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Welsh Open day six preview - Battle for pair to make first ever ranking final

The Welsh Open has produced a number of shocks in recent years, with Jordan Brown, Joe Perry and Robert Milkins lifting the crown in the last three editions.

Another surprise looks to be on the cards, with some unlikely names through to the last four.

To Win Outright odds

John Higgins - 8/11
Gary Wilson - 3/1
Elliot Slessor - 13/2
Martin O'Donnell - 13/2

Elliot Slessor is through to his third ranking semi-final and will face Martin O’Donnell, who produced a big upset when getting the better of Luca Brecel in their quarter-final matchup.

One of those men will be in a ranking final for the first time and they will face either Scottish Open winner Gary Wilson or former world champion John Higgins. 

Slessor looking to set up potential local clash

Elliot Slessor has reached the semi-finals of the British Open and the Northern Ireland Open and has now reached the last four of another Home Nations tournament after an impressive run at this year’s Welsh Open.

An opening 4-1 win over Ali Carter was followed by a victory by the same scoreline against Dylan Emery before getting the better of Fan Zhengyi 4-3 in a close encounter, coming from 3-2 down to do so.

Slessor then faced veteran Dominic Dale in the quarter-finals and produced a 5-3 victory to set up this clash with Martin O’Donnell.

The stakes are even higher as both of these men could sneak into the Players Championship field if they win this tournament.

The 29-year-old has defeated O’Donnell in two of their three head-to-heads, including a 10-3 victory in the 2020 World Championship, which was their most recent meeting.

The potential prize for Slessor is a clash with Gary Wilson, who is in the other semi-final.

They both practice at the same club in North Tyneside and a final between the pair would be a bittersweet occasion for the good friends.

O’Donnell may fall short

Martin O’Donnell has never reached a semi-final of a ranking event outside of the Shoot Out but wins over Chris Wakelin, Anthony Hamilton and Marco Fu set up the Minister of Defence for a quarter-final matchup with a resurgent Luca Brecel.

O’Donnell rallied from 3-2 down to rattle off three frames in a row and secure his passage to the semi-final.

The 37-year-old is likely to play more defensively than Slessor to frustrate his opponent but the latter’s scoring power could make the difference between these two and he could be the one to reach a first ever ranking final. 

Wilson in emphatic form

Gary Wilson has taken his career to new heights in recent seasons, winning the Scottish Open in 2022 and then defending his title a year later.

The world number 16 is a different beast to the player from a few years ago and has been in rock-solid form at this year’s Welsh Open.

Wilson got the better of Iulian Boiko 4-2 in the first match of his campaign before a narrow 4-3 victory over the mercurial Jack Lisowski in the last 32, which saw Wilson surrender a 3-1 lead before nicking the match in a decider.

From then on, though, the Tyneside Terror has not put a foot wrong, picking up a 4-0 win over Robert Milkins before beating Anthony McGill 5-0 in the quarter finals.

Wilson now has the experience of battling it out in the latter stages of ranking competitions and the former World Championship semi-finalist will pose a tough test for John Higgins in such fine fettle.

Head-to-head record gives Higgins advantage

By far the most prolific winner in this field, John Higgins has 31 ranking titles to his name and is a four-time world champion.

The Wizard of Wishaw is clearly in the twilight of his career but has been in fine form of late.

Comfortable wins over Mohammed Ibrahim, Tian Pengfei and Ryan Day set up a  round-of-16 clash with Matthew Selt, which Higgins was somewhat fortunate to edge 4-3.

There was no luck about his 5-2 win over Mark Allen in the last eight however, and he has an impressive head-to-head record against Gary Wilson.

The Scot has won six of the seven meetings between these two, including a 6-2 victory in the last four of this competition in 2018.

That may have a psychological effect on both players and while Wilson can run Higgins close, the serial winner may just edge it.

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