The opening round of qualifying for the World Championship concluded yesterday with a shock defeat for Ireland’s David Morris.
The Kilkenny cueist, who had otherwise enjoyed a fantastic season on his return to the circuit following a one-year absence, was sent crashing out early following a 10-7 defeat to 17 year-old Alexander Ursenbacher.
The defeat in itself was surprising, but even more so because Morris had built up 6-2 and 7-5 advantages.
However, the Swiss teenager battled his way back into the contest and ended up winning the last five frames without reply, finishing in style with 117 century break.
It’s a disappointing end to the campaign for Morris, who many felt had a decent chance of going all the way to the Crucible despite being required to win four matches to do so.
Ursenbacher had only one victory in ranking events all season – ironically against another Irishman Ken Doherty in a European Tour tournament – so was highly unfancied against the vastly more experienced Morris.
But he proved his fighting qualities and the triumph will go a long way to justifying his surprising progression onto the Main Tour after emerging from the last Q-School.
While a pity for Irish snooker and for Morris himself, the result can be viewed as being a positive for snooker in general as the rise in the success of European snooker continues.
Luca Brecel has been flying the flag for the continent for his native Belgium, but now the sport has its newest potential young star coming from another unlikely avenue in Switzerland.
It will be interesting to see how the youngster fares in his next game with Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and if he can actually make a concerted push for an unlikely qualification to the Crucible.
Elsewhere, it was a busy couple of days at the Ponds Forge in Sheffield as 32 encounters in total were decided.
England’s Gary Wilson, who along with Morris arguably had the best season of those players way down the rankings list, was also an early casualty as he lost in tame fashion to countryman James Cahill 10-4.
Mike Dunn, semi-finalist in the China Open just last week, possibly felt the effects of such a draining experience and was downed in emphatic fashion by Rhys Clark 10-2.
Several of the other ties went fairly true to form with the likes of Brecel, Zhang Anda, Barry Pinches and Scott Donaldson all advancing to the next stage.
Yet, there were some other unexpected results, in particular Malta’s Alex Borg’s 10-9 win over James Wattana – a result that ensures the Thai two-time World Championship semi-finalist drops off the tour for the second time in his career.
The same fate was bestowed on Tony Drago, whose professional career looks to be at an end following a heavy defeat at the hands of Finland’s Robin Hull.
Fans of Joe Swail, another twice semi-finalist, will be happy, though, after the Northern Irishman beat Alex Davies 10-7 to set up an intriguing battle with fellow veteran Anthony Hamilton.
Clark, meanwhile, wasn’t the only amateur to keep their bids alive with Christopher Keogan and Mitchell Travis, who beat Marco Fu at the UK Championship in December, both joining him in the second round.
Several of the bigger names enter the fray in the next round, with those ranked between 33 and 64 beginning their challenges.
This includes the likes of Jimmy White, who will take on Ian Burns, and Steve Davis, who will face Craig Steadman.
Both of these legends will be looking for wins to ensure they finish inside the world’s top 64 and therefore regain their place on the Main Tour.
Davis’s situation is more pressing, though, as he currently lies outside the pivotal mark.
Could this be the ‘Nugget’s’ last match as a professional in what has been a glittering career?