The China Championship is down to the last eight as the players prepare for the business end of proceedings in Guangzhou.
Rather unusually, Sunday will see the quarter-finals being contested rather than the final showdown that is the norm in most snooker tournaments.
Ronnie O’Sullivan remains the overwhelming favourite, although the draw still has a dangerous look to it despite the massacre of seeds that transpired on Friday.
The “Rocket” began his last 16 tie against Graeme Dott slowly but ended up dominating the affair for a comprehensive 5-0 drubbing of the Scotsman.
Dott showed no sign of the form that saw him oust Judd Trump in the previous round and O’Sullivan eventually warmed to the task, concluding with a superb 139 century to add to three other tallies above 60.
O’Sullivan is searching for a first ranking title since the 2016 Welsh Open and will meet Luca Brecel for a semi-final berth after the Belgian held off Mike Dunn 5-3.
Brecel has only once had a crack at the five-times world champion, which came at the China Open two years ago when he was thoroughly dismantled 5-1.
The 22 year-old has watched as many competitors around him have joined the elite band of ranking event champions of late, and there are some commentators who fancy that this will be the season that he finally breaks his duck.
However, he’ll have to be at his best to overcome O’Sullivan for the first time in his career, with the latter surely motivated now that he’s reached this stage and with so many of the other stars already accounted for.
Also in the bottom half of the draw will be the tie between Mark Williams and China’s own Li Hang.
If it seems like a long period of time since O’Sullivan’s last ranking crown, it’s been a remarkable six years since Mark Williams was last collecting a trophy of such status.
The Welshman came close in the China Open towards the conclusion of the last campaign, narrowly losing out in the final to Mark Selby, and has remained a steady force in the game over recent seasons despite a lack of silverware to back it up.
Williams looked set to face a fixture against countryman Matthew Stevens but, for the second consecutive round, Li fought back from 4-3 behind to prevail in a decider against a player from Wales – having done so in the second round against Michael White as well.
Indeed, it was the third time this week that the 26 year-old went the distance, having also ousted Neil Robertson on Wednesday, and it marks the first occasion in his career that he’ll contest a quarter-final tie.
Williams and Li have met only twice in the past, with the former coming out on top in each encounter.
In the top bracket, Shaun Murphy will face home hopeful Zhou Yuelong after a 5-0 demolition job against old rival Stephen Maguire.
Zhou, meanwhile, followed up his superb triumph against world champion Mark Selby in the last 32 with a 5-2 success over Martin Gould.
The 19 year-old has one previous glory against Murphy, albeit it came in the fast-paced single frame Shoot Out of 2016.
Perhaps more significantly, Murphy has heavily beaten the 2015 World Cup champion in each of the last two UK Championships.
Zhou, already among the world’s top 32 in the rankings, is widely expected to make the leap into the higher echelons at any given moment, and will surely prove to be a stern test for the “Magician” on home soil.
Finally, Ali Carter will do battle with Fergal O’Brien after the Irishman downed Alan McManus in a typically hard-fought marathon match that’s climax reached almost 1am local time.
O’Brien was 4-2 down in a match bereft of high breaks but typically steeled himself, as he so often does, with back-to-back half centuries to prevail against the equally tenacious Scot.
By contrast, Carter hammered Mark Davis 5-1 and will be the much fresher of the pair with their last eight fixture scheduled for tomorrow afternoon.
Somewhat surprisingly, O’Brien boasts the advantage in the duo’s head-to-head and has won their last three contests in best of sevens or longer.
One would still put the “Captain” as the favourite but it’s difficult to ever write off Dublin’s O’Brien, who almost literally has to be scraped off the table.
Coverage continues on Eurosport.
Categories: Snooker News