Grand Prix 2009: Higgins through but Fu sent home by Davis

The opening day of the Grand Prix has already seen a big upset, click below to read more. Note that I have fixed a problem with the text that some of you may have noticed!

Click here to see how the results have affected the provisional rankings.

John Higgins 5-1 Mark Joyce

63-27, 82(44)-0, 98(98)-0, 18-78, 135(135)-0, 99(99)-0

Scotland’s John Higgins got the defence of his Grand Prix title off to the perfect start this afternoon with a comfortable 5-1 victory over qualifier Mark Joyce.

Mark actually started the match off reasonably well but as he so often does, John managed to take a couple of scrappy frames to go into a 2-0 lead early on. While he had enjoyed some good fortune in those two frames however, the third was all his own making as he knocked in a terrific opening red before going into the bunch of reds from the blue and setting the table perfectly for a break of 92.

He looked like increasing his lead to 4-0 at the interval in the next frame but a bad miss on a red allowed Joyce in to get a frame on the board with a break of 28 for 3-1.

Though he had given himself hope however, John soon extinguished this when the action resumed with breaks of 135, an early contender for the high break prize, and finally 99 to secure his progress to the last 16.

It was not the best performance of John’s career but Mark understandably struggled to find his best form in front of the cameras, particularly after falling 2-0 down through little fault of his own. For John the win strengthens his hold on top spot in the provisional rankings, at least until Ronnie O’Sullivan plays later on this week and he will now await the random draw to see who he plays next.

For Mark it has still been a great tournament as he has made it to the last 32 of an event for the first time and despite this loss, he has moved up to 61st in the provisional list. After a poor campaign last time out he needed a good run like this to give his hopes of remaining on the main tour a boost and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain this form from here.

Marco Fu 4-5 Mark Davis

34-71(36), 11-96(35,53), 93(65)-33, 92(45)-19, 82(82)-0, 16-89(88), 60(60)-71(39c), 83(83)-0, 41(30)-82(30)

Already we have the first big upset of the tournament as 2007 Grand Prix champion Marco Fu has been sent crashing out of the tournament by world number 47 Mark Davis.

Marco struggled from the start as Davis headed 2-0 up and as the lower ranked player moved into a 32-0 lead in the third, already the upset looked very much on. An easy miss from Mark however gave Marco a reprieve and with breaks of 65, 45 and 82, Asia’s highest ranked player managed to turn the match around and go ahead for the first time.

Many players in Mark’s position might have panicked at this point but he hung in there and despite the breaks, Marco was still not playing at his very best. A break of 88 brought Davis back level before a clearance of 39 in the next put him back in the lead at 4-3. Marco should really have taken that frame but a strange shot selection on the final red which he duly missed proved to be his undoing. He did however recover to force a decider with a run of 83 in frame eight.

As deciding frames often are the ninth frame proved to be a tense affair, both players having several chances to win but not quite being able to convert. The decisive moment however proved to be when Marco escaped from a snooker on the final red, but not managing to get it safe and leaving Mark in with a chance for frame and match. It was not straightforward but an excellent shot on the from distance on the final yellow all but secured one of the best wins of his career.

A disappointing result for Marco as his slow start to the season continues but Mark will be delighted to be in the last 16 of a ranking event for the first time since the 2008 Northern Ireland Trophy. Since starting work with coach Steve Feeney 18 months ago he has played some of his best snooker in a number of years and this is a continuation of that improvement. Now up into the top 32 provisionally, he is in with a real shout of improving on his career best ranking of #35 at the end of the year. First things first though, he will go into the last 16 here in Glasgow full of confidence now…