We are now halfway through this tournament and the casualties are licking their wounds and the victors licking their lips. This is a competition where no player is safe until they have potted their last ball, a feat that will have their nerves jangling and their brows perspiring.
Today’s play was no exception with a shock exit at the start of play. The “Ace in the Pack”, Judd Trump, probably thought that his draw against Joe Perry would be a relatively easy affair but anyone who knows or has seen Perry play, knows that this player is no walk over.
When Joe is in form, he is an exceptionally dangerous player and today the snooker tide turned in his direction. Trump’s valiant efforts was not enough on this occasion and Neil Robertson’s best friend and practice partner, Joe Perry had a convincing win 5-2.
Today proved again that a forty something player, forty-five in fact, can compete with the best and win. This win also means that Perry regains a place in the top sixteen. A feat that “Gentleman Joe” achieved with breaks of 89, 59 and 52 on the way to his match victory. Perry commented after the match “ I played him in Daqing and he absolutely wiped the floor with me”.
Mark Williams, after a shaky victory yesterday, redeemed himself today by blasting Luca Brecel off the baize. Luca who we know had oodles of talent, didn’t show up today and only managed to put one frame on the board in a match that went near totally in Mark’s direction.
Mark was in the driving seat in this match and Luca banished to the passenger seat. Luca won the first frame but before he knew it, he was 3-1 down and Williams took the final two frames.
Williams will be pleased with his 5-1 win and as result plays David Gilbert in the last eight. Luca Brecel like Ding Junhui yesterday, will drop out of the top sixteen when the revised list is announced next week.
As already mentioned, David Gilbert has reached the last eight and he achieved this by knocking out the Thai player, Noppon Saengkham. Noppon was no challenge to the resurgent Gilbert. Although the Thai managed to secure two frames in this match, David’s play was too strong for him and the match’s score line of 5-2, just shows how well Gilbert can play.
This stride forward is another chance for David to show that he is no “ nearly man” and has the ability to win a major title. With the top seeds falling like flies, this may be his chance to find the winning path to the one table set up if the final. An environment that he visited before and on this occasion maybe victorious.
The remaining match had Anthony McGill drawn against the talented Iranian, Hossein Vafaei. This was a match where both players are playing at the top of their form and so this on paper was a very difficult match to call. Both players shared the first six frames, taking it to 3-3 but then play drifted in McGill’s direction and Anthony took the next to make it 4-3.
However Hossein was not going to giving up this match without a fight and took the next to level it up to 4-4 to take the match to a deciding frame. Vafaei turned out to be the victor in this match and a deserved winner. A player who had had problems with visa applications in recent years, meaning that he was frozen out of a number of tournaments, has proved his worth on the day and survives another day to play amongst the last eight players. This match was described as a “nerve shredder” and sees Vafaei reach a quarter-final in a ranking event for the fifth time after winning the last two frames of the match. He now faces Joe Perry in the next round.
In the evening’s play Shaun Murphy was drawn against Matthew Selt. Murphy has of course come very close on two occasions this season already to gaining silverware with Ronnie O’Sullivan just pipping him to the post in the Shanghai Masters, 11-9.
Murphy has said since this defeat that he hasn’t tinkered with his game but instead with his mindset, working closely with his coach Chris Henry. Murphy is trying to build up his confidence after an array of first round defeats last season, knocked out on eight occasions. Coming into this match, the head to head between Selt and Murphy gave Selt a 4-2 advantage in wins, coming from best of seven matches. Murphy who boasts a “Rolls Royce” cue action started this match with a flyer, knocking in a 129 clearance that left Selt thinking what he had done wrong in this first frame, 1-0 to Murphy.
Shaun broke down in the second frame on a break of 73, leaving Selt with a slight chance but with only 51 points left on the table, Matthew managed to get a snooker behind the pink but Shaun redeemed himself by making contact with the red. With two snookers needed, Selt created a second snooker on the green and created a divine escape by using three cushions to achieve it. Snookers galore ensued by both players but a mistake on the green made Selt concede the frame, 2-0 Murphy.
In the next frame, Selt went in off with the white after a short spell of no score play, Murphy eventually got back in and won it with a 69 break. Selt took the next after Murphy needed three snookers and decided to concede the frame, taking Murphy into the interval with a 3-1 advantage. Selt took the frame after the interval to go one behind at 3-2. Murphy clawed back the next to make it 4-2 with one frame away from victory.
However Selt was is no mood to give up and snatched the frame when Murphy was in touching distance of the winning line. Murphy eventually scrambled over the line in the next, winning, 5-3. A match that could have gone Selt’s way.
There were also wins for Barry Hawkins who beat Zhao Xintong 5-4 and Mark Selby beat Chris Wakelin 5-2.
Game of the day has to be the sensational comeback from snookerfans.co.uk and Elite studio 147 player Kurt Maflin who battled back from 3-0 down to beat one of the greatest players of all time John Higgins.
Here is the match in full for you to enjoy……
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