sport

Cao falls at the first hurdle

China's dismal UK Championship continued on Sunday as Cao Yupeng became the third player from snooker's boom nation to make a first-round exit.

Youngster Cao, who caused a stir in April by beating Mark Allen in the first round of the World Championship, never looked likely to build on that as he tumbled out 6-1 against veteran Hastings potter Mark Davis.

Cao joins a casualty list of Chinese players that began with yesterday's defeats for Liang Wenbo and former UK champion Ding Junhui.

With soaring interest and money flooding into the game from China, there are now more major tournaments staged in the country than in the United Kingdom, but on the table there remains a gulf in standards.

World number 65 Cao, 22, was outplayed throughout by 40-year-old Davis, who has benefited from Ronnie O'Sullivan's hiatus from the sport and Stephen Lee's suspension by being nudged into the top 16 seeds for events, meaning he has avoided the qualifying rounds.

A stiff test is guaranteed for the experienced Sussex man in the second round, where John Higgins awaits him on Wednesday evening after the Scot's opening win on Saturday over Michael Holt.

Reflecting on his own first-round success, Davis said: "He missed a few, and I wasn't expecting it.

"I was a little bit surprised but I was just trying to focus when I had chances to do what I can.

"I didn't miss a lot and I was happy with how I played."

Looking ahead to the Higgins clash, Davis added: "I need to tighten up my safety, but potting and scoring-wise I was quite happy with how I played."

Hong Kong's Marco Fu stands alone as Asia's final challenger at York's Barbican Centre, and he tackles Allen this evening. That match carries added spice due to Allen claiming after his loss to Cao at the Crucible that Fu was among several players from the Far East to have cheated in the past, an accusation the 34-year-old refutes.