Neil Robertson and home favourite Marco Fu were the opening day winners at the star-studded Hong Kong Masters on Thursday.
Robertson beat World Champion Mark Selby 5-3 while Fu saw off Barry Hawkins by the same scoreline at the invitation event.
Hong Kong’s Fu looked in danger of an early exit in front of his local fans when he trailed Hawkins 3-1 at the interval. But Fu stormed back to win four frames in a row, compiling breaks of 75, 53 and 132.
“I was very nervous,” admitted world number five Fu. “It’s the first time I have played here in Hong Kong as a professional since I was 22. I’ve been playing snooker for so long now, so I try to just enjoy it. The home crowd made it very special, it’s very hot but I tried to enjoy the tension. Barry is a great player and it’s a great win for me.
“There were a couple of very crucial frames. I was supposed to win the third but Barry won it. Barry was supposed to win the sixth frame but I won it. It goes back and forwards and the momentum switched a few times during the match. I’m just very happy that I was able to play some decent snooker today, even if I had lost I would still feel very proud.
“It’s a great tournament but I just want to take it easy and relax. We are very lucky that we have all the great players this time in Hong Kong. I’m not looking too far ahead, I just want to play decent snooker in front of my home crowd.”
Australia’s Robertson built a 3-1 lead over Selby with top breaks of 57 and 56. World number one Selby recovered to 3-3 but Robertson won the crucial seventh frame on the colours then sealed victory with a run of 108.
“At this stage of the season no one really knows who is playing well,” said 2010 World Champion Robertson. “I put Mark under a lot of pressure with my long potting and I punished him for his mistakes. My game is in much better shape than it was when I played Marco at the World Championship. It will be interesting to see how he copes with the home crowd. If I can start well and play good snooker then hopefully I can get some of the crowd on my side.”
Selby said: “I hadn’t played since the World Championship because of my broken toe, and then a holiday. I’m not match sharp. I’m disappointed because I was really looking forward to this competition but I haven’t been able to practise enough and it’s such a strong line up here that you can’t get away with that. Once I’m back home I’ll be on the practice table and working hard. I had a good chance in the seventh frame, but overall Neil deserved to win. It was a great crown and a privilege to play here, I’d love to see a ranking event here in the future.”
Robertson and Fu will now meet in the semi-finals on Saturday. Friday’s action will see Judd Trump face Shaun Murphy and John Higgins take on Ronnie O’Sullivan.