A high-quality field of eight players remain in the hunt for China Open glory this weekend in Beijing.
Seven proven ranking event winners and a multiple world amateur champion make up the impressive line-up in this penultimate tournament of the campaign.
Defending champion Judd Trump continued his wonderful run of form on Thursday by compiling a superb 147 break en route to a 5-3 victory over Tian Pengfei.
Trump will play Hossein Vafaei Ayouri for a berth in the last four after the talented 22 year-old, winner of both the IBSF World Championship and the World Under-21 Championship at amateur level, edged Rory McLeod by the same scoreline.
It’ll mark the third occasion the duo have met in a ranking competition, with Trump comfortably overcoming the Iranian in both of their previous battles – the most recent a 4-1 success at the Welsh Open this year.
Trump is in a rich vein of form having reached the finals of the last three ranking events he’s competed in, a streak which led him to tasting glory at the lucrative Players Championship earlier this month.
The 27 year-old is arguably the best player in the world at present despite the fact that he still trails Mark Selby by quite some distance in the world rankings standings.
Vafaei will be a huge underdog on Friday but he is beginning to more consistently provide glimpses of the potential he clearly possesses.
With his run this week, Vafaei, who struggled with visa problems at the beginning of his professional career, has all but guaranteed his Main Tour survival on the one-year money list but could even break into the top 64 in the world rankings before the conclusion of the campaign.
Selby, meanwhile, was forced to fight back from 2-0 and 4-3 down to deny Andrew Higginson in a tense decider.
For long periods throughout the last 16 contest it looked as though Higginson was going to cause an upset but Selby, the master of brinkmanship, again proved why he has been the number one player for more than two years.
Selby will face Stephen Maguire next, with the Scot remaining on course for the tournament victory he requires in order to break into the top 16 in the rankings and gain an automatic place in the World Championship.
Lightning could strike twice for the 2008 winner, who eased passed Daniel Wells 5-1, as Maguire’s run to the semi-finals in last year’s China Open was enough to seal his 2016 Crucible spot.
Against Selby, Maguire comes up against a competitor with a superior head-to-head record but the former UK champion has prevailed in the last two contests between the pair.
Welshman Mark Williams is the only other name who stands a chance of dislodging countryman Ryan Day from the final guaranteed ticket to Sheffield, with the 42 year-old similarly requiring the £85,000 winner’s cheque in order to do so.
Williams remained on course for a record fourth China Open title after a remarkable comeback against old foe John Higgins when he claimed the last four frames for a 5-4 triumph.
Shaun Murphy will be Williams’ next obstacle to overcome after the 2008 runner-up extended his run in the tournament with a comprehensive 5-1 thrashing of Michael White.
Murphy and Williams have an even record against each other but many will be hoping to see both Williams and Maguire progress.
As they are in opposite sides of the draw, the couple could clash in what would prove to be a monumental final with both the China Open trophy and a spot at the Crucible on the line.
Finally, home favourite Ding Junhui and Kyren Wilson meet after their respective wins against Mark Joyce and Stuart Bingham.
Ding has four wins to Wilson’s one from their prior duels, but the latter’s sole success did come en route to his 2015 Shanghai Masters triumph.
Coverage of the quarter-finals continues on Eurosport and Quest TV.
Categories: Snooker News