O’Connor Stuns The Wizard
World number 103 Joe O’Connor produced a giant killing win over defending champion John Higgins, coming through 5-3 in their quarter-final clash at the ManBetX Welsh Open in Cardiff.
The 23-year-old from Leicester is competing in his rookie season on the World Snooker Tour, having earned professional status by winning the EBSA Playoff last year. He also won the prestigious English Amateur Championship last term.
O’Connor hadn’t made it beyond the last 32 of any ranking event coming into this week. However, he has shown his big match metal over the last few days. The youngster has ousted German Masters champion Kyren Wilson, 13-time ranking event winner Ding Junhui and four-time World Champion John Higgins.
Higgins, who has won the Welsh Open a record breaking five times, will leave the Welsh capital disappointed after the shock defeat. However, he can take solace from the fact that he is now mathematically assured of a spot at the upcoming Player’s Championship, reserved for the top 16 players on this season’s money list.
This afternoon it was O’Connor who made a dream start. He composed an assured break of 73 to take the opener, before claiming the second frame to move into a 2-0 lead. Higgins hit back and contributions of 84 and 106 saw him force parity at the mid-session interval.
You would have been forgiven for thinking that the tide had turned. However, O’Connor continued to edge ahead in a match which he never trailed in. They traded frames until the Leicester potter found himself 4-3 ahead. From there O’Connor remarkably produced the highest break of his professional career in his most important frame so far. A contribution of 131 to secure a phenomenal 5-3 victory.
“I’m over the moon. This past week has been a bit of a dream. Beating Kyren Wilson and Ding and now Higgins. I’m speechless and don’t really know what to say,” said O’Connor. “Beating these players isn’t really something I went into the matches thinking I would do. I knew I was capable of doing it, but to do it on the big stage is completely different.
“All of the Leicester players have helped me, but especially Tom Ford. He has taken me under his wing. Tom has been a massive help. We practice together very often and he is the man to go to when I have a question.”
O’Connor’s opponent in the semi-finals will be 2015 Crucible king Stuart Bingham. The five-time ranking event winner was impressive during a 5-2 defeat of young Chinese star Zhao Xintong this afternoon.
Bingham, who won this event in 2017 by defeating Judd Trump in a classic final, looked to be in red hot form this afternoon. He fired in breaks of 134, 99, 59 and 67 on his way to a 4-2 advantage.
There was then a dramatic seventh frame, which came down to the colours. Eventually Bingham deposited a superb long range brown which allowed him to clear up and seal the frame and match.