Martin O’Donnell scored the best win of his career as he beat two-time champion Ding Junhui 6-4 at the Betway UK Championship, while another former winner, Judd Trump, was also knocked out, losing 6-4 to Joe Perry.
World number 59 O’Donnell had never won a match in this tournament in five previous attempts, but has got through four rounds this time in York to ensure his biggest career pay-day of £22,500. And he has earned the chance to take on defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals on Friday at 1pm.
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London’s 32-year-old O’Donnell has enjoyed a significant improvement this season as he had never previously gone beyond the last 16 of a ranking event, but has now made three quarter-finals, having reached the same stage of the China Championship and International Championship. With the help of former world number 16 Ian McCulloch, his coach for the past three years, O’Donnell has found consistency in his performances and a knack of dealing with pressure on the big stage.
Ding is yet to reach the quarter-finals of a ranking event this season
From 3-2 down against Ding, O’Donnell took three frames in a row with top breaks of 44, 49 and 90. China’s Ding, who won this event in 2005 and 2009, pulled one back and had a scoring chance in frame ten but ran out of position on 21 and played safe. O’Donnell knocked in an excellent long red to initiate a match-winning run of 41.
“I’m not here just to get to quarter-finals so I haven’t achieved anything yet,” said O’Donnell, who has beaten four Chinese players in this event. “I’ll relax tonight and get ready for tomorrow. Ronnie is the greatest player ever and it will be a privilege to play him. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and take the game to him. I practise six or seven hours a day believing that when I get my chance I’ll be able to take it.
“A lot of players seem to struggle to play their own game against Ronnie. I’ll find out tomorrow what it’s like to play him. He’s got that aura around him. But I’ll just focus on my own game and see what chances I get. That will be the challenge for me, not to look over at him in his seat or worry about what he’s doing. I’ve got to stay calm, be patient, be aggressive and see what happens. He could beat me 6-0 and it has still been a good tournament for me.
“I have sat in many venues watching Ronnie and cheering him on myself. I’d imagine the crowd will be one-sided tomorrow. But crowds like a battle so hopefully I can stand up and produce that.”
World number 21 Perry enjoyed a superb win over Trump to reach the UK quarter-finals for the sixth time. Fifth seed Trump had arrived in York in top form having won the Northern Ireland Open last month, but his winning streak comes to an end and the 2011 UK Championship remains his only Triple Crown title.
Cambridgeshire’s 44-year-old Perry, who reached the final of the European Masters in October, will now face Tom Ford on Friday afternoon.
Trump made breaks of 81 and 97 in taking a 3-1 lead then Perry hit back strongly after the interval, making a run of 100 in frame five then a vital yellow-to-pink clearance in the sixth for 3-3. Trump regained the lead with a break of 100 but Perry took a scrappy eighth frame and cleared from the last red in the ninth to go ahead for the first time. And The Gentleman finished the contest in style with a 136 total clearance in the tenth.
“Judd blasted me off the table before the interval, which is what you expect when you play him,” said Perry, who won his only ranking title at the 2015 Players Championship. “I got back into it and rode my luck.
“I don’t think I’m going to get better at snooker at my age, but I can still learn, and over the last five years my temperament has got so much better. I can deal with stuff out there now, whether I win or lose. I’m not going to lose any matches any more through bad temperament. You just have to stick in there whatever happens.
“Tom Ford is a very talented player who hasn’t fulfilled his potential, he’s a great scorer and very natural. I always enjoy playing him.”
Trump said: “We both had loads of chances and missed quite a few balls. There was a big turning point at 4-4 when he doubled the last red. But before that I had chances to go 4-2 and didn’t take them. Joe got a bit of run at the wrong moments for me.
“I haven’t felt great in this tournament, I have just been scraping through and you can’t rely on that. I should have got through the match today with my experience but I missed too many balls. Sometimes I try too hard instead of being relaxed.”