Four days have been completed at the tenth staging of the Shanghai Masters and of the 40 players who started the week, just eight remain with their eyes on the prize.
It has been a memorable week already in Shanghai, with a maximum break from Stephen Maguire early on, as well as no fewer than five matches going to a deciding frame during the opening round. Despite exits for a number of high-profile players however, there remains a high quality field to contest the final three days of the tournament.
At the top of the draw, Michael Holt will face home favourite Ding Junhui in the first quarter-final, after the pair emerged victorious against Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen respectively this evening.
Holt, who reached his first-career semi-final in Shanghai back in 2013, had already impressed earlier in the week to defeat wildcard Xu Si and defending champion Kyren Wilson, before claiming the scalp of 2009 champion O’Sullivan. Although O’Sullivan was clearly not at his best this week, competing in his first tournament of the season, he could not be faulted for his application and tried until the final ball to turn the match around as he had done from 4-1 down against Liang Wenbo in the previous round.
It was Holt however who was the heavier scorer and following a missed black on 55 from O’Sullivan during the sixth frame, it was the world number 28 who cleared decisively to the pink to secure a deserved victory against the crowd favourite.
Perhaps the experience of playing against the crowd will help Holt in the next round as he prepares to face 2013 champion Ding Junhui, a winner against Scott Donaldson and now Mark Allen so far this week. Unusually for Ding, he is yet to record a century break this week in Shanghai but with breaks over 50+ during each of the final five frames against Allen, looks to be gaining momentum as the week progresses.
With his run to the last eight, Ding has also made sure of his place at the recently announced China Championship in Guangzhou (see my race to Guangzhou blog).
In the same half, Michael White will face the in-form Stephen Maguire after their respective victories today.
For White, it has been a strong week so far after he initially edged out world number eight Ricky Walden in a deciding frame, before today coming back from 3-0 down to stun former Shanghai finalist Judd Trump. White had a tricky run of results towards the end of last season and admitted to dealing with depression following his opening round defeat at the World Championship, but on the table at least has shown real signs of having turned a corner with his results in recent weeks.
The same can be said for Stephen Maguire, who has tumbled down the rankings in recent months and has a significant amount of prize money to defend between now and the end of the calendar year. Having made four century breaks, including a third career 147 maximum during his opening two matches against wildcard Yi Chen Xu and old rival Shaun Murphy, today he withstood greater pressure against Barry Hawkins to come through a 5-3 winner.
Both White and Maguire can also still qualify for the China Championship, but require at least a run to the final this week in Shanghai.
In the bottom half of the draw Stuart Bingham will face Ali Carter for the third time in 2016, Carter looking to make it a hat-trick of wins against his old Essex rival. Defending a maximum £85,000 from his victory in 2014, Bingham has made smooth progress so far in defeating Jamie Jones and David Gilbert, while Carter too has dropped just three frames in defeating John Higgins and Kurt Maflin.
Interestingly for Carter, his path somewhat mirrors that of his World Open winning run earlier in the season, where he also defeated Higgins and Bingham en route to the title. Can Bingham turn the tables this time?
Awaiting the winner will be either 2011 champion Mark Selby, or Welshman Ryan Day, who were both among the more high-scoring players during today’s last 16 matches. Little needs to be said about Selby, who is looking to win his second ranking event in a row following his success at the Paul Hunter Classic last month. Day meanwhile, runner-up at the first ever Shanghai Masters back in 2007, has already seen off both Neil Robertson and surprise package Mei Xiwen to reach the last eight and is another player looking to qualify for the China Championship with a deep run this week.
The action resumes on Friday with the quarter-finals as we move closer to learning who the winner of this historic tenth staging of the Shanghai Masters will be.