Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Home hopes

Wuxi is some 6,000 miles from the UK, the place many professional players call home.

The mix of travelling and adapting to a completely different culture to normal can be daunting and tough, but one young Scot and another from Ireland have taken it all in their stride so far this week.

Scotland's Scott Donaldson and Ireland's David Morris have both progressed to the last 16 of a major ranking event for the first time in this year's Wuxi Classic - and it is music to the ears of fans back home.

Both Scotland and Ireland have a rich snooker history and are renowned for producing great players. But the future hasn't looked all that rosey in the past couple of years - and both nations are crying out for a new player to make a mark.

Are these two players about to plot their path to stardom?

Donaldson is 19 years old and, now his second season on the pro circuit, looks ready to make the step up. He's beaten Gareth Green and Jimmy Robertson so far this week and looks comfortable way beyond his years in Wuxi.

He has a great amateur record as the former Scottish Under 16, 19 and 21 champion. Now he's out there with the big boys, this counts for very little - but he is making an impression at the top level now.

Having already won 15 of his 18 matches this season, he's definitely one to watch.

Morris is a little more familiar with life on the circuit. He's only 24 years old today but first turned professional back in 2006. Adaptation has often come hard for him and he's had plenty of set backs, but he's still here fighting.

Wins against Gary Wilson and Gerard Greene have guided him to the last 16 and returning to tour via Q School this summer looks like it may have given him some momentum. 

Morris has always had bags of ability and still scores heavily. He looks like he might be on the right path now and the change to tournament structure could give him the push he's needed for a while.

There have been plenty of other talking points apart from these two bright runs.

It's a big season coming up for two-time world champion Mark Williams. He played some excellent snooker to knock out Jack Lisowski 5-4 and is showing signs of a return to form. After almost 18 months where he has failed to impress, the Welshman still has plenty of fans behind him and needs to show his class to prevent a slide down the rankings.

Joe Perry is still on his winning streak. He piled yet more home pressure on Ding Junhui with a 5-1 win. The Cambridgeshire man is having a great time over in China and showing what can be gained by getting your head down and focusing on the job in hand.

Then a word for Peter Lines too. He's beaten China's biggest moaner Mark Allen this week and is now through to the last 16 having knocked out Petr Lines. The Leeds man is a dedicated pro and a big snooker lover. His performances so far suggest he's equipped himself well for the coming season.

These early events can often be difficult to judge with every player at a different stage in sharpness. The volume of practice put in over the summer varies from player to player and form is difficult to predict.

But we're down to the final 16 and there are plenty of big names still in the hunt - as well China's own Cao Yupeng and Xiao Guodong.

Who will end the week as the Wizard of Wuxi?

Wuxi Classic last 16 draw:

Robert Milkins v Scott Donaldson
Mark Williams v Anthony Hamilton
Ben Woollaston v Cao Yupeng
Mark King v Neil Robertson
David Gilbert v Joe Perry
John Higgins v Xiao Guodong
Peter Lines v Matthew Stevens
Ali Carter v David Morris

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