The Masters Quarter-Finals Draw and Preview

There are eight players and four former champions left in the hunt for glory this week.

Top seeds Stuart Bingham and Ronnie O’Sullivan are among those still in the draw at the quarter-finals stage of the Masters in Milton Keynes.

An entertaining opening round saw two of the pre-tournament favourites crash out in Mark Selby and Neil Robertson.

However, a stellar line-up remains with just three victories now separating the enduring cast members from claiming the Paul Hunter Trophy and a top prize worth £250,000.

O’Sullivan’s bid for a record-extending eighth Masters crown got off to a thrilling start, as the world champion fought back from 3-0 and 5-3 behind to deny Ding Junhui in a decider.

The “Rocket” will next face old rival John Higgins in what is undoubtedly the tie of the round.

Higgins, by contrast, withstood a late rally from his last-16 opponent on Wednesday to prevail against Mark Allen courtesy of a similar 6-5 scoreline.

Friday’s contest between Higgins and O’Sullivan will be an incredible 70th between the duo in all competitions – a record head-to-head duel in professional competition.

O’Sullivan boasts the greater number of victories overall, but there have been countless memorable wins on either side since their first battle at the 1994 Dubai Classic.

With the other members of the top four in the world rankings out – Judd Trump was forced to withdraw on the eve of the event due to a positive coronavirus test – O’Sullivan may feel that a tournament he has so often produced the goods in is beginning to open up for him a little.

Higgins, although a two-time former champion, has never had the greatest of affinities with the Masters, albeit this year’s edition is quite different while being played behind closed doors away from its familiar setting of London.

The bottom half of the Masters quarter-finals draw also features Kyren Wilson and David Gilbert.

The Englishmen took advantage of Trump and Jack Lisowski’s COVID-related absence by outplaying Gary Wilson and Joe Perry respectively on Sunday.

There have been an increased number of people predicting Kyren Wilson as the champion this week, and he’ll certainly begin this match as the fancied player to progress.

The pair has a relatively even record against one another, with the outcome shared from two of their memorable encounters in 2019 when Wilson triumphed in the German Masters at Gilbert’s expense before the latter gained revenge in that year’s World Championship in Sheffield.

Over the course of the last year or so, however, Wilson has been by far the more consistent competitor and it would be a small shock if he didn’t progress.

Defending champion Bingham, meanwhile, encounters Shaun Murphy in the top half in what is a repeat of the 2015 Crucible final.

Bingham, of course, emerged victorious on that occasion but it’s the “Magician” who possesses a marginally greater head-to-head record in general from their prior meetings.

Neither has enjoyed a particularly strong campaign, so it’s definitely an opportunity for both to kick start this term with a run to at least the semi-finals in one of the majors.

Stephen Maguire and Yan Bingtao contest the other fixture after accounting for Selby and Robertson on Tuesday.

Maguire was surprised to learn that he had already faced Yan – three times in fact, with the Scot triumphant on each occasion.

As a debutant, the pressure may be off Yan’s young shoulders and he could relish the prospect of treating this appearance as a free hit of sorts.

Maguire, though, must surely rate his chances of reaching the final given the fact that none of the recent heavy-hitters on the tour remain in his section.

The 39 year-old may thrive, as he did while winning the Tour Championship last summer at the same venue, but there have been numerous instances in the past when he has let these kinds of chances pass him by.

Live coverage is being provided by Eurosport and the BBC across Ireland and the UK, with further broadcasts also available around the world.

The Masters Quarter-Finals Draw

Stuart Bingham (1) vs Shaun Murphy (8) [Thursday, 7pm]
Stephen Maguire (9) vs Yan Bingtao (12) [Friday, 1pm]

David Gilbert (13) vs Kyren Wilson (6) [Thursday, 1pm]
John Higgins (7) vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (2) [Friday, 7pm]

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