The Yushan Eight
Four days down at the 2016 Hanteng Autos World Open in Yushan and 72 players have been reduced to just eight ahead of tomorrow’s quarter-finals.
Despite the exit of a number of big names including Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, Judd Trump and Ding Junhui on Wednesday, there remains a strong field and key ranking battles still to be determined heading into the final stages of the season’s third ranking event.
Heading the draw remains Shaun Murphy, who today continued the defence of the title that he won back in 2014 with a comfortable victory against Norway’s Kurt Maflin. Having taken the opening couple of frames in less than 20 minutes, Murphy always looked to be in control against an opponent no doubt hampered by a bizarre incident earlier in the week which saw him bitten by a worm.
Next up for him will be Joe Perry, who came through a decider against conqueror of Ding Junhui, Ben Woollaston in the final match to conclude today. With the recent loss of prize money from his world ranking from reaching the 2014 Wuxi Classic final and a relatively low-key start to the season, he benefited from an early walkover against Jamie Burnett and has added wins against Tom Ford and now Woollaston to progress.
Another big name still in the draw is Australia’s Neil Robertson, who has looked to be in imperious form so far this week. With five century breaks and no fewer than nine further breaks over 50 from his three matches so far, he has picked up from where he left off in Riga and of course remains undefeated so far this season.
Awaiting him will be David Gilbert, who has dropped just two frames from his opening three matches in Yushan, whitewashing both Rod Lawler and today Zhang Anda. With a chance of climbing up into the world’s top 16 this week if he can become the latest first-time ranking event winner on tour, he will be hoping to avenge a 13-9 defeat to Robertson at the Crucible back in 2012.
In the bottom half we find Ali Carter and John Higgins, who will meet in a repeat of the 2010 Welsh Open final. Carter survived a real scare from Daniel Wells today, who came back from 2-0 down to lead 4-2 in his first ever last 16 match at a ranking event. Carter though, looking to climb back up the rankings following his well-documented health issues in recent seasons, hit back to win the final three to progress.
Next opponent Higgins has a strong record against Carter and impressed today with a magnificent break of 144 against old rival Mark Williams. The Scot is looking to claim a 29th career ranking title and move clear of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Steve Davis in second position on the all-time list this week.
Another Scot still in the mix is recent Indian Open winner Anthony McGill, who is now just one win away from breaking into the provisional world top 16 for the first time in his career. From a look at the record books, he could also become the first player to win his second ranking title immediately after his first (although I am open to correction on that), with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh next in his way.
Thailand’s Un-Nooh has steadily risen the rankings following impressive performances over the past 12 months and is knocking on the door of a top 32 place for the first time in his career with his run this week. Already he has defeated Mark Selby, Alan McManus and Mark King, with McGill next in his path.