Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins are among the marquee names left in the draw at the quarter-finals stage of the Scottish Open at Venue Cymru.
After a hectic few days of action, the field has been whittled down to the last eight contenders who will battle it out for the £70,000 top prize.
Three Scottish players are involved – an ironic record for this stage of the tournament considering the event isn’t even being played on home soil, having been relocated to Llandudno in Wales for this campaign.
Sunday’s UK Championship runner-up Luca Brecel and Championship League winner David Gilbert are a couple of the other notable players hoping to land the Stephen Hendry Trophy on Sunday.
Anthony McGill (16) vs Stephen Maguire (9)
An all-Scottish affair between Anthony McGill and Stephen Maguire will kick start Friday’s schedule on the baize, in which matches now increase to the best-of-nine frames.
McGill ended Mark Selby’s unbeaten Scottish Open streak in a dramatic encounter that lasted the distance on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.
Selby had won 17 matches in a row in the tournament, and despite being the heavier scorer the world number one came unstuck against the Glaswegian in a deciding frame.
Maguire, meanwhile, has lost only three frames since going 3-0 down to Yuan Sijun in his opening fixture of the week – comfortably beating Sunny Akani, Tom Ford, and Ben Woollaston after his comeback win against the young Chinese.
McGIll and Maguire are frequent practice partners and know each other’s games inside-out, which could explain why the former has the superior head-to-head record by boasting six victories from their nine encounters in all competitions.
Luca Brecel vs Matthew Selt
Luca Brecel has shown excellent resolve to immediately bounce back from the disappointment of missing out on UK glory last weekend.
The Belgian Bullet hasn’t played quite as fluently as he did at the Barbican but is riding a wave of momentum that has helped carry him through three successive clashes this week.
Brecel’s latest victory against Fergal O’Brien sets up a tie against former Indian Open champion Matthew Selt, who overcame both Jackson Page and Scott Donaldson on day four.
With two wins apiece, there’s not much separating them from their prior meetings, albeit one of Brecel’s wins was under the infrequently utilised six-red format.
On current form Brecel will be the favourite in this bout, but the top half of the draw is relatively open and there’s a good opportunity for any one of the four players to go on and reach the final.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) vs Li Hang
(follows McGill vs Maguire)
Over the course of the last year and a half, Ronnie O’Sullivan has consistently featured at the business stage of tournaments on the calendar.
But the Rocket is still chasing that elusive 38th ranking title and a first since he claimed his sixth World Championship crown in the summer of 2020.
O’Sullivan has emerged from consecutive 4-3 thrillers to reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish Open, so could this be the week when he rejoins the champion’s enclosure?
Against Li Hang, the 46 year-old faces a player who has his own agenda with a place in the upcoming World Grand Prix at stake if the Chinese cueist can reach the last four.
O’Sullivan has a 3-0 win-loss record against Li, with their last meeting a notable one in this very event twelve months ago when Li squandered a 4-1 advantage in the semi-finals to ultimately lose 6-4.
John Higgins (7) vs David Gilbert
Having at one stage looked commanding at 3-0, David Gilbert somehow managed to just hang on to deny Judd Trump after a tense decider late on Thursday.
Gilbert has been one of the most consistent players of the season so far and is generally back producing the kind of standard that saw him become a member of the top 16 not so long ago.
John Higgins will be the next challenge, a player who the Angry Farmer doesn’t have particularly fond memories of encountering in the past.
Higgins, three times an event runner-up this season including in both of the previous Home Nations events in Northern Ireland and England, has been a persistent thorn in Gilbert’s side in affairs of importance.
Indeed, the Scot has won 11 out of their 13 matches against one another in all competitions and will be an obvious favourite to advance again on this occasion.
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Featured photo credit: WST