Battling Selby Downs Persian Prince

Two-time Betway UK Champion Mark Selby came from 2-1 down to score a 6-2 victory over Hossein Vafaei and set up a last 16 clash with Barry Hawkins.

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Selby struggled in the early stages against Iran’s top player but stepped up a gear to take the last five frames and boost his hopes of a winning a first Triple Crown event since 2017. He now faces a tough fixture against Hawkins for a place in the quarter-finals.

Leicester’s Selby took the opening frame with a break of 65 before Vafaei won the next two. Frame four lasted 61 minutes and came down to a battle on the colours, which was resolved when Vafaei crucially missed a mid-range pot on the green, letting Selby in to clear for 2-2.

That proved a turning point as world number five Selby took the next two frames with a top break of 50 to lead 4-2. Vafaei had a chance to win the seventh from 62-1 down, but failed to gain position on the final black. He then made a safety error on the black, Selby potting it for 5-2. A run of 52 in the next saw Selby reach the last 16 of this event for the tenth time.

“Hossein is a rhythm player and a good front runner,” said Selby, who won this event in 2012 and 2016. “If he had gone 3-1 up he would have been full of confidence. That fourth frame was so long that to lose it was a big blow for him. After the interval the match was more open and I felt more at ease.

“It will be tough against Barry because he is a top 16 player in my eyes. He is a great friend and we have been having dinner together this week. I might ask the hotel reception to call his room at 4am before our match!”

Warrior Conquers Viking

Wilson won the recent Championship League, his fourth ranking title.

Just like Selby, Kyren Wilson recovered from a slow start to book his place in round four. He lost the first two frames against Kurt Maflin but ended up a 6-3 victor, firing breaks of 132, 132, 54, 62 and 99.

Crucible runner-up Wilson has only reached the quarter-finals of this event once before, in 2018, and will match that run if he can beat Graeme Dott.

“From 2-0 down I knew I had to score heavily to beat him,” said world number four Wilson. “Kurt had a fantastic run at the Crucible and it’s good to see him showing his potential because he is great to watch.

“There are still a lot of big names in the field here and I can’t look past my next match against Graeme because he is such a great player.”

Round-up

Jack Lisowski scored a third consecutive 6-2 win, beating Xu Si with top breaks of 69, 88, 89, 85 and 53.

Every win is vital for Lisowski in terms of keeping his top 16 spot and a place at the Masters in January. He is currently in 16th spot in the Race to the Masters but one more win would put him above Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, which would mean that two players would need to overtake Lisowski to knock him out of the elite.

“I played well today and I have scored well in every game this week,” said Lisowski, who will reach the quarter-finals of this event for the first time if he beats Xiao Guodong. “If I get a Masters place it will be a bonus but the main thing here is just to keep winning and concentrating on every match, because this is our second biggest tournament.”

Joe Perry made a tremendous comeback from 5-2 down to beat Joe O’Connor 6-5. The key frame was the ninth as Perry recovered a deficit of 63 points to nick it 65-63 with a 35 clearance. He then made breaks of 71 and 73 to win the last two frames.

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