China’s Lyu Haotian produced a terrific performance to beat Marco Fu 10-5 on his World Snooker Championship debut at the weekend in Sheffield.
Lyu benefited from an opponent who was clearly rusty after only just making his return from a lengthy spell on the sidelines following eye surgery earlier this year to advance to the second round on his maiden bow at the Crucible.
However, even without that advantage, Lyu would have impressed after comfortably settling at the venue despite being the youngest player in the draw at only 20.
Lyu compiled a brace of centuries in the first session to help establish a 6-3 overnight advantage heading into Sunday’s final session but showed few nerves despite and breaks of 79 and 61 nudged him over the winning post.
After capturing the World Under-21 Championship as a 14 year-old in 2012, Lyu was first promoted to the Main Tour and there was plenty of expectation surrounding his pedigree in the game.
However, his rookie stint on the circuit was disappointing and it was understandably difficult for a boy of his age to immediately adapt to the rigours of travel and regular competition around the globe.
Lyu dropped off the tour in 2015 but regained his place last year by capturing the Asian Snooker Championship and he has looked a completely different animal since.
A run to the semi-finals of the Northern Ireland Open before Christmas hinted at the progress he had made and strong displays elsewhere, including this lucrative run to round off this campaign, will ensure that he will conclude this season in the top 64 in the world rankings for the first time in his career.
Part of Lyu’s success, both in general and specifically this week in Sheffield, is undoubtedly down to his association with the Victoria’s Snooker Academy – just a stone’s throw away from the Crucible Theatre itself.
A lot of the Chinese competitors have established themselves in Sheffield and Lyu certainly seems to have benefited from a familiar surrounding, with four victories already in this year’s tournament including the hat-trick of triumphs he earned in the qualifiers last week.
Meanwhile, Kyren Wilson and Ali Carter also progressed to the last 16 after contrasting opening round wins.
Wilson was never really tested as he thumped two-time finalist Matthew Stevens 10-3 but Carter, another twice runner-up, fought back superbly to deny Graeme Dott 10-8.
Carter had trailed the former world champion 6-3 after the first session but was the heavier scorer throughout the contest and that eventually told as he just about edged the Scot over the long haul.
💬 @TheCaptain147: “You will not play anyone harder than him here”
Passed Graeme Dott, two-time finalist Carter faces Ronnie O’Sullivan next.
But which one is he talking about? #ilovesnooker @Betfred pic.twitter.com/4qFySWJVje
— World Snooker (@WorldSnooker1) April 22, 2018
Earlier in the day, pre-tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan recovered from a three-frame deficit as well to get beyond another Scottish warhorse in Stephen Maguire, 10-7.
Two other ties reached the halfway stage on Sunday with Mark Allen boasting a 6-3 cushion against Liam Highfield, one of four newbies in the field this year, and Shaun Murphy 5-4 up on Jamie Jones after a tight opening jostle.
On Monday, those two matches will reach their climaxes while the likes of Ding Junhui and Barry Hawkins enter the fray too.