World number one Mark Selby scraped through his opening round clash with Jimmy Robertson 4-3 at the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix in Preston.
The manner of Selby’s victory was far from convincing. However, the Leicester potter showed his trademark tenacity and dug deep to set up a mouth watering last 16 clash with fellow 13-time ranking event winner Neil Robertson.
The World Champion suffered disappointing early exits at the season’s first two Triple Crown events the UK Championship and the Masters and is now looking to build momentum as the season gears towards the Crucible.
The opening frames saw both players craft good chances among the balls, but neither were able to fully capitalise and construct significant contributions. There was never more than a solitary frame between the pair this afternoon, but it was the Jester who produced his best at the vital moment.
With the scores locked at 3-3, Robertson spurned the first opportunity in the decider. Selby then stepped up to the plate and made a break of 75 to force himself over the line.
“I probably should have lost it,” said the World Champion. “I didn’t expect Jimmy to miss in the final frame and I thought he was going to win it in that visit. I was just happy to get a chance and when I did get one I managed to capitalise.
“Winning breeds confidence and if you aren’t winning then it goes the opposite way and you start doubting yourself, no matter what you have achieved in the past. Sometimes you start questioning yourself and go back to the practice table.”
Stuart Bingham secured a fine 4-2 victory over an in form Mark Williams to keep his hopes of clinching a place in the Ladbrokes Players Championship alive.
Bingham has just returned from a three-month suspension for breaching betting rules and he is hoping to hit the ground running this week, in a bid to climb into the top 16 of the one year list and qualify for Llandudno.
Williams produced a blistering display at the recent German Masters, winning 15 of 17 frames in the last four and the final to clinch his 20th ranking title. However, he surrendered a healthy lead this afternoon and fell at the first hurdle.
The 2015 World Champion Bingham trailed 2-0 and was 56-0 down in the third frame, before potting a superb red and clearing with 64 to mount an impressive fightback. He claimed four frames in a row to book a last 16 clash with Anthony McGill.
Ding Junhui brushed aside 2016 Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King 4-1 to secure his last 16 place.
China’s top star hasn’t won a ranking title outside of his home country for four years and will be hoping to end that run this week. He top scored this afternoon with a break of 75.
Ding will face Mark Joyce in the last 16, who came from 3-1 down to defeat Masters finalist Kyren Wilson 4-3.