Snooker: No Ebdon flow as Fu marches on

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The Independent Online
MARCO FU'S astonishing progress through the Preston Grand Prix continued late on Thursday night. The young Hong Kong player, thrust to prominence after just two months on the professional circuit, again overcame his lack of experience to book a place in the semi-finals of the season's opening world ranking event.

In the last 16 on Tuesday, Fu had outpotted Ronnie O'Sullivan, and he followed up on Thursday night with another giant-killing 5-2 victory, over the eighth seed and former Grand Prix champion, Peter Ebdon.

The 20-year-old, who began the competition as a 125-1 outsider, is now just two wins away from claiming the pounds 60,000 first prize and writing a remarkable chapter in snooker's history books.

The match could not have begun on a better note for Fu, last year's World Amateur and World Junior Champion. Having laid the snooker he required on the brown, Fu cleared up to snatch the verdict on the black, and with Ebdon struggling badly he established a surprise 3-0 lead. Ebdon, who has a deserved reputation as a stubborn fighter, surprised no one when, by exploiting the errors which crept into Fu's game, he drew level at 3-3.

The loss of the sixth frame was an especially painful blow for Fu. He missed the last red and Ebdon grittily cleared up to sneak it on the black. Showing remarkable maturity and an unflappable temperament, though, Fu refused to throw in the towel.

He stopped the rot by taking a scrappy seventh frame on the blue and secured another fine victory with a late run of 49 in the eighth after Ebdon, seemingly in the driver's seat, had rattled a tricky red into a middle pocket.

Fu who, having appeared in only two events last season, has a misleading world ranking of 377, will now be a strong favourite to add either Chris Small or Jamie Burnett to his list of Grand Prix victims when they meet in a best-of-11-frames semi-final today.

"I'm as surprised as anyone that I have reached this stage," Fu said. "I honestly didn't expect to get this far because I'd never beaten a top player before. I was quite nervous out there and my safety let me down on occasions, but thankfully Peter didn't punish me. I can't believe I've beaten Ronnie O'Sullivan and now him in two straight matches."

In the quarter-finals last night, Stephen Hendry was due to face the Stoke man, Dave Harold, a player for whom he has the utmost respect.

"Dave used to be a member of the top 16 and in my opinion, he still deserves to be there," Hendry said. "He's solid in all departments and always tough to beat."

Hendry was talking from personal experience. The Scot has given Harold a number of sound defeats in recent years but has also been beaten by him in a trio of world ranking event matches.

Harold beat him on the way to the 1993 Asian Open title in Bangkok as a 500-1 outsider, and repeated that feat at the 1996 Regal Welsh Open and in the Grand Prix quarter-finals of 1994.