Snooker News

Shanghai Masters Quarter-Final Preview

The quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters take place on Friday with markedly different halves of the draw in China.

While the bottom section is dominated by established stars of the sport, the top half is a mixture of new blood and season campaigners who perhaps have never fully reached their potential.

Of all them, it is actually somebody in that last category who is arguably playing the best snooker right now – and the best snooker of his career to boot.

Mark Davis has been on the circuit for more than 20 years but has, up until the last couple of seasons at least, predominantly been regarded as a journeyman.

That began to change in 2009 when he tasted success at professional level for the first time by winning the 6-Red World Championship in Killarney.

After that, he began to rise up the rankings once again, qualified for more ranking events and, while there, performed considerably more consistently.

This reaped rewards when in 2012 he reached the semi-finals of three ranking events, including the UK Championship in York.

Just over two weeks ago, the 41 year-old claimed his third world title under the 6-Red guise when he toppled Neil Robertson in the final and repeated the trick over the world no.1 a week later as he collected the General Cup in Hong Kong.

I stated at the start of the week that, with Davis’ confidence and form at an all-time high, this could be his best opportunity to reach a maiden ranking event final.

The Englishman’s opening brace of victories pays testament to that theory as he followed a solid 5-2 triumph over Ali Carter with a 5-1 drubbing of defending champion John Higgins.

Davis still has two matches before he can think about his first appearance in a big final but he is certainly the favourite in his half of the draw after a series of unexpected results.

Whether this will have an adverse affect on a player who, despite his age, is still relatively inexperience when it comes to this stage of a tournament is yet to be determined.

The Hastings player’s initial task is to overcome Xiao Guodong after the Chinese 24 year-old reached the last 8 of a ranking event on home soil for the first time.

Xiao, an Asian Indoor Games gold medalist, has for a couple of years been heralded as one of the next crop of Chinese players to make the breakthrough and join compatriot Ding Junhui in the higher echelons of the game.

Along with a handful of others, this has taken more time to be realised than what was originally expected but most of them are still young enough for there to be plenty of time.

And with the conveyor belt of players from China continuously growing, it really is only a matter of time before it eventually happens.

Xiao will be hoping to keep the hopes of an all-Chinese final alive with Ding in the opposite side of the draw but, realistically, he will have to up his game considerably against Davis.

Despite Davis’ run, possibly the bigger story this week so far on the baize has been the emergence of Kyren Wilson.

The 21 year-old won four matches to qualify for his trip to the Far East and is now in the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the first time after a pair of excellent wins over Stuart Bingham and Marco Fu.

For him to beat anybody at a venue is impressive, but to do so against two proven winners is even more so.

And having come close to compiling a 147 in his opening round, Wilson recorded the highest break of the tournament so far in the last 16 with a 133 against Fu.

Wilson plays Michael Holt today with both players knowing that a debut in the last four of a ranker is in their sights.

Holt has been a very talented pro for more than a decade but openly admits that he has never fully realised his potential.

Very few people have been talking about his progression and he could turn out to be a bit of a dark horse in the running.

In the bottom half of the draw, the names are much more familiar to this stage of proceedings.

Home favourite Ding overcame Shaun Murphy last night in a thrilling encounter that went down to the wire and his reward, if you can call it that, is a meeting with Robertson – who has won the last two ranking events in China.

Finally, two Crucible runners-up do battle as Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins go head-to-head following contrasting second round victories.

Despite a late wobble, the ‘Hawk’ comfortably outscored Ryan Day 5-2 but Selby was made to grind it out, like is so often the case with the ‘Jester’, as he came from two down with three to play to prevail in a decider with Robert Milkins.

A fascinating weekend in store then.

The full draw and list of results can be viewed by clicking here.

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