in action as they open up their Northern Ireland Trophy campaigns.