Shanghai Masters: Quarter-Final Preview

Blink and you’ll miss him. That’s usually emcee Rob Walker’s final build-up before introducing Ronnie O’Sullivan into the arena for an important match.

Mark Williams Shanghai (WS)
After beating the world number one, can Williams upset O’Sullivan too? Photo credit: World Snooker

Well, for the snooker at present it’s more a case of blink and you’ll miss it – such is the speed that we are hurtling through these events each week.

The Shanghai Masters is already down to its final eight contenders and there’s a terrific conclusion in store for what is arguably China’s best ranking event.

The crowds were out in force again on Thursday afternoon to watch O’Sullivan pummel Barry Hawkins 5-0 in no time at all.

O’Sullivan, the English Open champion in October and Champion of Champions runner-up last Sunday, looks as consistent and producing as good a standard as he has done in ages.

Indeed, the 41 year-old will take some stopping this week if he continues with these dominant displays.

It had been sort of expected that the “Rocket” would come up against his primary foe Mark Selby next but the world champion, who had walked a tightrope the last two days with a brace of deciding frame victories, finally succumbed to the pressure of a close encounter and was downed by Mark Williams.

O’Sullivan has an overwhelmingly superior head-to-head record against Williams, with the Welshman boasting only a single triumph from the last 15 years.

Ironically, that also came in China three years ago at the International Championship in another quarter-final tie but O’Sullivan will be a sizeable favourite to emerge on this occasion again.

Amazingly also in their half of the draw is John Higgins, with the trio regarded as the triumvirate of biggest names in the sport ever since they emerged together onto the pro scene just over 25 years ago.

Higgins sent home hopeful Liang Wenbo packing with a 5-2 success to set up a quarter-final affair later today with Martin Gould, who recorded a similar scoreline against Marco Fu.

Gould is looking for a strong showing in this lucrative event in order to boost his chances of taking one of the final Masters spots available for the Alexandra Palace in January.

Unfortunately for the former German Masters champion, he has only beaten Higgins once in a ranking event, albeit it did come in this very tournament back in 2015.

Higgins, though, has happy memories of facing the “Pinner Potter” after defeating him in this year’s World Championship and also in the final of the Australian Open a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, Judd Trump prolonged his devastating purge in the top half of the draw as he notched up a third successive whitewash win this week.

The world number three, who has collected four ranking titles in the last 18 months, demolished the ever-inconsistent Stephen Maguire in the last 16.

Trump’s next challenger will be the similarly in-form Luca Brecel – winner of the China Championship in Guangzhou in the summer.

Like Trump, Brecel had booked his place in the third round courtesy of back-to-back 5-0 victories, but he needed all nine frames as he just about scrambled home against former world champion Graeme Dott in a nail-biting decider.

The triumph sets up a repeat of last week’s tie between Trump and Brecel in Coventry, when the latter cruised through thanks to breaks of 105, 103, and 87 in a brilliant performance.

European Masters champion Trump has the marginally better record, though, having won both of their prior fixtures before that.

Finally, Jack Lisowski remains on course for a maiden semi-final appearance after a tremendous 5-4 victory over Mark Allen.

The 26 year-old from Cheltenham trailed 4-2, having sat and watched as his opponent constructed a hat-trick of tons in a seemingly one-sided battle, but fought back brilliantly to snatch the win in a final frame shoot-out.

The “Dude” has all the talent in the world to be a top star but had previously failed to find any consistency and, at the beginning of this season, there were doubts on whether he’d even survive on the Main Tour beyond this term.

Yet, Lisowski has looked a rejuvenated force of late and against Kurt Maflin, who ended Chinese hopes with a somewhat nervy 5-2 triumph of Mei Xiwen, has a huge opportunity to make the single table set-up on Friday.

Maflin, of course, will possess the same ambitions as he seeks only a third ranking event last four spot of his career.

Live coverage continues on Eurosport and Quest.

Click here to view the draw.(Times: CET)

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