Welsh Open Quarter-Finals Preview

Several of the recent events on the calendar have seen some of the lower ranked players upset the odds, but order has been restored in the final leg of the Home Nations series.

Seven members of the top 16 have made it to the last eight, while the other contender is already a ranking event winner this campaign.

A grandstand finish in the Welsh capital could result in a lot of records coming into play.

Ronnie O’Sullivan remains on course for a first ranking success this term and one that would finally see him surpass Stephen Hendry’s tally of 36 on the all-time list.

Should world champion Judd Trump manage to etch his name onto the trophy for the first time in his career, he would become only the fifth player to claim five ranking titles in a single season.

Neil Robertson’s incredible run of form has continued and last week’s World Grand Prix champion will be looking for a second crack in 2020 at joining the exclusive club of competitors who have bagged consecutive tournament victories at this level.

The Australian, of course, also triumphed in the European Masters in January before narrowly missing out on German Masters glory a week later in Berlin.

Meanwhile, John Higgins is attempting to extend his record total of Welsh Open titles to six and Mark Selby is bidding to become the first player to capture three Home Nations crowns in one campaign.

Anything else? Well, for any of those to materialise it’s certainly not going to be easy.

It’s difficult to pick the tie of the Welsh Open quarter-finals because they could all be finals in their own right, but there is probably one that stands out just a little over the rest.

O’Sullivan and Selby renew their rivalry in what promises to be a cracking opening contest on Friday.

The pair memorably met in the final of the 2008 Welsh Open, when Selby came from 8-5 down to deny O’Sullivan in a decider.

That fight back proved to be the precursor to other famous revivals, albeit O’Sullivan does still boast the superior head-to-head record overall.

O’Sullivan and Selby last crossed paths at the same stage in Glasgow when the latter prevailed in another match that went the distance, and it’s expected to be a close affair again this time around.

Robertson is also in the top half of the draw and the recently turned 38 year-old faces Kyren Wilson for a last four berth.

Wilson will be hoping that fatigue has finally caught up with his opponent but Robertson, if anything, has re-energised as this week’s competition has gone on.

Facing the daunting prospect of negotiating two fixtures on the fourth day, the relentless Robertson retrieved a 3-1 deficit to overcome Noppon Saengkham before reeling off a brace of tons in thumping Gerard Greene 4-0.

Having only met each other once before this year, Robertson and Wilson will now do battle for the second successive week.

Six days ago in Cheltenham, the former world number one edged out Wilson in a tight tussle that ended 6-4.

Meanwhile, the bottom half of the Welsh Open quarter-finals draw is equally as fascinating.

Trump’s date with fellow Englishman Shaun Murphy represents a showdown between the two highest earners from ranking events this season.

Murphy was thrashed 10-3 by Trump in the final of the International Championship last summer but subsequently ended a miserable losing streak in finals when he lifted the China Championship cup in September.

Murphy then did gain a modicum of revenge on Trump when, at the Alexandra Palace last month, the “Magician” abruptly ended the world number one’s hopes of retaining the Masters.

The remaining encounter sees Higgins in action against Yan Bingtao, who is the lowest ranked cueist left but the young Chinese did emerge with the Riga Masters silverware at the outset of this campaign.

Yan turns 20 on Sunday and what better way would it be to celebrate his birthday but to add a second trophy to his cabinet?

Higgins, though, seems to have an affinity with the Welsh Open, which back in 2018 was in fact the last title of this status that the Scot won.

The 44 year-old has a 3-2 head-to-head advantage over Yan but did lose to the challenger in the UK Championship just a couple of months ago.

Four cracking clashes to look forward to and the crowd at the Motorpoint Arena is sure to be treated to an exhibition of high-quality snooker.

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