Monday, March 03, 2008

Fanning makes a statement in tour opener - The Age - 2nd March 2008

World surfing champion Mick Fanning showed his readiness for the 2008 season with a storming victory over dangerous wildcard Julian Wilson in the opening event on the Gold Coast.

Fanning demoralised teenaged rival and fellow local Wilson to win 17.57 to 7.33 and advance to the fourth round in his quest for a third Quiksilver Pro title on his home break of Snapper Rocks.

An early eight-plus wave score, backed up by a 9.07 immediately afterwards was enough to send Wilson home, but Fanning was quick to praise the youngster, who notched a win over Kelly Slater in the event last year.

"Julian's one of those up and comers and is really dangerous," said defending champion Fanning.

"There weren't many opportunities for Julian towards the end, and I knew with the tide coming in that was going to happen, so that's why I tried to get some early."

With 10 of 16 third round heats surfed on Sunday, Fanning completed a hat-trick of local successes, with Gold Coast boys Dean Morrison and Joel Parkinson also making it through.

Fellow Australians Bede Durbidge, Ben Dunn and Taj Burrow, who recorded the highest heat score of the day with 19.20 points against France's Mikael Picon, also progressed to the fourth round.

But South African teenager Jordy Smith will be looking to break the Aussie strangle-hold on the event, when he meets Morrison in the fourth round.

The 19-year-old wowed the 3,000-strong crowd with two nine-plus wave scores against world No.10 Bobby Martinez, to end with a near-perfect final heat score of 19.03 points out of a possible 20.

Smith has been labelled a world title contender in just his first year on the professional circuit and is a dark-horse to take out this world championship tour event if he can oust Morrison.

"I'm not really feeling any pressure, I'm just out there to have fun and pretty much just surfing with my heroes," Smith said.

"I'm just focusing on heat by heat."

Kelly Slater and fellow former multiple world champion Andy Irons are among surfers still waiting to contest their third round heats.

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