Snooker: Small left helpless in fabulous Fu's wake
Sunday 25 October 1998
In today's final he faces Stephen Lee, the world No 9, who recovered from the loss of four of the first five frames to triumph 6-4 over Dave Harold, the world No 19 who had eliminated Stephen Hendry 5-4 late on Friday.
Small, a tall, studious Scot who had beaten two members of the elite top 16, John Parrott and Anthony Hamilton, this week before his quarter- final success over his compatriot Jamie Burnett, was outplayed although he did clear with 107 to win the fourth frame after Fu, on 25, had been excessively ambitious in shot selection when bridging over a ball.
Fu took command in the opening frame when, from 22 behind, he pounced on Small's glaring lapse to clear with 63. An almost equally culpable error on 47 threw Small a lifeline in the second but he scored enough from a late chance to lead 2-0, converted to 3-0 with runs of 58 and 38.
Breaks of 77 and 50 featured as Fu progressed from 3-1 to 5-1 and by adding the scrappiest frame of the afternoon he assured himself of pounds 32,000.
"My mother's a Buddhist and I've learnt a few things about keeping calm from her," said Fu. "I'm going to play my best if I can keep calm and relaxed. I didn't think today was going to be that easy and I never imagined this would happen. My target coming here was just to beat a top player if I got the chance."
Small said that Fu was "a pretty frightening player. When he gets in the balls he never looks like missing. He looked to me like he was practising and because he's so cool, he's very dangerous".
Eleven months ago, half a world away from rainy Preston, Fu won the world amateur title in Bulawayo. With outside temperatures topping 100 degrees and no air-conditioning, the arena temperature was 110 degrees. No windows could be opened because an invasion of flying ants had stopped play.
Several birds, two pigeons, four or five doves and a handful of quileas (a local pest) were resident in the hall. The heat had drawn up the nap of the cloth like a shag-pile carpet in comparison with Preston's sleek, responsive surface.
Stuart Bingham, from Basildon, one of Steve Davis's regular sparring partners, led Fu 7-1 in the final but Fu won 11-10 and immediately caught a flight to get to Stockport just in time for pre-qualifying in the Embassy World Championship. He made 11 centuries in winning 10 rounds before his stamina gave out.
Last season, in one of its most constructive measures of recent years, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association set up Asia, Oceania, Americas, Africa/ Middle East and continental Europe satellite events to fast track the best overseas players to the world-ranking circuit. Some had to start in the first round of these 192-man events; the best six, which included Fu, were exempt until the fourth round.
Fu is such an outstanding talent that he would have secured the financial backing to come through any development system, much as Thailand's James Wattana did the better part of a decade ago.
Latest in Sport
Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt: Examining the Impact of 'Taker's WWE WrestleMania return
Arsenal vs Monaco: Theo Walcott 'involved in spat' with fans after Champions League defeat
It's time to stop the 'small club' jibes after Chelsea signed £200m Yokohama deal
Paul Scholes: Jose Mourinho's attempt to influence football's decision-makers is not working. In fact, it may have backfired
After record-breaking £5.136bn Premier League TV deal, why are Everton the only British club to win in Europe?
- 1 The black and blue dress: Makers considering a white and gold version
- 2 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 3 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...
£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...
£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...