The best performance of the opening day of the Shanghai Masters came courtesy of Lu Haotian, a 14 year-old who should surely be at school but who in fact defeated Marco Fu 5-4.
Fu led 3-0, by which point Lu had done nothing to suggest he could possibly win the match. That all changed with his assured century in the fourth frame. After he slotted home a long black to win the fifth the pressure clearly transferred to Fu.
Unless I’ve missed something, Lu becomes the youngest player ever to win a televised ranking event match. Wildcards remain a controversial subject but this isn’t his fault: he was given an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. It was very impressive and he could give Mark Allen a few problems later today.
Meanwhile Mark Williams, who has won three ranking titles in China, the first in Shanghai ten years ago, coasted through against Mark Davis. The way Williams plays, he needs the conditions to be to his liking to produce his best. They were and he did, particularly in completing a clearance in one frame which had to be seen to be believed.
Joe Perry’s 5-2 defeat of Matthew Stevens boiled down to one shot. Clearing up for 2-2, Stevens left himself a little awkward on the pink. He should have used the rest but has a seemingly psychological aversion to it and so played the shot left-handed and missed.
Perry potted it, ironically using the rest, and it wasn’t hard to identify this as the major moment.
Steve Davis played very tidily to see off Zhu Yinghui and secure a last 32 berth. I’m sure his white ferrule is the talk of Shanghai’s bustling night life.
Mark Selby won this title a year ago, beating Williams 10-9 from 9-7 down after the red-or-pink drama of frame 17.
Selby today plays Jamie Cope. The last two times they have played in China, Selby has won 5-0.
Mark King is just the sort of player capable of frustrating Ding Junhui, whose record in Chinese events is not too great outside Beijing.
King has been on a disappointing run of results but he was a semi-finalist in Shanghai last year and well capable of messing Ding about if he needs to.
Peter Ebdon was very impressive in the Premier League, coping fine with the 25 shot clock. The last time he played Stephen Maguire, in last season’s China Open final, it was tortoise rather than hare, particularly in the turgid opening session in which only six of the scheduled nine frames were played.
They meet again in what could be one of the matches of the round. Ebdon is resurgent; Maguire is still looking for his first major ranking title since the 2008 China Open in Beijing.