World Champion Mark Selby scored a 5-3 win over Mark Joyce at the Baic Motor China Open, but admitted fearing a recurrence of an old neck injury.
Three years ago, Selby suffered from a bulging disc at the top of his spine which forced him to pull out of the China Open and led to a first round defeat at the World Championship.
Selby soon made a full recovery and went on to win the world title last year, and hopes he will be fit for the defence of his Crucible crown, starting on April 18th.
The world number one led 3-0 today after breaks of 65, 87 and 58 before Joyce won three of the next four frames. Selby finally completed a 5-3 win with a run of 90.
“Yesterday I pulled my neck again, as I did a few years ago. So I felt a bit uncomfortable out there,” said Selby. “Hopefully it won’t be as bad as it was before and I’ll be ok within the next few days. Yesterday I was struggling so I did some stretches, took some painkillers and had a massage. It felt ok before the match started, then at the interval I went to the toilet and slipped, and felt it. I can get down on the shot, it’s just a little bit of pain so hopefully it will wear off. My health is more important than anything else.”
Judd Trump, who won the World Grand Prix earlier this month, was pushed hard by Andrew Higginson but eventually came through 5-3. Breaks of 100, 58 and 101 helped Trump build a 3-1 lead before his opponent fought back to 3-3. Trump then took the last two frames with runs of 60 and 67.
“It was a good match, neither of us missed much,” said Trump, who now meets Peter Ebdon. “It’s nice to play well here. Playing Peter will be a different challenge and I will enjoy it. I used to get frustrated but now I know I can battle through and beat him.”
John Higgins beat China’s Yu Delu 5-3 with breaks of 114 and 72 in the last two frames.
“Yu is a tough opponent and he was playing in front of his own fans, so I’m happy to get through,” said four-time World Champion Higgins. “From 3-3, to make a century and a 70 was really pleasing.”
In-form Mark Williams beat China’s Zhao Xintong 5-2 with a top break of 71, while Shaun Murphy top scored with 68 in a 5-1 win over Jamie Cope.
Players Championship winner Joe Perry suffered a 5-3 defeat against David Gilbert, losing the last three frames.
Indian Open champion Michael White edged out Ken Doherty 5-4 with a break of 74 in the decider, to keep alive his hopes of a top 16 seeding for the Betfred World Championship.
Graeme Dott came from 3-2 down to beat Daniel Wells 5-3 with a top run of 112. “I struggled a bit today and could easily have lost,” said the 2006 World Champion. “The match was slipping away from me so I did well to turn it around. I always enjoy playing in this event.”
Scotland’s Michael Leslie scored a 5-1 win over Joe O’Connor and said: “This is my third time in China and this time I felt a lot more relaxed, I played my natural game. I feel as if I have turned the corner with my game and I have more confidence. Hopefully a breakthrough is around the corner. If I can win a match in the World Championship as well it rescues the season a bit and I can look forward to next year.”