Jack Lisowski can be forgiven if he didn’t sleep last night. The 19 year-old makes his television debut today against the world’s no.1, John Higgins, at the Wyldecrest Welsh Open.
Lisowski is in his first season; Higgins is a three times world champion and all time great.
This is truly snooker’s version of David v Goliath. You’ll recall David was the winner of that one, although it wasn’t a best of seven.
Jack contributes a column in Snooker Scene each month detailing life on the circuit. He became a professional at the start of the season and has grabbed his opportunity with both hands – proof that it can be done, even though the qualifying system can be tough.
He didn’t start so well, losing his first three matches. At that stage, the wild-eyed wonder of being a snooker pro was replaced with harsh reality: it’s difficult.
Lisowski was worried at this point that he may lose his place on the tour but this is where the PTC series came into its own. Unlike recent seasons, there was plenty of snooker to be played and plenty of time to bed in.
Lo and behold, Lisowski reached the final of PTC 3, which lit the blue touch paper for what has been a highly productive season.
He knew it would virtually guarantee his tour card, which took some of the pressure off, and he will also be in the grand finals next month.
Lisowski qualified for the German Masters but, obviously, his match against Higgins will be the biggest of his career thus far.
I would wish any young player well in such circumstances but Jack is worthy of special mention. Three years ago, he was told he had Hodgkins Lymphoma, a form of cancer.
This is horrendous news at any age but for a 16 year-old it must have been a very painful experience.
It was especially hard that this frequent visitor to junior tournaments was unable to play snooker at this time.
But Jack didn’t feel sorry for himself. Instead he filled his time reading up on world events, subscribing to the Economist and scouring the pages of The Times.
Thankfully he has recovered and is now fully focused on his career. He shares a house in Romford with Judd Trump and practises at the Grove Snooker Club there, also a base for Ronnie O’Sullivan.
I’m impressed with his general attitude. He wants to learn all the time and though he will be understandably nervous today, he knows Higgins is a big favourite and that he should just enjoy it.
He is also articulate beyond his years and smart too: when he won a bit of prize money earlier in the season instead of going wild he invested it in a share portfolio, which made a profit.
Lisowski represents the future of the game. He is currently the outstanding choice for newcomer of the year in the revived WPBSA awards and has many years of playing ahead of him.
How well he does is up to him and the standard he can attain but he has clearly turned professional at an ideal time, with plenty of opportunities ahead of him.
He credits receiving the WPBSA's Paul Hunter Scholarship for him improving enough to become a professional. Hunter won the Welsh Open at the age of 19. It is asking a lot for Lisowski to do the same but, whatever else he does in his career, this is an important moment and one he will always remember.
I’m sure three years ago there must have been concern that a day like today would never come. Well, it has come and good luck to Jack this afternoon.