Wildcard Wayne Willgress admitted he was ‘gobsmacked’ after knocking out world number one Greg Harlow to seal a semi-final spot against Robert Paxton in the World Indoor Singles in a result that stunned the Potters crowd.
The Norwich painter and decorator, who had already seen off two previous world champions in Andy Thomson and Stewart Anderson, created the biggest shock of the championships so far in hauling himself back from a seemingly impossible position to secure his biggest-ever victory, eventually running out a 2-11 10-9 2-0 victor.
Having lost the first set 11-2, and being pretty much outplayed in the second, but managing to keep in touch of the Potters Bowls Ambassador, Willgress needed a full house on the final end to take the match into a tie-break, and held the four shots needed, although Harlow had a good six feet to bowl into to claim the victory.
Incredibly, Harlow wilted under the pressure and dropped his green bowl well short to gift Willgress the set and the Norwich ace then proceeded to take the first two ends of the tie-break to claim an amazing victory, a result that delighted his vocal group of supporters.
“I am truly and utterly gobsmacked,” said admitted Willgress. “I never felt comfortable, not on one single end. I got mullered out there and somehow I have won.”
Paxton, meanwhile, saw off another local hero in Mervyn King in the final game of the day, edging past the estate manager 5-5 6-4 in what could well be the lowest scoring match ever in the tournament.
Lacking the excitement of the Willgress-Harlow encounter, the match wasn’t without its drama when a member of the crowd had to be treated by a medical team after being taken ill just as they started the final end of the first set, which halted proceedings for a good 15 minutes.
Paxton composed himself to take the shot he needed on end nine to tie the set and it was then nip and tuck in the second, but the 39-year-old just edged ahead and was able to keep King at arm’s length and book his place in the semi-final.
“It was an extremely tight game and it was just nice to get over that hurdle,” admitted Paxton afterwards. “There is room for improvement, but as long as you tick the first box that’s all that matters.”
The day started with Mark Dawes booking a semi-final berth for the first time as he fended off the challenge of Mark Royal, winning 8-7 9-3, as he maintained his hopes of securing a Singles-Pairs double.
The victory also propelled the Radcliffe-based ace up to a career-high 10th in the provisional rankings and he said: “I am really pleased. I knew it was going to be a tough game against Mark. I am now expecting to play well rather than hoping to. I played well in the Pairs final and there’s no reason why I can’t play well in every match now.
“I am three steps nearer than I was at the start of the competition and am in the world semi-final. I don’t fear anyone now.”
He will play 2014 champion Darren Burnett, who halted the rejuvenated Jason Greenslade by edging past the Welshman on a tie-break, winning 11-10 6-7 2-1, although the Scot could have won far more comfortably if the Penarth man hadn’t embarked on a serious fightback… in both sets.
Burnett threw away an 8-0 lead early on, before recovering to edge the first set, and then held a 5-1 advantage in the second , but saw Greenslade roar back to take the match into a tie-break.
Greenslade’s run to the quarters has been one of the highlights of the tournament given the recent loss of his father late last year, plus the added pressure of needing to secure some vital ranking points to prevent his slide from the top 16.
He said beforehand that he needed to win the tournament in order to buy his daughter an “expensive dog”, but she will have to wait another year as he couldn’t quite get over the line. After they shared the first two ends, the Scot then used up two time-outs in deciding what to do with his final bowl, before delivering a backhand draw to claim the shot by less than an inch.
“It was horrific,” he laughed afterwards. “It was a massive match to play in. Everything was a bit nervy. I dodged a bullet in the first set and I just felt I was starting to get on top in the second, but I just couldn’t quite get away from him.
“I used the time-outs to give myself thinking time and then from two feet out I thought I’d just about done it.”