2021 Welsh Open
Main News, Ranking

Preview: Northern Ireland Open Quarter-Finals

Four players inside and four players outside the top 16 in the world rankings remain in the hunt for glory.

The quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Open take place on Friday with Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan still involved in Milton Keynes.

After what is always a busy Thursday in these Home Nations tournaments, the English pair emerged from both the third and fourth rounds.

Trump and O’Sullivan have clashed in each of the last two Northern Ireland Open finals, with the former triumphing on both occasions courtesy of 9-7 scorelines.

Two more victories for the duo would ensure a third tie on the trot with this title and the £70,000 champion’s cheque on the line.

However, six other competitors are in the draw hoping to upset the two favourites and steal success for themselves.

Trump, who narrowly beat Luca Brecel on Thursday before a 4-1 victory over Martin Gould, faces Scott Donaldson in his last-eight fixture.

The latter ended Mark Allen’s run in the last 32, before ousting Noppon Saengkham to set up a clash with the world number one.

Trump and Donaldson’s only other ranking event meetings ended with victories for the “Juddernaut”, but the Scott did beat Trump en route to glory in the first of the three Championship League competitions that were held during 2020.

The top half of the draw also features Yan Bingtao and David Grace, who each required deciding-frame triumphs to survive the last 16 on day four.

Former Riga Masters champion Yan held off a late fight back to hold on in a dramatic finale with fellow Chinese cueist Zhao Xintong, while Grace completed a remarkable turnaround from 3-0 down to deny Michael Holt.

In fact, Grace also won his second-round match from 3-2 behind as well as his third-round tie with Michael White from a 3-1 deficit.

Yan and Grace have met once before, more than three years ago when the current world number 13 came out on top.

Meanwhile, O’Sullivan’s opponent in the quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Open is China’s greatest snooker hero, Ding Junhui.

The “Rocket” boasts a far superior head-to-head record from their prior duels, but their last two encounters have been shared with one win apiece.

Indeed, both times the winner has proceeded to win the entire event, with Ding’s success over O’Sullivan in York last year leading to a third UK title, and the opposite result acting as a stepping stone toward the world number two’s sixth world crown in August.

The winner of this highly anticipated encounter will face either Ali Carter or Kurt Maflin in Saturday’s semi-finals.

Carter is through to the last eight of a ranking event for the first time in more than a year after defeats of Dominic Dale and Ben Woollaston.

In Maflin, the “Captain” comes up against a player who he has duly beaten the last four times they have encountered each other.

The format for the quarter-finals of the Northern Ireland Open increases to the best of nine, with the action continuing behind closed doors at the Marshall Arena.

Live coverage is available on Eurosport, Quest, and various other services.

Click here to view the draw – scheduled times in CET.

Featured photo credit: WST

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