Chinese teenager Yuan Sijun, described by Stephen Hendry as the best 18-year-old for a quarter of a century, bolstered his reputation as a rising star by beating Stephen Maguire 4-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Coral World Grand Prix in Cheltenham.
Yuan knocked out World Champion Mark Williams on Tuesday and sent another multiple ranking event winner packing on Wednesday night. He now meets his practice partner Xiao Guodong, with whom he shares a house in Darlington.
It’s the second time this season that talented Yuan has reached the quarter-finals of a ranking event as he got to the same stage of the China Championship in September. He also knocked John Higgins out of last week’s German Masters on his way to the last 16.
Maguire took the opening frame tonight with a break of 78 before Yuan levelled with a 76. Glasgow’s Maguire regained the lead with 52 and 37 in frame three.
World number 64 Yuan took the fourth with a crucial 44 clearance then won a scrappy fifth with a brilliant long pot on the final black to a top corner. Maguire had a chance to make it 3-3 but missed a straight-forward pink to a centre pocket leading 38-19. Yuan’s 33 clearance sealed the match.
“He’s the best 18-year-old I’ve seen since the days of Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams and John Higgins,” Hendry told ITV. “He has got the swagger and the inner confidence, at the table he’s got everything and hits ball the right way. You can see his calmness around the table when he’s clearing up. I was interested to see how he would follow up his win over Williams, and he seems to rise to every challenge.”
China’s Xiao top scored with 82 in a 4-1 victory over Mark Davis.
Barry Hawkins, who won this title two years ago, moved into the last eight with a 4-1 win over Marco Fu. Breaks of 73, 55 and 50 gave world number seven Hawkins the first three frames, before Fu pulled one back. Frame five lasted 45 minutes and came down to a long safety battle on the colours, Hawkins eventually clearing from green to pink for victory.
“I was pleased to win in the end,” said three-time ranking event winner Hawkins. “It was a good tactical battle in the last frame. I have been practising hard and it would be nice to have good run. This is a fantastic venue, it’s a great set up.
“The Players Championship is just around the corner so I need to be in the top 16 of the one year list to get into that (he is currently 15th). There’s a lot of money at stake so I want to be involved in it. I didn’t qualify for the Coral events last year and it was horrible to be sitting at home. You fall further behind everyone else in the rankings.
“No one tips me (to win tournaments), maybe because I don’t often win them! It doesn’t bother me, I just turn up and play, and if I can pick up a title along the way that’s great.”
Masters champion Judd Trump scored a 4-2 win over Tom Ford with top breaks of 83, 65, 55 and 100. From 2-2, Trump pulled away to take the last two frames to set up a quarter-final with Mark Selby or Noppon Saengkham.
Earlier in the day, in the last of the opening round matches, Kyren Wilson came from 3-0 down to beat Matthew Stevens 4-3. German Masters champion Wilson took the fifth frame on the colours, the sixth on the black with a 47 clearance, and the decider on the final black as well.
“I was a very lucky boy,” admitted Wilson, seeking his fourth title of the season. “Matthew was better than me. In Germany last week the ferrule on my cue came loose. When I tried to practise yesterday I found I could get my fingernail under it. My brother had to take it to a cue maker to put a new tip and ferrule on.
“It feels very soft and is not playing the same as it was last week. I’m pleased to get a win and hopefully I can practise with it now and put in a better performance in the next round. I don’t think I can win the tournament with what I’ve got at the minute, but I’ll be trying my best.”
John Higgins’ poor run of results continued as he lost 4-2 to Thailand’s Saengkham. However it was an improved performance from Higgins in a high quality match. He led 2-1 with breaks of 94 and 108 only for Saengkham to take three in a row with 103, 52 and 66.
German Masters runner-up David Gilbert saw off Yan Bingtao 4-0 with a top run of 118, while world number one Mark Selby got the better of Shaun Murphy 4-1. A clash of two former World Champions saw Selby compile breaks of 76, 63 and 63.
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