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Qualifiers Book Australian Open Spots

The Australian Open qualifiers concluded on Tuesday with 16 players booking their flights Down Under.

Now in its fourth season on the calendar, the ranking event is one of only a few that has retained the old format of seeded stages.

This ensured that the lower ranked players were forced to emerge through four rounds if they were to make their way to Oz, while those in the 17-32 bracket reverting back their old safety net of requiring only one victory.

Because of this, only two of those players who began their quest on Saturday came through and booked their spots in the first round proper.

Scott Donaldson recorded a brace of whitewashes either side of a tense 5-4 triumph over Jimmy White that concluded on the final pink to reach the final round today, where he then overcame Kurt Maflin 5-2.

Joining the 20 year-old Scot is returning pro Liam Highfield, who continued his resurgence in form having regained his card through the recent Q-School by reaching the last 32 of a ranking event for the first time in his career.

Highfield has long been regarded as a player with an abundance of talent but his temperament and dedication has often been called into question.

However, despite reservations about playing abroad in the past, the Englishman has appeared to have found a new lease of life as he attempts to make a better fist of his second chance on the circuit.

Elsewhere, many of the higher ranked competitors advanced.

Nine-time ranking event champion Peter Ebdon saw off Barry Pinches 5-3 while fellow veterans Fergal O’Brien, Dominic Dale, Marcus Campbell and Alan McManus also progressed.

The latter, who capped his return to the big-time with a run to the last eight at the Crucible in April, has shown little sign of a retreat from battle as he recorded his second successive 5-4 success of the campaign to reach back-to-back rankers.

There was a good mix of old and young though as, aside from 43 year-old Rory McLeod’s 5-1 win over Dubliner Ken Doherty and Mark Joyce’s 5-4 thriller against Ian Burns, the remainder of the qualifiers are all relatively young.

None more so than teenager Luca Brecel, the 19 year-old Belgian edging Rod Lawler 5-3.

By all accounts, Brecel had a quiet season last time around and thus will be hoping to produce the high performances that brought him to the quarter-finals of the UK Championship in 2012.

Another young talent seeking a more positive year is Jack Lisowski and he continued his good start to the season with a 5-2 win over David Gilbert, backing up earlier defeats of countrymen Oliver Lines and James Cahill.

Amateur Oliver Brown almost went all the way to Bendigo but came up just short in a 5-1 loss to Tom Ford while Andrew Higginson and Liang Wenbo, two former ranking event finalists, both qualified.

Finally, Jamie Jones ousted Mark King 5-1 and Martin Gould saw off the challenge of Mike Dunn.

There’ll be a brief respite of two weeks now for the players before a short Asian-Oceania leg of the calendar sees the first Asian Tour event precede the Wuxi Classic and Australian Open.



Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.