Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Anthony McGill, and Luca Brecel will comprise the semi-finals quartet in the Scottish Open on Saturday.
An exciting day of quarter-final action on Friday saw all four remaining contenders survive from close finishes at the Venue Cymru.
McGill and Higgins are on opposite sides of the draw, meaning an all-Scottish clash in the final remains on the cards.
It is an outcome that would be doused in irony given how this week’s Home Nations tournament has been relocated to Wales as a result of contractual issues at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
O’Sullivan and the in-form Brecel will have other ideas, however, and it promises to be an intriguing penultimate day of action as the prospect of raising the Stephen Hendry Trophy aloft becomes more real.
Ronnie O’Sullivan (3) vs John Higgins (7)
A third encounter of the 2021/22 campaign and a sixth meeting during this calendar year overall, O’Sullivan and Higgins can’t seem to be separated at the moment.
The latter has enjoyed the upper hand in that spell, winning four out of their five fixtures in 2021 including their most recent outing in the Champion of Champions when Higgins thrashed the Rocket 6-1 in Bolton.
The pair usually share a great deal of respect for one another, but earlier this week Higgins branded O’Sullivan “a disgrace” for degrading comments he made about the sport.
Two legends of the game with ten world titles between them, both O’Sullivan and Higgins have made hard work of recent trips to the business end of tournaments.
O’Sullivan has lost in all five ranking event finals since he triumphed for a sixth time at the Crucible, while Higgins has suffered reverses in three title-deciding affairs this season already.
One of the esteemed duo will have the opportunity to put that right on Sunday, and on recent form from their head-to-head rivalry Higgins would probably be the favourite to progress.
However, O’Sullivan has show some mettle this week by winning three deciding-frame matches in a row, and the Englishman may feel like he has a point to prove against his fellow Class of ’92 star.
Anthony McGill (15) vs Luca Brecel
The second of the Scottish Open semi-finals pits McGill against Brecel in what is a repeat of their quarter-final bout from York a week ago.
On that day Brecel breezed through with a 6-2 success, and the Belgian actually has a 100% record against McGill having won all five of their previous battles with one another.
The 26 year-old is riding a wave of momentum that has taken him to number two on the provisional one-year rankings list, and he has firmly put behind him the disappointment of missing out on UK Championship glory to Zhao Xintong last Sunday.
McGill almost threw away a 4-0 advantage to Stephen Maguire in the last round and looked very edgy with the winning line in sight when he came under a bit of pressure, albeit he was one of several players to complain about the table conditions.
The 30 year-old Glaswegian is chasing a third ranking title and hasn’t featured in a final of this status since the Indian Open all the way back in 2017.
If McGill were actually playing on home soil, you might favour him with the backing of the local support, but as it’s on neutral territory and with such an imperious head-to-head record, Brecel seems to be the more likely player to progress.
Live coverage of the Scottish Open semi-finals is on Eurosport, Quest, and Matchroom.Live (selected territories).
Click here to view the draw (times: CET)
Featured photo credit: WST
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A masterful performance from Higgins to reach his sixth final of 2021. He was immaculate after the interval. The breaks may not quite have caught the eye like Brecel last week but in some ways being able to dominate an opponent like Higgins did today is no less impressive. O’Sullivan did offer assistance in frame 2 and 3 but otherwise there wasn’t too much he could’ve done. Higgins currently has his number.
Higgins and McGill probably won’t mind but feels a pity from an atmosphere perspective that a Scot could win this tournament and they will not receive the support we saw Mark Allen enjoy when he won the Northern Ireland Open.