Ding Junhui’s title defence ended at the last 32 stage as he lost 5-4 to Ryan Day at the Kreativ Dental German Masters in Berlin.
Ding beat Judd Trump in the final here last year on his way to winning a record-equalling five ranking events during the 2014/15 season. But the Chinese ace has looked a shadow of that player so far this season and today’s defeat – in which he missed a match-ball pink in the eighth frame – was the latest in a series of surprise defeats.
World number one Ding led 3-2 after top breaks of 72 and 74. The next two frames were shared then Ding failed to convert match-winning chances in the eighth, notably wobbling the last pink in the jaws of a baulk corner, playing with the rest. Welshman Day, who lost 6-5 to Ding in the semi-finals here last year, potted pink and black for 4-4 and took his chance superbly in the decider with a break of 82.
“Ding had two pops to win the match in that penultimate frame and I thought it might be all over,” said Day, who now plays Alfie Burden. “On the black to go 4-4 I just told myself to keep as still as possible and play it as an all or nothing shot.
“Then I held myself together nicely in the final frame and made a good break to win it. I’m not really worried who I play now – I’m playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and hopefully I can build momentum to the end of the season.”
Ding said: “On the pink (in frame eight) I mis-hit it slightly because the cue ball was too far away from my cue. I had confidence coming here, but it just hasn’t been a good year for me. I’ll wait for the next tournament. Last season was so good and it’s hard to repeat that.
“I haven’t played in any of the European Tour events this season and maybe I should have played more. I’m trying hard and practising for five hours every day but I haven’t had much luck in the tournaments.”
Londoner Burden reached the last 16 of a ranking event for the fourth time in his career with a 5-3 win over Michael Georgiou, highlighted by breaks of 63, 88 and 112.
Stuart Bingham came from 3-2 down to beat Matthew Selt 5-3 and made breaks of 81, 80 and 57. “It was a good match, we both played well,” said Bingham. “The last frame was a bit of a scrap and in the end he left the pink dripping for me – that was the only way I was going to pot it. I came here hitting the ball sweet so this win gives me extra confidence.”