Teenager Stan Moody saw his hopes of extending his run at the BetVictor Northern Ireland Open end as he lost 4-2 to China’s Yuan Sijun in the last 16, while former Crucible king Shaun Murphy was knocked out 4-2 by Chris Wakelin.
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Tour rookie Moody, who turned 17 last month, won three matches in this event to raise his hopes of a quarter-final clash with mentor Murphy, but both were knocked out in Belfast a round early. Two more wins would have made Moody the youngest ever ranking event semi-finalist, beating the record set by Paul Hunter at the 1996 Welsh Open, but the WSF Junior Champion will have to wait for another chance.
World number 45 Yuan is through to the sixth ranking quarter-final of his career and the 23-year-old will hope to reach his second semi-final – the other coming at the 2019 Gibraltar Open.
Yorkshire’s Moody looked in charge when he fired a break of 88 to lead 2-1, but Yuan hit back to take the next three frames with a top break of 57.
Meanwhile, Murphy was looking to continue his bid to win a fourth ranking title of 2023, but he was outplayed by BetVictor Shoot Out champion Wakelin. World number seven Murphy has been bringing two cues into the arena this week and today, for the first time, he swapped cues before the fourth frame. But it made no difference as world number 25 Wakelin progressed to his seventh career ranking quarter-final.
After sharing the first two frames, Murphy made a yellow-to-black clearance to lead 2-1. But he scored just two points in the last three frames as Wakelin took them all with top breaks of 55, 41 and 49.
“I felt I controlled the match well and put pressure on Shaun,” said 31-year-old Wakelin. “I haven’t been past the quarter-finals of a ranking event other than the Shoot Out in my career so far, but I won’t be going into tomorrow scared of getting to a semi or a final or lifting more silverware. I genuinely feel I should be in the later stages of tournaments and I think performances like today show that.”
Asked about Murphy’s decision to change cue, Wakelin replied: “I have nothing but admiration for Shaun and for the fact he is trying to pioneer something new in the sport – hats off to him. But I don’t think changing cue is the solution if you are struggling out there. There are other factors you can change. As soon as I saw him dipping into his case to get a different cue out, I was thinking that he hadn’t missed many balls, and it would take him a few shots to adjust to a new cue.
“It’s like putting Max Verstappen in Lewis Hamilton’s car and expecting it all to fit perfectly and drive the same. A cue is so personal, I don’t think swapping half way through a match is the solution now, though it could be in the future.”
Ricky Walden reached his first ranking quarter-final since the 2022 Scottish Open by beating Xing Zihao 4-1 with a top break of 134. “It has been a long time coming after a tough season for me,” said Walden, who will meet Jack Lisowski or Aaron Hill on Friday. “In the last few months I have gone back to my previous cue and I have got settled down with that now and it feels good. When I’m happy with my game I just enjoy the challenge of competing.”
Judd Trump is still on target to become the first player in a decade to win three consecutive ranking titles as he beat Ian Burns 4-2. Bristol’s Trump, who has already lifted the BetVictor English Open and Wuhan Open trophies this month, was out of sorts against Burns and his highest break was just 36, but he did enough to earn a last 16 tie with Noppon Saengkham on Thursday evening.
Joe Perry came from 3-1 down to beat Hossein Vafaei 4-3, making a break of 122 in each of the last two frames, setting up a match with Stephen Maguire. David Gilbert top scored with 127 in a 4-1 win over Lyu Hoatian and he now meets Rory McLeod. Barry Hawkins beat Jimmy Robertson 4-1 and he’ll now face Robbie Williams who saw off Zhang Anda by the same scoreline. All of these last 16 ties will be on Thursday night.