English Open: Marco Fu’s run halted – but it’s his best ranking tournament in years
- Hongkonger had already gone his furthest in a ranking event since January 2020, before being beaten by Barry Hawkins
- Snooker Shoot Out in January comes next for the recent Hong Kong Masters finalist, whose first opponent will be Chinese teenager Lei Peifan
Hong Kong snooker ace Marco Fu Ka-chun has crashed out of the English Open – but not before recording his best ranking tournament progress in almost three years.
A third-round loss to Barry Hawkins on Thursday ended Fu’s involvement after the three-time ranking tournament winner had whitewashed amateur Lewis Ullah and dispatched higher-ranked Jimmy Robertson and Peter Lines.
He was well matched on paper with his last-32 opponent Hawkins: their head-to-head record read nine wins apiece, with Hawkins edging Fu 81-80 in frames won during their encounters.
But Fu, who has been largely absent from the circuit during the pandemic, quickly found himself in a hole as the world No 13 turned breaks of 89 and 127 into a 3-0 lead.
Needing to win a frame to keep himself in the game, the Hongkonger did just that before the interval. And the 44-year-old then picked up where he left off as he returned to produce a 111 break, moving within a frame of the tournament’s ninth seed.
It was not to be for Fu as a break of 50 from Hawkins sealed a 4-2 victory. Nor was it to be for “The Hawk”, who was later knocked out by Mark Williams in the last 16.
Fu wrapped up his 2022 calendar with his defeat, and will jet back to Hong Kong to celebrate Christmas with his family before returning to the UK on January 2 to prepare for coming tournaments.
“It’s nice to be back competing and playing to a decent standard – I have missed so many tournaments over the last few years,” Fu told World Snooker Tour during his longest run in a ranking event since January 2020.
“I enjoy being around the other players, they are like a snooker family. But when the trips are too long, it is difficult mentally, I don’t feel healthy.
“The last time I came to the UK I needed to stay for three months, because of the quarantine policy in Hong Kong. Towards the end, I wasn’t feeling like playing in tournaments, but I couldn’t go home. Now I can do short trips of two or three weeks at a time, which is much better.”
Now ranked 101st in the world, Fu – who was once as high as No 5 – is expected to climb a few spots into the top 100 with his latest results. His next assignment will be the Snooker Shoot Out – also a ranking tournament – in late January, in which he will face 19-year-old Chinese player Lei Peifan, in what will be their first meeting.
Meanwhile in the English Open, China’s Ding Junhui also exited in the third round, losing a nail-biter 4-3 to Mark Allen, who weeks ago also thwarted him in the UK Championship final.
Former world champions John Higgins and Shaun Murphy were sent packing in the fourth round, as was Thepchaiya Un-Nooh of Thailand.
Earlier, world No 1 Ronnie O’Sullivan bowed out in the third round, falling 4-1 to Martin Gould. It was a first defeat to Gould in seven meetings for O’Sullivan, who in October won the Hong Kong Masters, beating Fu in the final.