“Moving Day” at the Home Nations often produces some unexpected results and yesterday was no exception. Indeed, Stephen Maguire, Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson, and John Higgins departed the tournament, leaving us with only four of the top sixteen players in the quarter-finals: Judd Trump, Yan Bingtao, Ding Junhui and Ronnie.
O’Sullivan Downs Un-Nooh In Thriller
World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan came through an enthralling clash with Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 4-2 to book his place in the quarter-finals of the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open.
It’s O’Sullivan’s first trip to the quarters of a ranking event since securing a historic sixth World Championship win in August.
His most recent meeting with Thailand’s quickfire Un-Nooh came in the opening round at the Crucible this year. On that occasion O’Sullivan demolished Un-Nooh 10-1, this evening’s match was far more closely contested.
Each frame of the thrilling encounter contained a break over 50. It was Un-Nooh who claimed the opener with a run of 85. However, contributions of 106 and 60 saw O’Sullivan move 2-1 in front. Un-Nooh restored parity with a break of 98.
With the scores locked level at 2-2, there was a crucial fifth frame. Un-Nooh had looked set to move one from victory, before missing a straightforward red to the middle on 66. O’Sullivan ruthlessly capitalised by stealing on the black with a break of 70.
The Rocket then wrapped up the win to book a mouth watering quarter-final with Ding Junhui, who scored an impressive 4-1 defeat of John Higgins.
O’Sullivan said: “I didn’t have much choice in it. Thepchaiya just attacks the balls at all times. You can’t really keep him under wraps. You just have to try and score better, make less mistakes and capitalise if he makes a mistake.
“A bit of run of the ball here or there and it can be over very quickly. I feel I got away with that tonight. He was the better player and I got a bit of luck. I had no luck in the first three matches. They do say if you are patient enough then sometimes the luck turns around. I believe you make your own luck and I got mine tonight.”
Defending champion Judd Trump booked his place in the quarters with a hard fought 4-1 win over 2016 German Masters winner Martin Gould.
World number one Trump is aiming for a third consecutive Northern Ireland Open title, having beaten O’Sullivan 9-7 in both of the two previous finals to lift the Alex Higgins Trophy.
The Ace in the Pack is enjoying a superb 2020/21 Home Nations Series so far. He fired in a magnificent 147 break, the fifth of his career, in yesterday’s 4-0 win over China’s Gao Yang. Trump also won the first event of the series, defeating Neil Robertson 9-8 in a classic English Open final.
Trump and Gould shared the first two frames tonight, before the third came down to a re-spotted black. Trump narrowly avoided going in-off and left Gould angled by the top right pocket. Gould managed the escape, but left the black for Trump to deposit and move 2-1 up.
From there, Bristolian Trump charged to the line with breaks of 103 and 76 to wrap up victory. Next up Trump will face Scott Donaldson, who defeated Noppon Saengkham 4-2.
Trump said: “I could have been 2-1 down. I got a lot of bad luck in the third frame and I got a bit of good luck. It turned around in the end and then I made two good breaks to get over the line. I was a little bit tired, but I was just trying not to miss anything easy.
“It was a tough game. Martin is playing well and he is fearless as well. If you leave him anywhere on the table there is always a chance that he could clear up. It is always difficult and you are always under pressure against him. After losing to him earlier in the season, it was nice to get my own back.”
Norway’s Kurt Maflin booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 4-1 defeat of Brazillian Igor Figueiredo. He’ll face four-time ranking event winner Ali Carter, who beat Ben Woollaston 4-2.
The other quarter-final clash sees world number 13 Yan Bingtao take on world number 67 David Grace. China’s Yan beat compatriot Zhao Xintong 4-3 this evening, while Grace battled back from 3-0 down to beat Shoot Out champion Michael Holt 4-3.
This is our quarter-finals line-up:
Scott Donaldson is definitely coming of age this season and I fully expect him to climb into the top 16 soon. He’s currently number 13 in the race to the World Grand Prix. Yesterday he beat Mark Allen, who just won the Champion of Champions last week by 4-1. It might not be Belfast, but it is still the Northern Ireland Open and Mark Allen has a poor record in his home tournament.
David Grace only regained his professional status via the Challenge tour last season. Few players love their snooker as much as David does. When he was off the tour he organised countless events for players of all ages and abilities. He is a former English Amateur Champion, indeed he won that prestigious event twice, in 2005 and 2008. He reached the semi finals at the 2015 UK championship, beating Graeme Dott, Jack Lisowski, Peter Ebdon and Martin Gould en route. He qualified for the Crucible in 2017. So, he’s more than capable, even if he’s been off the radars for a while. And, last but not least, he’s a great person and a talented artist.