Northern Ireland Open: Judd Trump and Ronnie O'Sullivan cruise through to quarters

Ronnie O'Sullivan
Ronnie O'Sullivan

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump both had little trouble in reaching the latter stages of the Northern Ireland Open with two wins each on Thursday.

Trump and Ronnie on collision course

Ronnie O'Sullivan and Judd Trump remain on course to meet in the final of the Northern Ireland Open for the second year running, after making light work of a hectic Thursday.

With both the last-32 and last-16 stages played to a finish, it was a key day in determining the key contenders for this Home Nations Series title - and never was their any doubt concerning the sport's two biggest draws.

Trump was first to the table at 1pm local time, and before the big hand had returned to meet the little hand and strike 2pm, he'd bagged breaks of 79, 87, 56 and 55 to beat Si Jiahui 4-0.

Returning for the evening session, Trump conceded just 60 points and added three more breaks of 50-plus in a 4-0 demolition of the dangerous Yan Bingtao, in the process booking a quarter-final place.

O'Sullivan was less impressive in a 4-1 defeat of a nervy Stuart Carrington, who had chances throughout their encounter, but there was a feeling during an evening defeat of Yuan Sijun by the same scoreline that The Rocket is coming to the boil.

Although Sijun was careless, particularly towards the end of the match, O'Sullivan's 127 in frame two was superb, and he sealed another 4-1 victory with breaks of 78 and 57.

Earlier in the day, he had told Eurosport that he needed to play better to avoid a hiding against a world-class opponent, and that's what he'll face after Shaun Murphy booked himself a showdown by beating Barry Hawkins 4-2.

Hawkins scored the heavier when among the balls, breaks of 77 and 129 surpassing anything Murphy did, but the Magician won two tight frames in the middle of the match before closing it out comfortably.

Murphy will perhaps need to improve to beat O'Sullivan, who has won their last six meetings, but there remains a glimmer of hope as last year's beaten finalist has not been at his best this week.

O'Sullivan, who insisted he was enjoying his time in Belfast despite struggling for top form, even suggested he may not play in the biggest events after Christmas when speaking between rounds.

"The Masters is debatable - I'm not a big fan of the venue," he said. "And Sheffield is an ordeal."

Perhaps that will only serve to intensify his focus over the coming weeks, with the UK Championship on the horizon before Christmas and revenge on Trump no doubt on his mind - whether he'd admit to caring that much or not.

Alexander the great!

Whoever comes through Murphy's meeting with O'Sullivan will face either Joe Perry or Alexander Ursenbacher, the latter having seen off Stuart Bingham 4-2 before holding on to beat Mark Allen 4-3 in the evening.

Perry started the day by rattling off four frames in a row to overcome Graeme Dott 4-1, and ended it beating Robbie Williams by the same scoreline.

Back in the top half, Kyren Wilson's frustrating run was extended in a 4-3 defeat to Anthony Hamilton, the 48-year-old veteran who goes on to face Trump next.

Wilson had lost back-to-back deciding frames against Thepchaiya Un-Nooh coming in to the event, while earlier in the season he was beaten 4-3 in the final of the Paul Hunter Classic, 6-5 by Tom Ford in the International Championship and 6-5 by O'Sullivan in Shanghai.

At 3-3, perhaps those memories weighed heavy as Hamilton moved into the last eight of the event which saw him reach the semi-finals in 2016, before going on to secure a shock victory in Germany later in the campaign.

Hamilton beat three former world champions during that German Masters triumph and now faces another in Trump, who he managed to beat in the Championship League earlier this year.

Whether it's Trump or Hamilton who reaches the semi-final, they could face Mark Selby, a 4-1 winner against Ken Doherty. First, Selby will have to overcome John Higgins, who edged out Stephen Maguire 4-3 in a late-night thriller.

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