It’s a heavyweight semi-final lineup at the English Open on Saturday, with four proven winners still vying for the title in Brentwood.
Shock results at the Scottish Open earlier in December left the door ajar for lower-ranked players to contest the latter stages of a ranking event.
The same cannot be said of the third Home Nations tournament of the campaign, with four players from inside the top 11 in the world rankings involved at the latter stages.
Neil Robertson vs Mark Selby (1pm)
The last time Neil Robertson and Mark Selby played each other was just a couple of weeks ago in Edinburgh.
On that occasion, Selby compiled a brace of century breaks but still managed to lose 5-2 after a mesmorising performance from the Australian.
Robertson was at it again on Friday as he defied a couple of tons from Mark Williams – including a magnificent 147 break – to defeat the Welshman in a 5-3 thriller while making 127, 102, 100, 97, and 73 contributions of his own.
Selby, by contrast, was struggling for most of his quarter-final tie with Ali Carter, and at one point trailed the Captain 3-2.
But a 127 sparked the Jester into life and he added the following two frames with runs of 68 and 73 to book his last-four berth.
From 41 prior encounters with Robertson, Selby has a more than respectable record of beating the Melbourne man 19 times.
Staggeringly, though, Robertson has prevailed the last seven times they’ve met, a streak that stretches back to the very same stage of the English Open in 2020.
Both players are bidding for a second English Open crown, with Robertson now two wins away from successfully defending the Steve Davis Trophy.
Luca Brecel vs Mark Allen (7pm)
There is no mistaking the fact that Mark Allen is enjoying the most consistent form of his career.
Fitter and in a better mental state following a tumultuous 2021 off the baize, Allen has been the dominant force in ranking events this term.
The Pistol thrashed Ashley Hugill 5-0 on Friday to set up a last-four clash against Luca Brecel.
Victory over the Belgian on Saturday would send Allen through to a fourth final in just over two months, having already collected the Northern Ireland Open and UK Championship titles.
Brecel, though, is unlikely to be a pushover and demonstrated his pedigree with a confident 5-1 triumph over Judd Trump on day five of the competition.
The 27 year-old has also already attained silverware this season after emerging as the Championship League winner back in the summer.
- CLICK HERE: Luca Brecel captures third ranking title
The last time Allen and Brecel played each other was in last year’s English Open, when they met in the preliminary round of 128.
That goes to show just how far the latter has come in the last 12 months, with two extra ranking titles and a UK Championship final appearance in his locker since then.
Brecel has actually beaten Allen the last two times they’ve faced each other, but the Northern Irishman boasts a 4-2 head-to-head record overall and will be the favourite on current form.
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Featured photo credit: WST