Mark Selby, Neil Robertson and Judd Trump all lost in the Welsh Open as the last short best-of-seven round conjured up more shocks in Cardiff.
However, Scottish former champions John Higgins and Stephen Maguire advanced to the quarter-finals, where they’ll do battle for a place in the last four.
World no.1 Selby, full of confidence after his victory in the German Masters earlier in February, took on the talented but inconsistent 19 year-old Luca Brecel and appeared on course for a comfortable win when he raced into a 2-0 lead helped with a brilliant 131 total clearance.
However, Brecel, who had only scored one point at this stage, began to capitalise in what transpired to be a scrappy exchange in the encounter to draw the scores level at 2-2.
Selby regained control with a 114 before his teenage opponent responded in kind with a brilliant 101 to force the decider, which the Belgian dominated for an impressive triumph.
It marks the first time since Brecel broke onto the scene in 2012 that he has reached a ranking event quarter-final – that year he narrowly lost to Shaun Murphy in the UK Championship last eight.
With Selby exiting the tournament, the door was left open for primary rivals Robertson and Trump to take advantage but both unexpectedly fell by the wayside as well.
Australia’s Robertson led Gary Wilson 2-1 but lost the last three frames to breaks of 81 and 53 to send the 64th seed through.
England’s Wilson returned to the Main Tour last season after a spell away and immediately performed well as he broke his way into the top 64 in the world rankings, but has been quieter during this campaign up until now.
His run at the Metrodome will all but secure his place on the circuit for another season, which should give him the freedom to play his best snooker for the rest of this week and the coming months.
Meanwhile, Trump was sent crashing by home favourite Mark Williams in a 4-1 scoreline.
Williams, the only ever Welsh winner of the event, delighted the partisan crowd to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in four years.
The 39 year-old’s last triumph in the tournament came way back in 1999, his second success following his maiden ranking event win in 1996.
Yet, another connotation of his excellent run so far this week is that it could help him break into the world’s top 16, where of course he would be seeded through to the 2015 World Championship and would avoid having to play the required three matches to qualify for Sheffield.
Countryman Matthew Stevens couldn’t set up a battle of Wales in the next round, though, as two tons in the last three frames saw from Marco Fu earned him the right to play Williams instead.
Elsewhere, Higgins looked as though he might be heading home as well but recovered well from 2-1 down to beat Michael Georgiou 4-2 and thus produce his best run of the campaign.
The three-time champion will face 2013 winner Maguire, who appeared to have the easiest time of it in his 4-0 rout of Alan McManus, but actually prevailed in what was a scrappy affair.
Finally, International Champion Ricky Walden edged Shanghai Master Stuart Bingham while fellow Englishman Ben Woollaston overcame Ali Carter in a high-scoring tie 4-2.
Categories: Snooker News