A terrific lineup will see eight former ranking event winners battle it out in the quarter-finals of the English Open on Friday at the Marshall Arena.
A busy week of action in Milton Keynes has come down to the final contenders for the Steve Davis Trophy and the £70,000 top prize.
It promises to be an exciting day of snooker as the remaining competitors scramble for a place in Saturday’s semi-finals, so let’s take a look at each contest.
Judd Trump vs Mark King (12pm)
The opening affair of the quarter-finals pits reigning English Open champion Judd Trump against 47 year-old veteran of the Main Tour Mark King.
King ended the hopes of surprise amateur Paul Deaville in the last 16 to reach this stage of a ranking event for the first time in more than two years.
The Englishman’s run, from which he’s already guaranteed £10,000, provides a timely boost in terms of his ranking position as he was teetering on the cusp of dropping out of the top 64 in the provisional end-of-season rankings that determine tour survival.
Against Trump, the former Northern Ireland Open champion will obviously be the second-favourite – a tag that doesn’t look any less realistic when the pair’s head-to-head statistics are taken into account.
Trump boasts a 13-2 win-loss record from their prior meetings in all competitions and hasn’t lost to King in a ranking event since their very first encounter all the way back in 2008.
The world number one is guaranteed to lose his top position after the completion of this week’s tournament regardless of the outcome, but he’ll be motivated to add yet another piece of silverware to his collection in an effort to highlight how the rankings do, in fact, sometimes lie.
Kyren Wilson vs Neil Robertson (7pm)
The other clash from the top half of the quarter-finals draw involves a couple of players who have finished as an English Open runner-up in recent years.
Kyren Wilson, the 2017 finalist, meets last year’s second-placed finisher Neil Robertson in what is a repeat of their World Championship duel at the Crucible in April.
Wilson’s 13-8 victory represented his third straight triumph over the Australian, meaning he now boasts a slightly superior head-to-head record from their seven previous battles.
Robertson admitted after his come-from-behind 4-3 defeat of Mark Davis on Thursday that open matches are more suited to his style, but Wilson is just the type of player who can strangle the life out of a fixture to turn it in his favour.
As the current world number five, the Kettering cueist was vocal about his displeasure at having to play on the outside tables earlier this week.
However, the fact of the matter is that, while he is certainly a regular presence these days at the business end of events, he still hasn’t won enough of the big titles in order to be considered alongside the likes of the marquee names when it comes to air time.
Wilson will have his chance to prove the doubters wrong against Robertson on the match table on Friday evening, a condition the latter is most familiar with and generally thrives under.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Luca Brecel (Est: 3pm)
It’s somewhat remarkable to think that Luca Brecel is still only 26 because it seems like he’s been around on the professional scene forever.
Indeed, Brecel is now into a second decade on the Main Tour, and the Belgian Bullet will be looking to push on with his career to rediscover the form that briefly took him into the top 16 a few seasons ago.
The former China Championship winner is lagging way down in 46th position in the official world rankings – far too low for a player of his pedigree – and as an exciting young prospect from mainland Europe, his return up the pecking order would be a positive for the game.
Reaching the quarter-finals of the English Open is a good start, although it’s fair to say that he’ll be a massive underdog to go any further in this year’s edition.
Against Ronnie O’Sullivan, Brecel runs into the 2017 champion who has at times coasted this week, with only Anthony Hamilton coming close to sending the Rocket home.
When the Sheriff forced a decider in their round of 32 tie, O’Sullivan responded with a confident ton and hit two more against Jamie Clarke in the next round – taking his overall tally of centuries this week to seven.
Brecel memorably beat O’Sullivan four years ago en route to his solo ranking success in Guangzhou, and he’ll require that kind of inspiration again here.
John Higgins vs Yan Bingtao (7pm)
The fourth and final match of the English Open quarter-finals isn’t any less intriguing, and it of course represents a repeat of the Masters finale from the outset of this year.
On that occasion, Yan got the better of the four-time world champion to capture his maiden Triple Crown title, but Higgins gained a modicum of revenge last month by besting the young Chinese in the last four of the Northern Ireland Open.
Higgins proceeded to be denied Home Nations glory in a deciding-frame thriller in Belfast, but the Scot is once again back and in contention to feature at the business end of another competition.
The Wizard of Wishaw scored heavily in overpowering China’s long-time number one player Ding Junhui in the last round, and it’s the soon-to-be top player from China who he’ll have to negotiate next.
Yan scrambled past world champion Mark Selby in a late finish last night, giving himself another sniff at what would be a second career ranking trophy should he emerge victoriously this weekend.
In many respects, Yan is a younger version of both Higgins and Selby, with an all-round game and a moderate temperament that means he will be a threat for many moons to come.
Higgins, with his overall experience and the fact that he still appears to be in such good form, defying his age of 46, will start as the favourite but as has been proven in the past Yan can’t be discounted.
Where to Watch the English Open
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on Quest TV in addition to blanket Eurosport coverage provided across all of Europe.
Various broadcasters around the world will be offering coverage (information here), while fans in territories without another service can access the event through Matchroom.Live.