Marco Fu and John Higgins upset the higher seeds as the dazzling Hong Kong Masters commenced on Thursday.
The invitation event got under way with a sizable attendance inside the enormous Hong Kong Coliseum but a lot more expected over the coming days.
Fu delighted the huge home crowd with a somewhat unexpected 5-2 success over Mark Selby in the tournament’s opening fixture.
The former world number five has barely played in the last couple of years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, only returning to the pro circuit for the World Championship qualifiers in April.
Even before that, Fu had been suffering a slide down the rankings list after issues with his eyesight affected his performances.
But in front of an adoring crowd that was willing him on, the 44 year-old rolled back the years by beating one of the game’s top stars.
Fu began the contest with a break of 52 before doubling his advantage with a run of 65 in the second frame.
Losing position on the black while in among the balls proved costly in the third frame as Selby got on the scoreboard, but Fu quickly regained his cushion to lead by two at the mid-session interval.
After the Jester constructed the event’s first century break upon the play’s resumption, a turnaround appeared on the cards.
But Fu never wilted and won the remaining couple of frames to record his best result in years.
In the semi-finals, the three-time ranking event winner will face Higgins after the Scot edged Judd Trump in a dramatic 5-4 thriller.
Higgins, who managed to snap a ten-game losing streak to Trump that dated back to their 2019 World Championship final showdown, responded to his opponent’s tournament-high 136 with contributions of 102 and 68 to lead 3-1 at the interval.
The Englishman appeared to turn the match around when he reeled off three on the spin – including a second ton of his own in the fifth frame – to lead 4-3.
But Higgins dug deep in trademark fashion, scoring a 70 to force a decider that he duly won with the aid of a 58.
On Friday, Mark Williams flies in at the last minute to replace Zhao Xintong, who tested positive for COVID-19 on the eve of the Hong Kong Masters.
The Welshman takes on Neil Robertson in the afternoon session with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ng On Yee to follow later in the day.
As many as 9,000 fans are expected to be in attendance during the later sessions of the tournament.
Featured photo credit: WST