Phil Haigh ✍️
Ashley Hugill is enjoying what is likely the best tournament of his career so far and intends to keep enjoying himself against Ronnie O’Sullivan in the last 16 of the European Masters.
The Yorkshireman beat Bai Langning in qualifying but it has been at the main venue in Milton Keynes that he has begun to spring the surprises, beating Jack Lisowski 5-3 in the second round and Ali Carter 5-1 in the third.
They were big upsets, but if Hugill could down the Rocket then it would be another level of shock and the 27-year-old is relishing his first chance to take on the six-time world champion.
‘Definitely it’s something I look forward to,’ Hugill told WST.
‘I’ve not played him in a tournament before and it’s a goal of mine to play him because I thought there’s a chance I might never play him.
‘I’m really happy to get the opportunity to play him.’
Hugill has only been to the fourth round of a ranking event twice before – at the 2017 Scottish Open and 2020 Gibraltar Open, but this effort probably tops those two achievements.
The world number 81 is fighting to stay on tour for next season and has been working hard in Sheffield with Chinese stars Yan Bingtao and Zhao Xintong, which is clearly paying off.
After beating Carter he said: ‘I played really well, scored well, which is important.
‘Practicing with Yan [Bingtao] and [Zhao] Xintong in Victoria’s Academy, you get used to playing great players, so when they’re going one visit against you it’s not something you’ve not seen before.’
Hugill has already won £6,000 for his run to the last 16 in Milton Keynes, which could be huge in his battle for tour survival. Making it into the top 64 by the end of the season seems like a huge ask, but qualifying through the one-year ranking list is entirely achievable for Hugill.
O’Sullivan and Hugill meet at 2.30pm on Thursday 24 February.
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