Bingham blames sterilised snooker balls for sloppy start to World Championships

London (AFP) –


Stuart Bingham blamed sanitised snooker balls for his struggle to get over the line against qualifier Ashley Carty in an empty arena at the World Championship on Saturday.

The former world champion, who had fashioned a 5-4 lead in the opening session in front of a handful of fans at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre on Friday, went on to win 10-7.

He then became the first player to wrap up victory since fans were belatedly barred after a change of government policy on test events for spectators.

World Snooker Tour stressed there are no additional protocols in place with regard to cleaning the balls.

"I felt lost with the table and the balls. I don't know whether they had been sanitised," said Bingham.

"I played a red near the green pocket, and screwed back past the blue pocket - I've never done that in my life. But it is what it is, and if it's sanitised, you've just got to get on with it."

Ding Junhui held his nerve to win a final frame decider 10-9 against Mark King to book a potential second-round meeting with Ronnie O'Sullivan.

The Chinese 11th seed could not shrug off his dogged opponent, who pulled back from 9-7 behind but failed to convert a strong match-winning opportunity of his own, and a brilliant long final red cued up a relieved Ding to clear to blue and win the match.

Afterwards, the former finalist, who withdrew from the Tour Championships in June over coronavirus fears, said he never considered pulling out of the Crucible, unlike over a dozen of his Chinese contemporaries.

"I wasn't going to pull out," said Ding. "The last tournament in June was too early for me, but I made the decision for the worlds and I practised for a month to get ready."

Three-time champion Mark Williams cruised into the second round after reeling off six consecutive frames to beat Alan McManus 10-5.

John Higgins, a four-time winner, won four frames in succession to establish a 6-3 lead over Matthew Stevens at the end of the opening session of their first-round clash.