Judd Trump criticised his own performance as the world No 1's title defence at the UK Championship in York was halted at the first hurdle by qualifier Mark Joyce last night.
A year after landing the biggest title of his burgeoning career at the Barbican Centre, Trump was on the painful end of one of the biggest upsets in the tournament's history, losing 6-5 to 50th-ranked Joyce after at one stage holding a 5-2 lead.
Trump said: "I should never play that bad. You'll never see another world No 1 play as badly as that."
He had made a 104 break in the second frame and was doing enough, it seemed, to set up a second-round match with Ali Carter, but Joyce had other ideas and the long road back from the brink of defeat had the biggest victory of his career at its end.
"It was going to come sooner or later," said 23-year-old Trump, the man tipped in recent days by many, including Stephen Hendry, to be the dominant force in snooker for the next decade. "He played all right in the last four frames but he'll have to raise his game a lot to get close to Ali Carter."
Trump's defeat means Mark Selby can reclaim the No 1 ranking by reaching next Sunday's final, while Joyce can target the quarter-finals for the second time in his career. The Walsall man, now 29, knocked out Carter first and then Trump to reach the last eight in 2010, the last year that Telford staged the UK Championship, and the draw has convinced him he might be fated to do the same again.
"I'm over the moon. It wasn't a vintage performance by any means," Joyce said. "It's the hardest game in the world when you're under pressure and every shot looks hard, every shot's a pint of blood. "
Joyce has recently revealed how he sustained the arm injury that sidelined him soon after his run in Telford, setting his career back.
"Just after the UK two years ago I got attacked and had a fractured elbow and a fractured eye socket, which ruined the rest of that season," he said. "Physically it cost me four months but mentally it cost me a lot longer."
Carter was a scrappy winner against Steve Davis, coming through 6-2 against the man who won this tournament six times in the 1980s. Both men struggled for fluency, Carter's highest break of 88 and an 85 from Davis in the seventh frame out of keeping with the flow of the match. Yet Carter was the more consistent of the two, with the 33-year-old from Tiptree too strong for the 55-year-old Brentwood veteran. Davis, competing in his 33rd UK Championship, lamented his own performance but said: "Ali's a potential winner of the tournament so I shouldn't moan."
China's last hope Cao Yupeng became the third player from snooker's boom nation to make a first-round exit. Cao tumbled out 6-1 against 40-year-old Mark Davis, completing a casualty list of Chinese players that began with yesterday's defeats for Liang Wenbo and the former UK champion Ding Junhui.
Mark Allen suffered a sore first-round defeat as Hong Kong's Marco Fu knocked the Northern Irishman out last night.
Allen predicted he would win if Fu decided it was a "grudge match", following comments made by the man from Antrim during the World Championship in April when he claimed Fu had cheated in the past. However, there appeared little animosity between the pair as they shook hands following Fu's 6-3 victory.
But it emerged the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association has written to Allen to ask him to explain his comments of last Wednesday, when the world No 8 reiterated that he believed Fu had cheated in the past.