I thought Ken Doherty played as poorly as I’ve ever seen him in losing 9-7 from 7-4 up to Nigel Bond in the first round of the Maplin UK Championship in Telford last night.

He didn’t seem able to do anything right – evidence, perhaps, of his lack of practice having become a father for the first time just over a week ago.

The defeat means Doherty is almost certain to be ranked outside the elite top 16 in the provisional world rankings heading into the New Year.

As we’ve seen with Matthew Stevens and, possibly, with Mark Williams, no-one is too good to be relegated.

It’s all about results and if you don’t win, you won’t survive the increasingly competitive drop-zone.

Shaun Murphy entered this event top of the provisional standings but returns level at 4-4 with Paul Davies and a shock result cannot be completely discarded.

Murphy is a fluent player whereas Davies is far more methodical and, if the Welshman can disrupt Murphy’s rhythm, he could spring a surprise.

Meanwhile, Ronnie O’Sullivan appears to be in good spirits and I expect him to have too much firepower for Michael Holt when they start out this afternoon.

O’Sullivan lies second in the provisional rankings and will be ready to pounce if Murphy slips up.

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