Each of the four quarter-finals of this year’s Betfred.com World Championship features a former winner plus a player capable of capturing the title for the first time.
It’s a stellar line-up but the man to beat remains Ronnie O’Sullivan.
He knew he’d have to play well to repel the challenge of an in-form Mark Williams and so he did, dashing off three centuries in the final session during a brilliant display.
O’Sullivan is in the newspapers this morning for his conduct in his post-match TV interview but all that really matters is how he is playing – and he is playing really well.
Mark Selby, of course, outlasted him in their Wembley Masters final earlier this season and eased away from Stephen Hendry impressively yesterday.
Selby lost an epic quarter-final to John Higgins at the Crucible 12 months ago and could well end up embroiled in another. He has the game to frustrate O’Sullivan but will only win if he also scores heavily.
Graeme Dott is playing his best snooker since winning the China Open three years ago and arguably better than when he won the world title in 2006.
His quarter-final opponent, Mark Allen, has been impressive so far but is yet to be put under pressure and has not been punished when his do-or-die shots have failed to go in.
Shaun Murphy conjured up an aggressive last three frames to see off Ding Junhui last night, proving experience of winning in Sheffield can make all the difference.
Ali Carter suffered a scare against Joe Perry but raised his game at the denouement and will be tough to beat. Perhaps Murphy’s track record at the Crucible will prove key again.
Nobody tipped Steve Davis to beat John Higgins and few would tip him to beat Neil Robertson, but who is to say the grand old man of snooker can’t cause another shock?
It’s unlikely – in the first round last year Robertson beat him 10-2 – but Davis is playing well and if he can score from the chances he creates from his tactical game then he could make it close.
Regardless, it should be celebrated that he is in the quarter-finals at all. At 52, he is the oldest player to appear in the last eight since he beat 53 year-old Eddie Charlton 13-5 in 1983.
Davis’s continued presence in the draw adds an extra element to what is already a fascinating set of quarter-finals.