It is quarter final day at the UK Championship on Friday with all four matches taking place over the course of what should be an excellent day of action inside the Barbican Centre in York as the first Triple Crown event of the season heads towards the business end of the competition.
One or two surprise names have made it into the quarter final but there are also five big hitters who are used to winning these sorts of tournaments on show too so we should be in for quite a quarter final day.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Zhou Yuelong
The main table in the afternoon session on Friday will be graced by the best to have played the game as the world number one Ronnie O’Sullivan will look to move to within two wins of another UK title when he takes on Zhou Yuelong.
Zhou has had to ride something of a gauntlet this week having disposed of Neil Robertson in the first round and John Higgins in the second round. It would be quite something were he to beat Robertson, Higgins and O’Sullivan in successive matches but he is certainly playing well enough if he has the belief he can do it. I expected O’Sullivan to improve the longer the week went on and that is generally what has happened and if he improves again he is likely to be too good for Zhou no matter how well the Chinese player is playing. I’ll leave this one alone as I’m not as confident on the upset as I’d like to be.
Hossein Vafaei vs Zhang Anda
We have an all-Asian clash over on table two on Friday afternoon as the former Shootout champion Hossein Vafaei will look to make the semi-final of a Triple Crown event for the first time when he meets the International Championship winner Zhang Anda.
Vafaei was in excellent touch on Thursday night when he slammed in three centuries and a couple of other decent breaks in beating Matt Selt 6-1. If he plays like that here then he will be tough to stop but we see it time and time again that it isn’t easy to follow up a great performance with another, especially here where there is such a short turnaround. I don’t think Zhang will mind an open game with high scoring though. He has scored as well as anyone in the last six weeks or so and has the confidence of taking out the world champion on Thursday night under his belt. This could be a cracker if both play like they have been in recent times but I’ll stick with my outright bet on Zhang as interest here.
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Mark Selby vs Judd Trump
The true heavyweight clash of the quarter finals has been saved for the main table on Friday evening as two former winners of this title meet when the world finalist Mark Selby takes on the man of the season so far in Judd Trump.
Trump has been in insane form this term but while he has been winning tournaments he hasn’t always been dominating matches. He has done that this week though with a 6-1 win over Pang Junxu in the opening round followed by a 6-0 battering of Jamie Jones but the eye would tell us Trump wasn’t perfect in those matches but just played two opponents who never showed up and he revealed in his post-match interview after the second game that he would rather have been tested to know how well he is playing. Selby already has that luxury. He had to come through a cliff-hanger of a second round match with Barry Hawkins where he looked in excellent touch in the early stages before it all got tight. If this one gets tight you’d have fancied Selby anyway given his incredible record in deciding frames but the fact Trump hasn’t been tested this week might prove to be the difference. These two don’t really meet as often as they should in the big events but when they did play in the Shanghai Masters earlier in the season Selby won 6-1. I don’t expect him to win as easily here but I do think he’s playing well enough to be the value at odds against.
Ding Junhui vs Mark Williams
The match over on table two on Friday evening sees two more former winners of the tournament going at it when the man who lost in the final last year, Ding Junhui, takes on the recent British Open champion Mark Williams.
Both these men have looked good in spells and then disappeared in others this week but you would imagine that the status of the match and the stage of the tournament that we are at now will focus their minds and we should be in for a cracking contest as a result of that. Ding loves this tournament but can flatter to deceive under pressure these days. Williams didn’t just win the British Open but made The Masters final at the beginning of the year. That tells us he can do the business at this stage of an event and I think he’ll come through here but as he is my other outright bet I’ll let that be my interest in this match.
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