MARCO FU broke Welsh hearts by knocking home favourite Mark Williams out of the BetVictor Welsh Open on Thursday night.
The 36-year-old from Hong Kong ran out a 4-2 winner in a rollercoaster match at the Newport Centre that could easily have seen world No18 Williams winning at a canter.
But world No9 Fu, the reigning Australian Open champion, twice hit back to steal frames to move 2-1 ahead in the chase for a quarter-final berth.
And the Surrey-based professional then survived missing the final pink in frame four and allowing Williams to level at 2-2 to regroup and close out the encounter by claiming the last two frames.
Fu, who now plays Barry Hawkins, said: “I knew I was playing well this week, and I just needed chances. I stole frames two and three and that settled me down and gave me a boost, after Mark’s mistakes.
“It was nice to play well again and still be in the tournament, and I want to retain my form up to the World Championships.
“I have played Mark here a couple of times and lost to him, so I know what it is like to play the crowd favourite at this venue.
“And he deserves that support, because he has done so much for the sport in Wales. But in a way that helped me to relax, all the pressure was on Mark. I could just quietly enjoy the game.”
Two-time Welsh Open champion Williams, 38, said: “Ronnie O’Sullivan or John Higgins would have won that match 4-0, but I missed sitters and he punished me. I was three balls away from 3-0 up.
“I played well and lost tonight, it could have gone either way and you have to give Marco credit.
“You will never see the old Mark Williams again, he’s dead and gone – but I just have to try my best. The crowd was great, it was packed and just a shame I couldn’t win for them.”
Hawkins came through his last-16 clash with China’s Liang Wenbo, retrieving the match situation from 2-0 down to eventually win 4-2.
That included potting a re-spotted black in frame five after last year’s Crucible finalist had done his best to throw away a winning position by going in off on the colours.
Hawkins said: “It was a funny game, all Wenbo at times, but I came back nicely. The re-spot frame was massive, if I had lost that it would have been tough to take.
“I couldn’t believe it when the white finished in the middle bag but I potted a good black. I am letting others take the limelight, as long as I keep winning I am quietly confident.
“I am still benefiting from the confidence I gained at the Crucible last year, I haven’t done as well as I would have liked at the start of the season but there are plenty of titles left to go for.”
Photographs by Monique Limbos