The quarter-finals of the UK Championship take place on Friday with five seeds from the top 16 in the world rankings still in the draw.
Despite a cull of so many of the marquee names in the opening few rounds, there’s still plenty of star quality left as the £200,000 champion’s cheque almost comes into view.
Four wins have been required in order to get to this stage, and a further three will be needed to lift the season’s first Triple Crown title at the Barbican Centre.
TOP HALF (FRIDAY, 1PM)
Anthony McGill (16) vs Luca Brecel
Luca Brecel reached the last eight for the third time in his career after a dominant 6-1 victory over Anthony Hamilton in the fourth round on Thursday.
The Belgian Bullet is coming into some good form after a spell in the doldrums, with this run representing his second in succession to the quarter-final stage of a ranking event.
The 26 year-old takes on Anthony McGill, the 16th seed who has gone under the radar so far in this competition despite wins against Zhou Yuelong and Welsh Open champion Jordan Brown.
Although the higher-ranked cueist, McGill may well feel he’s the underdog in this particular encounter as he’s never managed to beat Brecel – losing all four of his previous fixtures with the former China Championship winner.
Kyren Wilson (5) vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (4)
A repeat of the 2020 World Championship showdown for glory, Kyren Wilson takes on Ronnie O’Sullivan in a match that also features the two highest-ranked players left in the quarter-finals of the UK Championship draw this year.
With the likes of Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, and Mark Selby already accounted for, O’Sullivan is the obvious choice for the tournament favourite, but the Rocket has at times struggled in the last year against high-level opponents when his back has been against the wall.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of start Wilson makes, because if he can get on top early he’ll probably fancy his chances of conjuring an upset.
O’Sullivan leads their head-to-head from all professional competitions 7-3, and to the seven-time champion’s credit he does appear to be in a more focused mood this week as he targets a record-extending 21st Triple Crown trophy.
There are plenty of free bets and betting offers available at Offers.Bet, with O’Sullivan currently tipped as the 6/5 favourite to march on and land the UK Championship title this Sunday.
BOTTOM HALF (FRIDAY, 7PM)
Barry Hawkins (14) vs Andy Hicks
Barry Hawkins has been another player who has quietly gone about his business in York to reach this point, and the Hawk may be looking at his section of the draw with invigorated hope of an unexpected run to the final.
It hasn’t been an especially good couple of years for Hawkins, but the 42 year-old will definitely be the favourite when he takes on Andy Hicks on Friday.
The latter has gone on a remarkable run to reach the quarter-finals of a UK Championship draw for the first time since 1995, winning all four of his matches courtesy of 6-5 thrillers.
The Cream of Devon can’t be discounted, but the stats don’t lie and a 0-6 win-loss record against Hawkins makes for ominous reading indeed.
Zhao Xintong vs Jack Lisowski (15)
It may not grab the headlines like the O’Sullivan versus Wilson affair, but this bout between Jack Lisowski and Zhao Xintong has the makings of being a belter.
Two attack-minded players who could feature at the business end of many tournaments over the next decade or so, it would be a surprise if this clash lacks for sizable contributions.
Both men, in many respects, have points to prove, with 24 year-old Zhao taking a little longer that initially predicted to make his breakthrough and Lisowski still searching for that elusive maiden ranking title.
The duo has crossed paths on only three previous occasions and Lisowski, a runner-up in six ranking finals since 2018, holds a 2-1 advantage.
Live coverage of the UK Championship is on the BBC and Eurosport. Click here for other available options around the world.
Featured photo credit: WST