European Masters Quarter-Final Preview

Another tournament in which the seeds have struggled to make an impact has potentially left the jar open for one of the sport’s support cast.

Neil Robertson and Barry Hawkins are the sole remaining competitors from the elite bracket and, as they are on opposite sides of the draw, could still face off against each other in the final on Sunday.

However, predicting the outcome of matches these days, regardless of the tournament, is becoming nigh-on impossible.

The continued unpredictability either demonstrates the strength and depth within the game or points to the fact that, for whatever reason, a lot of the marquee names are experiencing a spell of burnout.

Perhaps it’s a mixture of both but, either way, there’s a huge opportunity for a number of cueists to take advantage this weekend.

Three out of the remaining six outsiders are pushing for an immediate coveted place inside the top 16, with two others set to significantly bridge the gap should they also land the £80,000 top prize.

In fact, Ali Carter has already done enough this week to provisionally rise above Joe Perry into 16th, with the “Captain” following on with the kind of form that saw him become a surprise Masters finalist last week in London.

Carter faces Scott Donaldson in his European Masters quarter-final tie after the latter stunned Ding Junhui on Thursday.

Donaldson, a former European amateur champion, has quietly risen up the rankings in the last couple of seasons and is on the brink of a place in the top 20.

It’s the first time that the pair has crossed paths in a ranking event so it’ll be new territory for both.

Australia’s Robertson also features in the top half and is involved in undoubtedly the match of the round against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh.

Un-Nooh, who compiled a 146 in the first round and came from 4-2 down to deny John Higgins in the last 16, is one of the most exciting players on the tour to watch.

The 34 year-old from Bangkok has always been one of the most talented players but he has also recently added a level of consistency to his game that was never existent before.

Of course, Robertson will be the favourite but this fixture could be all about which of these heavy scorers can compile the most century breaks.

Robertson enjoys a marginally superior head-to-head record but Un-Nooh whitewashed the Melbourne man in Glasgow last month.

Meanwhile, Hawkins’ European Masters quarter-final opponent is China’s Zhou Yuelong.

Zhou was one of two players who won a brace of matches on the second day in Dornbirn, pipping three-time world champion Mark Williams in a decider before edging out a second Welshman in Jackson Page.

Hawkins, meanwhile, stormed into a 4-0 lead against Mark Selby but only just about hung on as the former world number one fought back in typical fashion to force a ninth frame.

The “Hawk” has only played Zhou on three occasions, winning twice, but each time they have been involved in close battles.

Finally, Gary Wilson takes on a resurgent Marco Fu in the fourth European Masters quarter-final.

Wilson has arguably produced the most assured snooker so far this week with a couple of 5-1 victories to his name.

Fu, though, will represent a tricky obstacle to overcome, particularly if the Hong Kong potter has rediscovered some of his old form.

Now ranked outside the world’s top 50, this run represents only the second time in three campaigns that the 42 year-old has been this far in a ranking event.

Wilson has triumphed in three out of their five previous meetings but the last of those was way back in 2014.

A quartet of relatively even matches on paper then as the first event in the inaugural European Series heats up.

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