Welsh Open 2017: The Last Eight

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Four days completed at the 2017 Coral Welsh Open and so far it has been a week of shocks and drama in Cardiff as 128 players have been whittled down to just eight.

The likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy and more have all made early exits as just three of the world’s top 30 survived to even the last 16 stage, while no fewer than three players have now made it to the quarter-final stages of a full-ranking event for the first time in their careers.

At the 1996 International Open in Swindon, nine of the world’s top ten exited in the opening round, but still four made it through to the last 16 stage meaning that it is widely believed that this is the first time than just three have made it that far.

Perhaps more remarkable is the difference in rankings between the two players in many of the matches that have seen ‘upsets’ take place. Under the current seeding system employed at Home Nations Series events, the top 16 are placed in the draw, while the remaining players are placed at random and so at first glance it might be assumed that players have fallen at the hands of similarly ranked players who they might not normally face so early.

However, of the 13 top 16 players to have lost so far, only three have done so to opponents ranked inside of the world’s top 32, with eight losing to players outside of the top 64.

Top 16 exits (opponent and their tournament seeding in brackets):

  • Mark Selby – lost to Yan Bingtao (68)
  • John Higgins – lost to Sam Baird (48)
  • Ding Junhui – lost to Robin Hull (53)
  • Shaun Murphy – lost to Josh Boileau (113)
  • Neil Robertson – lost to Lee Walker (92)
  • Marco Fu – lost to Ross Muir (69)
  • Mark Allen – lost to Mei Xiwen (79)
  • Joe Perry – lost to Anthony McGill (19)
  • Ali Carter – lost to Hossein Vafaei (80)
  • Liang Wenbo – lost to Michael White (23)
  • Ronnie O’Sullivan – lost to Mark Davis (31)
  • Kyren Wilson – lost to Sean O’Sullivan (84)
  • Mark Williams – lost to Elliot Slessor (112)

Among those to have acheived career-best results so far this week are Scott Donaldson and Zhou Yuelong, who will now meet in the first of tomorrow’s quarter-finals with the winner set to progress further still to compete at the one-table set-up during Saturday’s semis.

For Donaldson, he has to some extent slipped under the radar, but nonetheless has defeated a higher-ranked player in every round to date including Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King earlier in the week. On the first year of his current two-year tour card, already past the £41,000 mark he has given himself an excellent chance of retaining his tour status beyond the end of next season and has the top 64 firmly in his sights with potentially more still to come this week in Cardiff.

Standing in his way however will be the highly-rated 19-year-old Zhou, who following a solid season to date has now broken now ground with wins over the likes of Ross Muir and last Welshman standing Lee Walker, conqueror of Neil Robertson earlier in the event.

Also appearing at this stage of a ranking event for the first time is Grimsby’s Stuart Carrington, who can list Igor Figueiredo and Robin Hull among his victims so far this week as he is now set to break into the world’s top 50 for the first time. Next up for him will be a meeting with world number two Stuart Bingham, who will now have his eyes firmly set on going one better than his final run back in 2013.

Elsewhere, a clash between more familiar foes as two of the remaining top 16 seeds Judd Trump and Barry Hawkins are set to lock horns in the second match of the day. Fresh from his victory at the World Grand Prix last week in Preston, Hawkins has shown few signs of fatigue so far in Cardiff, dropping just two frames so far, while Trump has similarly looked largely untroubled on his way to the quarters.

Among Trump’s victims at the last 32 stage was 15-year-old Welsh sensation Jackson Page, who has taken his home event by storm this week by winning matches against Jason Weston and John Astley during his first professional tournament.

Completing the quarter-final line-up are Robert Milkins and Kurt Maflin, who both progressed this evening against Chinese opposition in Mei Xiwen and Yan Bingtao resectively.

But what of the top seeds? World number one Mark Selby suffered a surprise 4-1 defeat to birthday boy Yan, who turned 17 today, while Ireland’s Josh Boileau accounted for Shaun Murphy, defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan surrended a 3-0 lead to Mark Davis and four-time champion John Higgins lost in the opening round to Sam Baird.

The shocks continued to come throughout the week as Elliot Slessor defeated home favourite Mark Williams in a deciding frame, while there were landmark runs for Brazil’s Igor Figueiredo and Iranian Hossein Vafaei, who both made it to the last 16.

It has been a week which has seen a number of players make significant moves in the battle for tour survival, with Ross Muir, Vafaei and Allan Taylor among those to strengthen their positions on the one-year ranking list.

But who will become the latest player to have their name etched upon the Welsh Open trophy, with a first-time winner of the event now guaranteed?

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