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
Manchester United teased by Monaco after claims they could have signed 'Luis Suarez of Neymar' instead or £58m Anthony Martial
Former Manchester United star Karel Poborsky goes full hipster
Manchester United hit back at Real Madrid by claiming they let David De Gea 'slip through their fingers into the back of the net'
Premier League Power Rankings: Eden Hazard and Harry Kane continue to slip but Wayne Rooney has to perform against rivals
Serie B introduces 'green cards' to promote good behaviour, fair play and sportsmanship
- 2 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 3 Malnourished two-year-old found being breastfed by dog in Chile
- 5 YouTube video shows woman verbally abusing takeaway staff 'because they used green peppers'
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...
£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...
£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...