This years championship is a week old today and in the light of Selby's exit last night we may have seen today a few players who might just be fancying this now,start to manoeuvre themselves into position.
The first of these os Ding Junhui who came through a real test against John Higgins today.Starting the morning 9-7 in front,he made the most of a Higgins miss to dish with 63 and also took the next to move four clear at 11-7.Higgins just couldn't seem to get going as he would have liked here but dug deep to take the next to close to 11-8.Ding though was beginning to look his old self among the balls and with an 89 in the 20th frame he moved to within one of the quarters at 12-8.
Ding really should have won the next,but a bad kick on the pink when in and some more bad luck later allowed Higgins get one back to 12-9.Again in the next it looked all over when Ding left Higgins needing snookers on the last red,but unbelievably he went in off getting out of the snooker and worse still left Higgins a free ball.Higgins though made a mess of the clearance,something that would never have happened in his prime,and Ding got the pots he needed to seal the 13-9 win.
So a season of struggle could yet have a happy ending for Ding,who probably came here with the lowest level of expectation around him he has ever had.That may just have suited him as he he tries to claim the one big prize that has so far eluded him. You would say he will need to start off better than has here in his first two matches,but once he's got going in his games he has looked as comfortable among the balls as he ever has.
For Higgins sadly he will look back with disappointment at a session today where he never really got going ,but as the saying goes,time or tide waits for no man and it may just be the case that at this stage of his career Higgins just doesn't have it to challenge for this great championship again.
The tie of the round so far though was the tussle between Barry Hawkins & Mark Allen.
Allen held a 5-3 overnight advantage overnight and they shared the first four to leave it 7-5.Hawkins closed to 7-6 before what looked a pivotal moment in the next when Hawkins,having gotten the three snookers he needed missed the easiest of blues to give Allen a two frame lead again at 8-6.
Allen then took the next to go 9-6 and he seemed set fair for a four frame lead in the next when Hawkins needed a snooker on the blue,only for Barry to get it and clear to make it 9-7.This gave the match a completely different perspective coming into the final session,but you still had the feeling Allen would get over the line.
On resumption the first four frames were shared again to move the score along to 11-9,but from here something in the match changed.Hawkins started to up his game and after drawing level at 11-11,he took the lead for the first time with a break of 102.A tense 24th frame followed,but there was to be no decider as Hawkins potted the black to seal a 13-11 win that until the last few frames never looked likely.
In other results Stuart Bingham quickly put the finishing touches to his match with Graeme Dott,getting over the finish line in style with a 104 to seal a 13-5 win.
In matches that started today,Ronnie O Sullivan recovered from a slow and rather grumpy start against Matthew Stevens,coming from 2-0 to lead 5-2,before Stevens took the last of the session to keep in touch at 5-3 & Neil Robertson kept up his ultra impressive form from the first round to take a 6-2 lead over Ali Carter.