The Welsh Open schedule has reached the semi-final stage, with a surprising weekend lineup at the Venue Cymru in Llandudno.
The two favourites for the title – Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen – both crashed out on Friday after heavy defeats in the quarter-finals.
That leaves only one member of the top 16 left, with two of the remaining four contenders bidding for a maiden career ranking title.
Let’s take a look at both Welsh Open semi-final encounters.
Shaun Murphy vs Pang Junxu
The way he was playing, there may have been some people who had Shaun Murphy as the favourite this week anyway.
But if that wasn’t already the case before Friday, it certainly is now, with the Magician by far and away the highest ranked player left in the hunt.
There are a lot of things working in Murphy’s favour as he bids to land a tenth career ranking crown, and a first since lifting the Ray Reardon Trophy aloft in 2020.
Not only is his confidence high after a terrific week of scoring that included a 147 break on Thursday, but he doesn’t have any added distractions like the other three in the draw.
Murphy has already qualified for next week’s Players Championship and is not in contention for the BetVictor Series bonus, meaning he can maintain his focus on the task at hand.
Next up on his Welsh Open schedule is Pang Junxu in the last four, who will be making his debut at the semi-final stage of a tournament.
There are some good omens for the 23 year-old too, it has to be said.
In both 2021 and 2022, a player who made his first ranking event quarter-final appearance at the German Masters proceeded to capture a first title shortly after, and Pang’s first run to the last eight was in Berlin earlier this month.
Murphy and Pang have never encountered each other before, but over eleven frames the former will be highly fancied to make it through.
Robert Milkins vs Tian Pengfei
The first match on the Welsh Open semi-final schedule sees veteran Robert Milkins challenged by Tian Pengfei.
Both competitors orchestrated unexpected defeats of formidable opponents on day five, with Milkins upsetting Allen 5-1 and Tian tormenting a tip-troubled O’Sullivan with a whitewash display.
Those losses will prove financially painful, with Allen missing out on the BetVictor Series bonus and O’Sullivan now guaranteed to miss out on the Players Championship next week.
For Milkins, the allure of an enormous payday remains on the cards, with the 46 year-old the last-player standing who can topple Ali Carter at the summit of the BetVictor Series standings.
If the Englishman were to win the title, he’d take home £230,000 – £150,000 for the BetVictor Series bonus and £80,000 for sealing a second career ranking crown.
Where he will be able to handle that kind of pressure when it comes to the crunch remains the big question.
Like Pang, Tian is featuring in his first semi-final at this level, which is somewhat of a surprise given he has been competing on the main tour for the best part of two decades.
And also like his compatriot, the 35 year-old would gain an invitation into the Players Championship by going all the way to glory in North Wales.
Milkins and Tian have crossed paths on only three occasions with the Milkman leading the head-to-head 2-1, albeit their last tie was way back in 2016.
Each semi-final on the Welsh Open schedule will be available live on Eurosport and BBC Wales. Other options around the world are available (information here).
Featured photo credit: WST