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Hossein Vafaei targeting Masters to make Iranian fans “proud”

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Vafaei stunned Selby in York on Tuesday (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Hossein Vafaei admits qualifying for the Masters would be “such a big achievement” after knocking Mark Selby out of the UK Championship.

The Prince of Persia denied the two-time champion at the York Barbican for the second year running, hitting breaks of 119, 88 and 80 to prevail a 6-4 winner on Tuesday.

Vafaei became the first Iranian to qualify for the Crucible earlier this year, while he also debuted at the Champion of Champions as a result of his claiming his maiden ranking title at the Shoot Out.

The world number 20 could also secure a first appearance at the Masters in January by reaching the semi-finals in York this week.

And while philosophical about the task of climbing into the world’s top 16, national pride is fuelling Vafaei’s determination to book his place at the Alexandra Palace.

“I don’t think about that, I just try to focus on what is in front of me,” he told Eurosport.

“If I’m good enough, I will make it. If I’m not good enough, I have to work harder to get there.

“It takes time to get to the Masters; it’s the top 16 players in the world. If I manage to go there, it’s such a big achievement for me and my country and my people.

“I’m trying my best to get there to try and make them happy and make them proud.”

In defeating Selby, Vafaei set up a last-16 showdown with Jack Lisowski after the six-time ranking event finalist enjoyed a commanding 6-1 victory over Wu Yize.

Meanwhile, former champions Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy will also collide in the second round after prevailing in deciding-frame finishes against Xiao Guodong and David Gilbert respectively.

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