David Morris has won his second match in the World Championship qualifiers after a 10-4 rout of England’s Mark Joyce.
The Irishman enjoyed a relatively easy time of it against teenager Kacper Filipiak in the previous round – losing only two frames – and dropped just twice as many in seeing off Joyce to advance to the penultimate qualifying round for the Crucible.
Kilkenny’s Morris has endured a rough season this year and, even though he has won most of his first encounters in all the ranking events, this is the first time he has claimed back-to-back wins outside of the PTC series.
As a result, the 23 year-old is currently well outside the Top 64 in the world rankings, his only viable automatic route back onto the circuit for the next campaign, and only a significantly impressive run will see him avoid a dreaded return to Q-School in May.
However, Morris has always had the talent to progress in the sport and will at least have the experience of reaching the final qualifying round two years ago when he was narrowly edged out by Michael Holt.
The three-time Irish National champion will take on veteran former semi-finalist Alan McManus for another crack at the final stage, where his opponent in waiting would be Barry Hawkins.
Two difficult, but genuinely winnable, games then you would think for Morris and what a timely boost it would be for the sport in Ireland if he could embark on his maiden appearance at the famous venue.
In a dramatic day at the EIS in Sheffield, crowd favourite Tony Drago almost staged a remarkable comeback from 7-2 behind after the first session – at one point looking favourite having levelled at 7-7 – but eventually lost by three frames to amateur Justin Astley.
The defeat, along with the results in other matches, means that the Maltese ‘Tornado’ is guaranteed to be outside of the Top 64 after the conclusion of the Worlds and will therefore have to go to Q-School if he has any remaining desire to play in the big-time.
For Astley, it continues an incredible journey from the very first preliminary round and the English former professional will play the unpredictable Liang Wenbo in the next round.
Another rather romantic story in prospect is the that of Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo, who withstood a spirited fight-back from Liu Song to pip the Chinese in a decider and continue his quest to become the first ever South American to compete in the World Championship.
Meanwhile, 17 year-old Belgian Luca Brecel, tipped for great things in the future, hammered Barry Pinches 10-3 – similarly keeping alive the prospect of an internationally flavoured edition at the Crucible.
Closer to home, Sheffield’s own Adam Duffy reeled off the last five frames to beat Adrian Gunnell 10-8 while fellow Englishmen Peter Lines, Alfie Burden and David Gilbert also enjoyed triumphs – the latter with a thrilling 10-9 defeat of Jimmy Robertson late tonight.
Finally, two of China’s young stars Cao Yupeng and Liu Chuang both knocked out gritty performers Dave Harold and Rod Lawler respectively in long, bruising affairs.
Liu’s reward is a meeting with Jimmy White as the ‘Whirlwind’ seeks revenge for a 10-9 loss to the 21 year-old this time last year.