Mark Selby booked his place in the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix with a battling 5-3 win over Hossein Vafaei.
Selby is on the crest of a wave following his win over Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final of the Scottish Open last weekend, and despite being below his best he was able to see off his Iranian opponent who looked nervous for large parts of the contest but showed grit to make the Leicester native fight for his win.
It wasn’t vintage snooker from Selby, as he missed a few makeable balls and ran out of position on occasions - but he showed mental toughness at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes to set up a meeting with Jack Lisowski who beat Zhao Xintong 5-3.
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Vafaei paid the price for some sloppy safety play in the first, with the only surprise being that Selby required three bites at the cherry before taking the frame.
The second started in a similar vein to the opener, as a poor safety from the Vafaei allowed Selby a chance. He knocked in a superb long red, but ran out of position with the break on 46.
Vafaei achieved a notable feat by getting the better of Selby in a sustained safety battle, but he left a red with the rest in the jaws and the former world number one pounced to seal a two-frame lead.
Vafaei made a name for himself when winning the World Amateur Snooker Championship in 2011 at the age of 17, and he demonstrated his quality by getting on the board in the third frame.
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A hard-working break of 37 - with the pink and black out of commission - proved to be a telling contribution as he then got the better of a lengthy safety battle to cut the deficit to one frame.
Selby bounced back immediately in the fourth, rolling in a century to head into the interval with a two-frame advantage.
The frame after the interval served up a bit of everything, with Vafaei knocking in some excellent pots only to miss a straightforward green with the remainder of the colours open.
Selby eventually took the 45-minute fifth frame, but only after inexplicably missing a straight pink off the spot. It was probably the simplest ball he has missed all season, but he regrouped to win a safety battle and then knocked in a tough pink.
Vafaei could have been forgiven for folding after losing the fifth, but he dug in to claim a cagey sixth frame and then rolled in a fluent 78 in the seventh to keep his hopes alive.
Selby cut a frustrated figure as Vafaei fought his way back into the contest, but he knows how to close out matches and dug into his reserves to drag himself over the line.
Lisowski knocked in two centuries - 111 and 109 - on his way to a battling victory over Zhao.
It is Lisowski’s first semi-final appearance since he advanced to the final of last season’s Scottish Open.
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