Defending champion Judd Trump booked his place in the semi-finals of the Matchroom.Live Northern Ireland Open with an emphatic 5-1 defeat of Scott Donaldson.
World number one Trump is seeking a third consecutive Northern Ireland Open title this week, that would make him the first person to achieve the feat in a ranking event since Stephen Hendry at the 1996 UK Championship.
Both of the last two years have seen Trump defeat now World Champion Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final 9-7. The pair remain on a potential collision course for the final this week, with the Rocket meeting Ding Junhui in a blockbuster quarter-final this evening.
Despite suffering defeat, Donaldson exits the event having maintained his impressive consistency over the last few years. Today’s match was his ninth ranking quarter-final appearance since his first, back in 2017. However, he is still in search of maiden ranking silverware.
The pair took just under an hour and a half to contest an edgy first three frames, where Trump battled to establish a 2-1 advantage. From there he took full control of the tie, firing in a fine break of 112 to head into the mid-session 3-1 ahead.
When they returned Trump wasted little time in getting over the line, breaks of 52 and 86 helped him to wrap up the 5-1 win. Trump now faces either Yan Bingtao or David Grace in tomorrow’s semi-finals.
“It took me a while to get used to the table, which had been re-clothed overnight. It was playing a little bit different. It was probably the best conditions we have played on all season,” said 31-year-old Trump. “There are going to be a lot of high breaks from this point on. The table is playing beautifully. It is nice to still be in the tournament and potting balls with a chance to defend my title.
“I just want to win as many matches and as many titles as I can and compete in these big events. It is nice that Ronnie is still in, I want to play him in another final. It would be amazing to play him in another final again in the Northern Ireland Open.
“It would be very special if I won for the third year in a row. If you look back at the greats, Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Ronnie O’Sullivan, you see a long list of years when they are winning events in a row and you see their dominance. If you are winning events two or three years in a row, you are stamping your authority on the game.”
Essex cueman Ali Carter defeated Norwegian number one Kurt Maflin 5-3 to book his place in the semi-finals.
This week’s run is a timely one for world number 19 Carter, who remains in the hunt for Masters qualification. Carter, who reached the final of this year’s Masters in January, came into this week having not been beyond the second round this season.
After trailing 2-0, the Captain managed to go up a gear and claimed five of the next six frames to earn a hard fought victory. The four-time ranking event winner top scored with a run of 91.
Carter said: “You have to win four best of seven matches to get to the quarter-finals. The last thing you want to do at that stage is go home. You feel like you are in touching distance and that you have done so much hard work to get there. That brings its own pressure. It is tough out there, so I am pleased to get through.
“I came here with zero confidence and having hardly won a match all year. I didn’t particularly, in the nicest possible way, want to be here. Life is tough for everyone at the moment. If you come away and you are in a low ebb, then it is easy to get in a rut and a big black hole. I gave myself a good talking to and said I had to turn this around. To be in the semis is great.”