Suffolk bowler on top of the world

MARK Royal's solid 9-7, 9-4 win over Fiji-born Canadian Hirendra Bhartu at Swansea yesterday did more than earn him a place in the quarter-finals of the WBT Gravells Welsh International Open.

MARK Royal's solid 9-7, 9-4 win over Fiji-born Canadian Hirendra Bhartu at Swansea yesterday did more than earn him a place in the quarter-finals of the WBT Gravells Welsh International Open.

The modest Stowmarket star smiled shyly when he was told that the ranking points he earned from his straight sets victory had enabled him to overtake world No. 1 Alex Marshall at the top of the WBT ranking list.

“That's only provisional,” Royal said. “The rankings do not become fixed until this event is over, so there's a lot can happen over the next few days, and I'm not counting any chickens.”

As for his win over Bhartu, who defeated Devon Destroyer Ian Bond in the first round, Royal was obviously pleased to win, but was far from satisfied with his form.


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“I can play a lot better than that,” he said. “But it's far better to improve game by game rather than get worse, so I feel I'm building up to some good form.

“Hirendra is always a difficult opponent, and the first set turned when I scored a full house of four shots on the fourth end, and you could say I limped over the line at 9-7. But I improved in the second set, and was able to play some telling shots under pressure - so that fills me with confidence as I attempt to retain this Welsh title.”

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Royal's only concern is what will happen if he survives today's quarter final - because he has qualified for the Warners National Champion of Champions singles event, which is being played at Hayling Island at the weekend.

“I've been drawn to play Norfolk's Ian Wones in the first round at 4pm on Friday,” says Royal. “I'm hoping they can accommodate me by rescheduling the match for Saturday morning, and would be really upset if I was disqualified because I was still going strong in Wales.”

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