After five busy days in Crawley, the Australian Open qualifiers have reached a conclusion with 16 competitors booking their trip down under.
Ireland’s Fergal O’Brien was 2-1 down early on to Joe Swail in their final round contest but reeled off four frames on the trot to deny the Northern Irishman.
It wasn’t to be a joyful experience for David Morris in the other all-Ireland clash of the day, though, with the Kilkenny cueist being thumped 5-0 by Gerard Greene.
Arguably the most eye-catching victory came in the form of Hossein Vafaei Ayouri’s 5-3 success over two-time ranking event winner Dominic Dale.
The Iranian is competing in his first full season on the main tour despite having been granted professional status since 2012.
One of the most promising amateurs in recent years, Ayouri struggled to gain a UK visa and was instead residing and practicing in Ireland – where he has many eager followers.
The 2011 world amateur champion and the 2014 world under-21 champion, where he beat Josh Boileau in the final, finally resolved his visa issues in February and has wasted little time in making up for lost time.
The 20 year-old won four matches this week to reach the last 32 of a ranking event for the first time and firmly underline his credentials as a budding star in the making.
Ayouri’s opponent Dale wasn’t the only one to suffer from an early-season hangover, as the players seeded 17 to 32 came into the fold on the last day of action.
Peter Ebdon lost to Jamie Burnett in an extremely tight tussle that ended on the final black while Michael Georgiou and Ian Burns earned similar hard-fought deciding frame triumphs over David Gilbert and Rod Lawler respectively.
Young pair Joel Walker and Jack Lisowski also took advantage of their earlier encounters to see off two highly fancied players this season in Gary Wilson and Jimmy Robertson.
For Lisowski, it offers renewed hope that one of the most talented players on the circuit might finally be ready to make his step into the higher echelons of the sport.
However, we’ve been here several times before with the 23 year-old as he’s flattered to deceive on numerous occasions in the past, yet with time on his side one feels he ought to realise his full potential eventually.
Meanwhile, it was fairly straightforward for the rest of the higher seeds, although Mark Joyce did get the better of Luca Brecel in another decider.
Ali Carter, who will be looking to make a leap back up the rankings after having his position frozen during the last campaign when he was battling cancer, got off to a good start as he ousted Kyren Wilson 5-1 while Martin Gould recorded a similar scoreline against Michael Leslie.
Elsewhere, Matthew Selt, Ben Woollaston, Mark King, Jamie Jones and Andrew Higginson all sealed their flights to Bendigo.
The Australian Open itself doesn’t take place for another three weeks, with the returning World Cup between now and then in Wuxi.
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