Marco Fu sent reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan crashing out of the 2019 World Grand Prix at the first hurdle at the Cheltenham Racecourse on Monday.
Fu, who has battled back from a career-threatening eye problem over the past 12 months, came from a frame down to pull off a confidence-boosting victory over the world number three.
Fu, now ranked 25, saw O’Sullivan dominate the opening frame with breaks of 51 and 68 before taking frame two with a 48 break and adding a 61 in the third to hit the front.
The Hong Kong ace then broke down on 52 in frame four, allowing O’Sullivan to punish with a ruthless clearance of 77 for parity.
Fu, however, hit back with a 66 break to regain the lead before dominating the sixth frame by 91 points to nil to end a six-match winless run against ‘The Rocket’.
Defeat for O’Sullivan is his first in the opening round of any tournament this season, having reached at least the Semi-Final stage of his last six campaigns.
“Beating Ronnie is always special, especially after going ten years without beating him,” said Fu.
“It’s nice to put that behind me and hopefully this is the start of a good run.
“I think I caught him on a bad day and took advantage of a few mistakes that he was making.”
Fu will now face Barry Hawkins in the Last 16 after he dispatched Ryan Day 4-1 in a repeat of the 2017 World Grand Prix final.
Hawkins, who claimed the title two years ago, defied a century in the first frame from the Welshman (127) by blasting in breaks of 72, 130 and 143 en route to an impressive triumph.
Elsewhere, 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham safely saw off 21-year-old Zhao Xintong 4-1.
Bingham, the 2016 Grand Prix runner-up, set his stall out in style with back-to-back breaks of 131 and 102 before extending his lead to 3-0, and though Zhao got off the mark with a 61, the Essex ace breezed over the line in frame five.
Number one seed Mark Allen safely progressed to the Second Round with a 4-2 victory over 2015 China Open finalist Gary Wilson.
Allen established a 2-0 lead with breaks of 69 and 87 before Wallsend’s Wilson claimed two of the next three frames to peg back to 3-2 behind.
UK Championship finalist Allen, however, wrapped up the win with a fine break of 78 in frame six and will now meet either Ali Carter or Martin O’Donnell in the Last 16.
Coral World Grand Prix 2019 Results
Monday February 4
Barry Hawkins 4-1 Ryan Day
Ronnie O’Sullivan 2-4 Marco Fu
Mark Allen 4-2 Gary Wilson
Stuart Bingham 4-1 Zhao Xintong