MARK Selby was trounced by David Gilbert on Wednesday at the Players Tour Championship Finals – meaning the world’s top four have fallen at the first hurdle.
World No2 Selby was never at the races against the 32-year-old Gilbert at Preston’s Guildhall, and could not recover from a poor start before going down 4-0 and suffering the dreaded whitewash.
And the three-time Masters champion’s exit followed those of Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui and Stuart Bingham even before the last-16 stage of the tournament.
World No36 Gilbert from Tamworth will now play Joe Perry, having never made it past this stage in a full ranking event.
Selby, 30, said: “The first two frames were awful, he played well from 2-0 up and clearly gained confidence from seeing some of the balls I was missing that I wouldn’t normally miss.
“I have always rated Dave as a player, we have known each other since junior days and he is a great break-builder with a good cue action.
“He should do better than he does, maybe he beats himself up a bit out there because game-wise it is all there.
“I did well in Haikou getting to the final, and we are back out there again now, so we’ll have to see where this leaves me with my preparation for the Crucible.
“Depending how I get on out there I may have a bit of a break to try and arrive as fresh as possible in Sheffield. If you do well you have probably 11 days before the World Championships and might lose a couple of those to jetlag. But I have entered it, so we’ll see how I get on.”
Gilbert said: “I am delighted with that. To be honest I have been playing rubbish and was really trying to avoid a whitewash myself, so once I potted the black in the first I felt all right.
“I have gone backwards the last few months. It really hurt me going out in the first round of the UK, I was dreadful in Haikou.
“I practised very hard and that was making me worse. So in the end I went out on the lash for a couple of weeks and tried to chill out. Maybe I’ll have another ten pints tonight.”
The carnage elsewhere left Barry Hawkins at No5 as the highest-ranked player left in the event after he whitewashed Scotland’s Stephen Maguire 4-0, helped by breaks of 94 and 95.
The 34-year-old from Kent, a former Australian Open winner, is going into big televised matches with a completely different and unfailingly positive mind-set these days, and hardly gave Maguire a sniff of a chance.
And after the victory last year’s beaten Crucible finalist said: “I started off really well, and put Stephen under a lot of pressure. He is someone I don’t have a good record against, so it is nice to get a win over him.
“He is a proven winner, five ranking wins, so it was good to beat him that convincingly and take my chances when they came along.
“I enjoy playing in front of the cameras a lot more now, it actually helps me get up for the match and I concentrate better.
“To go further in this event it is going to be more of the same, I played solidly there. There are a lot of good players in the bottom half but I am not bothered who I play.
“If you want to win it, you have just got to play at the top of your game…and probably at some point take Ronnie O’Sullivan out.”
Hawkins will now take on Ryan Day, while Perry edged past Mark Davis 4-3.
Photographs by Monique Limbos