O'Sullivan and Selby on top form as brave Swail exits NI Open
Northern Ireland's last hope of a home winner at the NI Open was extinguished after Joe Swail was eliminated in the third round yesterday.
The Belfast man was beaten 4-2 by Scottish-Israeli cueman Eden Sharav, meaning all six local players were eliminated by the midway point of day four of the Waterfront Hall tournament.
For Swail it was a disappointing finish to his tournament as he dropped the final three frames of his match with Sharav on his way to defeat.
Although his opponent won the opening frame, a break of 59 in the second brought Swail level, and he went on to take the lead in the third in fairly straightforward fashion.
But from there he couldn't win another frame. Sharav breezed through the fourth frame before regaining the lead in the fifth with his own break of 59.
Swail (49) was presented with an opportunity to take it to a deciding frame in the sixth, but when he didn't take it, Sharav was decisive in securing the win.
The Israeli then backed that up by taking the scalp of Ali Carter in the fourth round to reach the quarter-finals, emerging a 4-3 victor in a thoroughly encapsulating tie at the Waterfront Hall.
After trading the opening two frames, with Sharav hitting a 91 break in the second, Carter moved within one of victory by taking the next two frames, including a 57 break in the fourth.
But Sharav was not to be beaten, taking the fifth frame, survivng a tense sixth where both players hit half-century breaks to force a decider, before holding his nerve to secure his place in the quarter-finals by winning the decisive seventh frame.
There he'll be joined by World No.1 Mark Selby, who accounted for Hamza Akbar 4-0 in the morning's third round before seeing off Martin O'Donnell 4-2 in the evening's last-16 tie.
Worryingly for the rest of the field, the Englishman is in sublime form too. He hit a half-century break in all eight frames he won, breaking the ton mark twice with his top score 122.
But he'll face tough opposition from tournament favourite and World No.3 Ronnie O'Sullivan, who is also looking in irresistible form and is on a high right now given his recent results.
The five-time world champion only dropped one frame between yesterday's third and fourth rounds, completing a 4-0 whitewash over Tom Ford in the afternoon before then breezing past Zhou Yuelong 4-1 in their last-16 clash in the evening session.
Like Selby, 'Rocket Ronnie' was also racking up high scores in each of his frames, with his high clocking in at 132 in the win over Yuelong.
O'Sullivan will meet David Gilbert in the last eight, the Tamworth-born potter one of the more impressive performers on day four in Belfast.
Gilbert accounted for Matthew Stevens in round three, coming out on top by a 4-2 scoreline, which he then followed up with a 4-0 victory over Lu Ning in round four to book his meeting with the tournament favourite.
Selby, meanwhile, will need to beat Thailand's Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, who also had a stellar day by only dropping one frame across his two victories against Chris Totten and Robbie Williams, while Sharav's quarter-final opponent is former world champion Peter Ebdon.
In the other last-eight tie, Judd Trump will meet Ryan Day in a heavyweight tie that sees the World No.5 clash with the World No.14.