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World Championship Quarter-Finals Preview

A total of six out of the top eight seeds have made it through to this stage for the first time since 2015.

After a gripping second round in Sheffield, the World Championship quarter-finals are set to take place on Monday and Tuesday at the Crucible Theatre.

A pair of matches went the distance, three others required all but one frame to be completed, there was a 147 break for the first time since 2012, and the biggest bruising battle since “Shouldergate”.

It was a round of 16 to remember, and the majority of the top seeds managed to survive despite each being comprehensively challenged.

All four World Championship quarter-finals provide intriguing story lines as the rescheduled 2020 edition of snooker’s blue-riband event creeps nearer to its thrilling climax.

The first player to talk about is naturally Judd Trump, the reigning champion who moved one step closer to breaking the Curse of the Crucible with a hard-fought 13-11 triumph over Yan Bingtao.

Trump has been nowhere near his fluent best yet, but he was quick to remind everyone that his best performances in 2019 came in the second week.

Against Kyren Wilson, the world number one faces a competitor who he has shared a feisty rivalry with over the last couple of years.

Antagonistic words were exchanged between the duo in 2018 which led to intriguing showdowns last season, although their relationship has improved since then.

Still, at relatively the same age, the Englishmen will be motivated to get one over each other on the biggest stage of them all.

For Trump, the 30 year-old will be keen on curtailing his countryman’s elevation into the higher echelons of the rankings, while 28 year-old Wilson will be desperate to end the world champion’s defence.

The latter boasts the superior head-to-head advantage, but Trump did win their last tie which was also staged behind closed doors when he claimed his record sixth ranking title of this campaign in Gibraltar.

The other World Championship quarter-finals clash from the top half of the draw grants a monumental opportunity for two qualifiers to reach the single table set-up.

Anthony McGill survived his fiery contest with Jamie Clarke, prevailing in a war of attrition that needed all 25 frames for the outcome to be determined.

The Scot, who also embarked on a run to this hurdle five years ago, faces Kurt Maflin – a surprise package who arguably represents the player of the competition so far.

Maflin defied four-time champion John Higgins’ maximum effort and trademark resilience to power through to the last eight with a superb display.

When compared with McGill, the Norwegian has undoubtedly played the better snooker and if he brings his top form to the table again he’ll be a hard obstacle to overcome.

From only three prior meetings with one another, Maflin leads 2-1 but those ties took place over the much shorter best-of-seven frames.

The other side, meanwhile, is loaded with an almost ridiculous amount of talent and pedigree.

All four understand what is necessary to emerge from the 17-day marathon of the mind at the Crucible Theatre with the silverware raised aloft.

Indeed, between them they have amassed an incredible dozen world titles in the last 20 years.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams meet in a battle that highlights once more the amazing longevity of the fabled Class of ’92.

In fact, there has been at least one of O’Sullivan, Williams, or their contemporary Higgins in the World Championship quarter-finals every year since 1995.

There isn’t much to say about the multiple Triple Crown winners that isn’t already well known, except that it promises to be an epic encounter with a place in the last four at stake.

One notable aspect to note, though, is O’Sullivan’s dominance over Williams in the past, with the five-time world champion enjoying a 30-8 advantage that includes winning their last three fixtures.

Finally, three-time champion Mark Selby and 2010 winner Neil Robertson complete the World Championship quarter-finals octet.

Selby held on to outlast Noppon Saengkham, producing a timely century break in the deciding frame to see off the impressive challenge from the Thai.

A 13-9 winner against Barry Hawkins, Robertson’s progress was slightly easier than most of the others in the last 16 and the Melbourne man is highly-fancied to finally collect what many believe would be an overdue second world crown.

The second seed has beaten Selby the last three times they have played each other, bringing their head-to-head record to 10-7 in the 38 year-old’s favour.

Over three sessions and the best of 25 frames, it’s going to be difficult to separate the contenders in this round.

Only a few victories separate each of the eight competitors from the £500,000 top prize, but it’s worth remembering that they haven’t even reached the halfway point in terms of frames needed to complete snooker’s ultimate success.

Click here to view the draw

Featured photo credit: WST

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