Maguire meets Higgins in Welsh Open quarters after more shocks

Top snooker stars are dropping like flies at this year’s Welsh Open in Cardiff, and Coral now make 2013 champion Stephen Maguire a narrow 7/2 tournament favourite.

Glasgow’s man ‘on-fire’ faces fellow Scottish potter John Higgins, back-to-back winner of this tournament in 2010 and 2011, in the quarter-finals.

‘The Wizard of Wishaw’ has lost each of the last seven meetings with Maguire, so is an 11/10 match outsider for their last eight encounter. Higgins did defeat his compatriot in the 2011 final, however, and is an 11/2 chance to take a third Welsh Open title.

Shorter frame formats have suited Maguire when you look into their head-to-heads so, while backing him for victory at an odds-on price of 8/11 looks scant value, taking 5/1 on him beating Higgins 5-3 looks a worthy investment.

Elsewhere in the quarters, tournament 4/1 second-favourite Marco Fu tackles Welsh home hope Mark Williams, who knocked Judd Trump out. A partisan Cardiff crowd will be firmly behind two-time event winner Williams, even-money to win the match, as his Hong Kong opponent knocked out compatriot Matthew Stevens.

With Williams a 6/1 shot to end a 16-year wait for a native Welsh Open winner, he will also be out to avenge his last 16 loss in Newport at this tournament last year.

The head-to-head record between himself and Fu is deliciously deadlocked at 12 victories apiece, so this one could go either way. Punters may fancy this best of nine battle to go the distance, so odds of 5/2 say there will be a deciding frame.

Fu is a narrow odds-on at 4/5 to win, but has lost two of his three meetings with Williams on Welsh soil, so the smart money may be on the latter.

Normally, everyone expects to see the likes of Masters champion Neil Robertson and world number one Mark Selby at the business end of tournaments. Both bowed out in the last 16, however, leaving lesser known names in the frame.

Ben Woollaston, who upset both Mark Allen and Ali Carter, clashes with fellow giant-killer Gary Wilson, after the latter made shock-waves by beating ‘the Thunder from Down Under’ Robertson. It’s Woollaston who is favourite at 8/15 to end Wilson’s run.

Ricky Walden against Selby slayer Luca Brecel completes the last eight line-up, and the brilliant Belgian is once again underestimated at 7/4, despite winning his only previous meeting with ‘the Walnut’.