Rob Walker & Robert Milkins Walk A Dog

O’Sullivan And Higgins To Clash In Quarters

Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins set up a quarter-final meeting at the ManBetX Welsh Open as they both scored emphatic 4-0 wins on Thursday night in Cardiff.

Friday’s quarter-finals
12pm: Ian Burns v Noppon Saengkham
NB 2pm: Yan Bingtao v Barry Hawkins
7pm: Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins
7pm: Gary Wilson v Yu Delu

O’Sullivan continued his phenomenal recent form with a whitewash of Mike Dunn, needing just 50 minutes to take all four frames with top breaks of 84, 69, 117 and 67. Having won the last six frames of his World Grand Prix final against Ding Junhui and followed up with three 4-0 scorelines this week, O’Sullivan has now taken 18 consecutive frames. He is chasing his fifth ranking title of the season.

“Things are going ok, I just need to focus on my next match,” said O’Sullivan, who is tied with Higgins on a record four Welsh Open titles. “John is one of the all time greats alongside Stephen Hendry. I will need to improve slightly on what I have shown so far this week. When you play someone of John’s class, you either find it or you don’t. I’m looking forward to it. The quarter-finals onwards is the business end.”

Higgins was equally impressive as he saw off Nigel Bond with top runs of 115 and 144. His second century started with 12 reds and blacks, and though his hopes of a 147 ended when he ran out of position with two reds left, the Scot was still able to clear and set a new target for the £2,000 high break prize.

“I’m a lot happier tonight, I played a lot better,” said the Wizard of Wishaw. “It’s a bit like déjà vu to be facing Ronnie again, we seem to have played so much this season. I’m glad I played like that tonight, it will give me confidence because I’ll need to play a similar standard to give him a game. Ronnie is playing fantastic at the moment,  he is at a level above everyone else. If I can come up near that level I’ve got a chance. These are massive games to play in, I love them and the crowd will be great.”

Friday’s meeting between the two snooker legends, with nine world titles and 61 ranking event wins between them, will be their sixth head to head clash this season. O’Sullivan came out on top at the Hong Kong Masters (5-4), English Open (4-3), Champion of Champions (6-0) and Shanghai Masters (6-2) before Higgins gained a measure of revenge with a 5-0 success  at the Scottish Open.

China’s Yan Bingtao, runner-up at the Scottish Open, maintained his bid to win a first ranking title by scoring a 4-2 win over the last Welshman left in the event, Matthew Stevens. From 2-2, Yan won two scrappy frames to set up a match with Barry Hawkins, who beat Martin Gould 4-2 with a top break of 75.

Ian Burns reached the quarter-finals of a ranking event for the second time in his career by beating Liam Highfield 4-3. Highfield led 3-2 and 69-0 in the sixth frame, but a missed red proved costly as Burns clawed his way back, got the snooker he needed on the green and cleared for 3-3. He then took the decider with runs of 47 and 40.

Preston’s Burns now plays Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham, who scored a 4-0 win over Kyren Wilson. Saengkham, who knocked out Judd Trump earlier in the week, is also through to his second ranking quarter-final, and like Burns he will be aiming for his first semi-final.

Gary Wilson won a North-East derby against John Astley, winning 4-2 with a top break of 88. His next opponent is Yu Delu, who won a Chinese derby against Liang Wenbo by a 4-1 scoreline, his top run 64.