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Methodical Maguire ends Zhao’s Crucible hopes: “The game plan unfolded perfectly”

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Zhao Xintong optimistic despite Crucible exit: “Next year, I can win this tournament”

Maguire was a 13-9 winner over Zhao on Saturday (PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo)

Stephen Maguire felt his game plan worked to perfection after defeating Zhao Xintong to reach the World Championship quarter-finals.

The Maverick is through to the last eight at the Crucible for the seventh time after wrapping up an impressive 13-9 victory over this season’s UK Championship and German Masters winner.

Maguire dominated proceedings to commence the final session with a commanding 11-5 lead, and held his nerve despite a brief fightback from Zhao.

The Scotsman certainly gained the upper hand in the tactical department, generally limiting his opponent and not allowing him too many opportunities to settle into his exciting natural rhythm.

Two-time semi-finalist Maguire also felt his greater levels of experience were crucial against the 25-year-old, who was making his first appearance in Sheffield as a seed.

“I just wanted to keep him tight. He’s never experienced the first to 13; he’s never experienced the barrier coming up,” he said.

“The Crucible’s a horrible place when the other guy’s beating you up or keeping you out. It worked out that way. He didn’t play his brilliant best, which was good for me.

“It was just lucky for me that it worked out exactly how I wanted it to.

“I’m not going to out-pot Zhao; I knew that from start to finish. I thought ‘keep him in the long grass and hopefully, the long fancy shots don’t go in’.

“I thought it was going to be tough for him to pot them all over the first to 13.

“I had a game plan at the start of the match, and I think it unfolded perfectly from my position.”

Maguire’s victory seemed all the more impressive given he opted to switch cues following his first-round win over Shaun Murphy.

But while the change may be significant to others, the six-time ranking event winner insists it does not make too much difference overall.

“When I played Shaun, I was rubbish. I went back up to Glasgow and made up my mind that I wasn’t coming down with that cue because I felt like I had no chance in the second round,” he added.

“I borrowed my mate’s cue, had a couple of days of practise with it and liked it. It seems like a good move.

“Any professional snooker player that says they can’t change their cue is off their head more than me! Of course, they can change their cue.

“The amount of snooker balls we did day in day out, 100 per cent that wood weakens. If you play every day, after about six years your cue loses power anyway.

“I know a few professionals who’ve had cues for 25 years, but I bet they’re rubbish.”

Meanwhile, Yan Bingtao established a 9-7 lead over reigning champion Mark Selby, with the pair due to conclude their clash on Saturday evening.

The Masters winner hit breaks of 101 and 91 to go 8-5 ahead and although Selby responded with runs of 132, 64 and 131, he crucially took the final frame of the morning session.

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