Kurt Maflin ended Mark Williams’ bid for a first BetVictor Welsh Open title in 23 years, dumping the home favourite out 4-3 in an intriguing contest.
Norway’s Maflin has enjoyed an upturn in his form in recent weeks, having had a difficult start to the campaign. He beat 2019 World Champion Judd Trump on a run to the last 16 of last week’s BetVictor European Masters and has added the scalp of three-time Crucible king Williams this afternoon.
Williams won the most recent of his two Welsh Open titles back in 1999, when he defeated Stephen Hendry 9-8 in the final. That was the last time a Welshman was victorious in the event. However, five players from Wales still remain in the hunt to put that right this week.
They shared the opening two frames this afternoon, before runs of 60 and 57 saw Maflin move one from victory at 3-1. Williams claimed the next two frames and set up a decider. However, it was Maflin who fired in a superb run of 74 to seal the win. He faces Scott Donaldson next.
“I missed a couple of chances, Mark clawed himself back and you probably would have made him favourite for the last frame,” said 38-year-old Maflin. “I am really pleased with the decider. It was a tough shot to the middle from the baulk cushion, but after that the balls were sitting really nicely for me.
“It is always good to beat players like Mark and Judd, especially on the big stage. He didn’t play his best today and I didn’t either. It was solid match snooker and it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
John Higgins continued a relentless streak of break building to brush aside Iran’s Soheil Vahedi 4-0.
The four-time World Champion fired in breaks over 50 in four consecutive frames to beat Pang Junxu 4-1 in round one. Today he extended that streak to eight frames in a row with runs of 102, 70, 110 and 60.
Higgins remains in joint first place alongside Mark Allen in the BetVictor European Series, which sees the player that accumulates most money over the qualifying events scoop a £150,000 bonus.
Next up Higgins faces a mouth watering last 32 clash with Ali Carter. Glasgow’s Higgins is seeking a sixth Welsh Open title this week, his five wins so far are already a record in the event.
Higgins said: “I don’t think I really have any other records in the sport. This is a good one and to add to it would be amazing. I’ve always had a great record in Wales and loved coming here. The crowds are always really good and this is a great venue.
“The fact Ali isn’t in the world’s top 16 shows the standard of snooker at the moment. In any other era he would be in the top eight. It shows you how tough the game is and how many talented players there are out there.”
BetVictor Northern Ireland Open winner Allen progressed with a 4-0 win over Iulian Boiko, while BetVictor English Open winner Neil Robertson kept himself in the hunt for the bonus with a 4-1 defeat of Hammad Miah.
Ronnie O’Sullivan put on a clinical display to see off James Cahill 4-0. The Rocket fired in breaks of 83 and 90 on his way to the win. He faces Germany’s Lukas Kleckers up next.
Judd Trump ended with back-to-back centuries to see off Craig Steadman 4-1. He composed breaks of 108 and 120 to get over the line and now faces Si Jiahui.
For full results click here.
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