It didn’t take long for a shock to happen at the UK Championship, as world number three Ding Junhui was beaten 6-5 by Leo Fernandez.
Chinese superstar Ding, a two-time winner of the UK Championship – in 2005 and 2009 – looked on course for victory when racing into a 5-1 lead thanks to breaks of 60, 55, 80, 91, 66 and 87.
Ding had a chance to win the match in the seventh frame, but he passed it up and Fernandez stepped in with a 47 clearance, and it prompted a complete shift in momentum.
The deciding frame at the Barbican Centre was filled with drama, and Ding had a chance to win the match but was unable to develop the pink when potting the blue.
His attempted safety failed to reach its mark and Fernandez dropped in the pink to clinch the biggest win of his career for a player who revealed he was carrying an injury into the game.
“It’s my best moment in snooker for sure,” said Fernandez, per World Snooker’s official website. “At 5-1 down I was thinking about the train journey home. I tried to stay calm and enjoy it.
“I’m suffering from a slipped disc in my back and sciatica so I’m lucky to be here. It was hard fighting the pain. The adrenaline kept me going and I started to play well. I’m having physiotherapy and acupuncture. I might need to have surgery which could end my career, but if that happens at least I’ll take this win with me.”
Ding’s shock has exit has led to a slight shift in the market, with 188BET trimming tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan half a point to 4.00. The Rocket will begin his quest on Thursday evening against Jackson Page.
Defending champion Mark Selby kicks off his title defence on Wednesday evening against Basem Eltahhan.
The Jester has arrived in York fresh after skipping the Northern Ireland Open recently and he is determined to go deep in the tournament in order to strengthen his hand at the top of the world rankings.
“Being world number one for two years makes me want to work harder to see how long I can stay there,” he told the BBC. “I have won the Worlds three times and the Masters three times and the UK is only two at the moment.”