Mark Selby made a winning start to the Hong Rui Ma Yushan World Open with a 5-3 win over Elliot Slessor, then admitted that keeping the world number one ranking is one of his biggest goals this season.
Selby has topped the world rankings since February 2015 but faces a tough challenge to keep the number one spot over the coming months as, before Christmas, he will be defending the money he won at the International Championship and UK Championship in 2016. And with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams in hot pursuit, Selby may need to win at least one ranking event to keep ahead of the pack.
He got just the start he needed in Yushan though he was pushed hard by talented Slessor, who scored two wins over O’Sullivan last season and threatened another giant-killing act today. Slessor came from 3-1 down to 3-3 with a top break of 105, but Selby regained the lead with a run of 62 then got the better of a scrappy eighth frame to set up a meeting with Jamie Jones in the last 32.
Slessor battled all the way
“I didn’t play well today, Elliot will be disappointed not to win,” said 35-year-old Selby, who has won six ranking events in China. “I got through and I can only improve now. I have played Elliot a few times in practice so I know what a good player he is. Hopefully it will be a good season ahead for me.
“I always set myself goals and to try to stay on top of the rankings is one of them. It will be hard because of what I have to defend. I’m still in the tournament so I’ve still got my lead. Hopefully I can keep the number one spot for as long as possible.”
Masters champion Mark Allen eased to a 5-1 win over Lyu Haotian with top breaks of 92, 103 and 54, setting up a match with Jack Lisowski.
“Lyu is a very aggressive player so I kept it tough for him and refused a few that I would normally go for,” said Allen. “I closed out the match really well. Overall my game is in good shape.”
Northern Irishman Allen is struggling with his sleep pattern and posted a picture of a Bombay Badboy Pot Noodle at 3.14am this morning on Instagram. “It was different class,” he joked. “I am enjoying my Bombay Badboys and Dairylea Lunchables, that’s what I have stocked up on and there are plenty more to come. I have always been a good sleeper but sometimes at the wrong times. I prefer playing in the evenings in China because then I can sleep through the day.”
Tour rookie Harvey Chandler, who beat Michael White in the qualifying round, scored an impressive 5-4 win over Kurt Maflin, making a break of 57 in the decider. Anthony Hamilton top scored with 115 in a 5-2 win over Mark Joyce.
Andrew Higginson came from 4-1 down to edge out amateur James Cahill 5-4 while Kyren Wilson top scored with 89 in a 5-1 win over Paul Davison.