Monday, 14 February 2011

Brave Lisowski loses on TV debut

In my tournament preview yesterday, I said we needed something special on the baize to save a competition where crowds were expected to be low.

As predicted, not many made the trip to Newport.

But that didn't make it any less entertaining for all the fans who opted to watch the action from their television sets.

The snooker, thankfully, was still of the highest order.

In fact, a new star of the game was born.

Jack Lisowski has grasped his first season on the professional tour with both hands. The 19-year-old from Gloucestershire has enjoyed great runs at the PTC series, including making a final and has qualified for two major ranking events.

While his debut in Berlin last week was special, today at the Welsh Open was the grand occasion. He would play at a televised event for the first time and against the sport's world number one, John Higgins.

For such a hungry young player, this was stuff of dreams.

But instead of suffering from stage fright, he rose to the occasion and gave Higgins a real run for his money. He couldn't have enjoyed a better start either taking an unexpected 1-0 lead thanks to a break of 70. Higgins soon clicked into gear to lead 3-1. You would have forgiven Liswoski for crumbling at this pint but not only did he come back to prove his talent, but also that he's a fighter as he forced the match to a decider.

Higgins eventually edged out the match 4-3, but everyone knows who Jack Lisowski is now. Today is the start of what could be a glittering career on the baize. Not only does he have the quality to enjoy success but he also looks like he's a player for the biggest occasion. And that's a talent that cannot be taught.

It was also a good day for the two Welshmen in action two, as they completed their qualifying campaigns at the venue. Sensational Ryan Day chalked up two tons on his way to beating Jimmy White 4-0 inside just 48 minutes.

A brief return to form at the UK Championship in December showed Day could be on his way back, and today was further evidence he's rekindled some form of confidence. That will stand him in good stead as he'll play his first round proper match against Ronnie O'Sullivan on Wednesday.

It was similar joy for Matthew Stevens as well. The Welshmen needs a massive effort to claim back his place in the top 16 ahead of Sheffield but he rose to number 20 in the rankings with his 4-2 win over battling Anthony Hamilton.

Mark King has always been a fighter, and he won't let his place in the elite rest just yet either. He played pretty solid throughout to beat Michael Holt 4-1. Ricky Walden is teetering on the edge now though after he suffered the shock of the day.

He went down 4-3 to Stoke's Dave Harold. That lifts him up five places to number 45, and into the top 48 at the expense of Joe Swail, who progressed to the last eight in Berlin just a week ago.

Walden wasn't at the races today, and against a seasoned pro like Harold, he was never allowed to settle, and deserved to be beaten.

Another one of the old guard bidding to cause an upset today was Marcus Campbell.

The Scot raced into a 2-0 lead against Ding Junhui in the first match of the day. But the Chinese star turned to the kind of resolve which has too often evaded him so far in his career. Two centuries helped him back to a tight 4-3 victory.

Ding wasn't the only big gun to be relived with his win. Struggling Ali Carter beat Barry Hawkins 4-3 as he grafts to steer his season back on track.

The Essex man has been a shadow of himself since lifting the Shanghai Masters trophy back in September. Early exits at the UK Championship, the Masters and the German Masters have left his game in turmoil, but he showed good fighting qualities to beat Hawkins.

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