VINNIE CALABRESE says he dreamed of playing at York in the UK Championship – and the Australian enjoyed a fairytale debut when dumping world number 22 Dominic Dale out of the tournament with a 6-5 win on the opening day.

Calabrese, currently at 111 in the rankings, came to the Barbican seven years ago to watch compatriot Neil Robertson and hoped to get a chance to walk in the world number one’s footsteps in the Minster city.

And he did not disappoint as he finally got the chance to step into the arena, fashioning a calm 70 in the final frame after withstanding a whirlwind fight-back by two-time ranking event winner Dale.

Earlier, he had swept into a 2-0 lead with breaks of 65 and 90 and was unlucky not to take the next as well, looking equally smooth on 39 before cruelly going in off.

Dale needed to scrap it out, but found himself 3-1 behind at the interval and then 5-2 adrift shortly afterwards.

But with the finishing line in sight Calabrese noticeably tightened – “I couldn’t hold myself together” were his words – and Dale, for the first time sensing weakness in his opponent, put the hammer down.

He reeled off three frames in a row, helped by breaks of 136 and 101, to level the match.

Having been pegged pack, however, Calabrese was able to gather himself impressively and produced a string of excellent shots to take the match.

Calabrese said: “I had a couple of really good chances to win 6-3. I was lucky enough to get a chance in the decider and did just enough to win.

“When I went to 5-4 I was on edge but I just said to myself that there was no use being like that so I took things as they came. I just relaxed but didn’t get a chance until the last frame really.

“This is my first year on the tour, so my first time at the UK. I actually came here in 2006 to watch Neil Robertson and I said ‘one day I hope to play here’.

“Luckily enough the tour has changed and everyone starts in the first round here and so I made it.”

On the influence of Robertson on his career, Calabrese added: “He has just been great. He has helped me out with my game. We live together. I have probably learned more from Joe Perry but both of those guys have helped me out on and off the table.”

Dale said: “All through the match he scored very, very heavily. When he did make mistakes he got away with them at crucial times.”


Xiao Guodong through

XIAO GUODONG continued his fine run of form this season with a thumping 6-1 victory over Andrew Pagett.

The Shanghai Masters finalist made light work of the 31-year-old Welshman – breaks of 56, 72, 57, 51 and 119 sending him into the second round with little fuss. Guodong said: “I just kept my concentration on every shot.”