Quarter-finals day in Beijing proved to be one to remember as the field was reduced to four, with the most dramatic match being that which saw Stephen Maguire and Ronnie O’Sullivan inseparable following eight frames, 15 reds and six colours…
It has been a long time coming for Scotland’s Stephen Maguire but after a number of defeats to Ronnie O’Sullivan in recent years, notably during this season’s German Masters final in Berlin, Maguire today turned the tables with a 5-4 victory to progress to the semi-finals.
It was the Scot who made the stronger start with breaks of 76 and 57 to lead 2-0, before O’Sullivan hit back to draw level at the interval. The following four frames were to be shared, before it appeared as though it would be O’Sullivan who would snatch the decider, leading 62-29 with just 35 remaining.
There was however to be a final dramatic twist as having missed the final red, Ronnie could only watch as Maguire dished to force a re-spotted black, which he would go on to ‘treble’ into the right-centre pocket as you can see here.
Just Stephen’s fourth win against Ronnie in 18 meetings, it will surely be a sweet one, though only if he can go on to lift his second China Open title this weekend and win his first major tournament since his previous triumph in Beijing back in 2008. As I have said a few times in recent months, it is good to see Stephen consistently reaching the business end of tournaments again at present and looking as confident as I have seen him for a few seasons.
If he is to go on and take the title, Maguire will next have to defeat Stephen Lee after the tour’s form player made it 12 wins from his last 13 matches with a comeback victory against defending champion Judd Trump. Trailing 2-0 in under half an hour, Stephen hit back strongly to level with back to back centuries, before adding breaks of 60 and 96 to wrap up a 5-3 victory.
While it is not surprising to see a player of Lee’s class produce the kind of form that he has displayed recently, at a time when there are so many top class players competing at such a high level, for him to do so on such a consistent basis at present is a real achievement. Up to sixth on the latest projected seedings list, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he could match his previous career high ranking of 5th later in the year.
For both Judd and Ronnie I doubt that either will be too unhappy with their work this week, both having won a couple of matches ahead of the Crucible, which is where their focus will now surely lie.
In the other half of the draw, Peter Ebdon and Ding Junhui emerged victorious against Neil Robertson and Ali Carter respectively, the former in particular coming through a real slog before eventually booking his place in a first major ranking event semi-final since the 2010 World Open.
It promises to be a very interesting weekend…