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Friday, 13 January 2017

The Masters Preview

Well after a short break from our screens over the Christmas period,snooker returns with a vengeance this weekend,as all eyes focus on the "Ally Pally" in London for the start of the 2017 Masters and what a fascinating tournament it promises to be.

Top Half
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Liang Wenbo
Ronnie was at his imperious best here last year as he swept aside Barry Hawkins 10-1 in the final to claim a sixth Masters title and although he has as of yet failed to reach that level again this season his overall application in his matches has been excellent.After a few near misses it is surely only a matter of time before hi wins again and where better than here in his own back yard.

Liang Wenbo has already had a season to remember,lifting the English Open title and its not beyond the realms of possibility that the unpredictable Chinese could cause an upset here,but I just don't see it happening
Score prediction; Ronnie to win this one 6-2

Neil Robertson v Ali Carter
This could be an interesting one. All recent form between the two points to a Robertson victory,but after a good start to the season,the Aussie went completely off the boil towards the end off 2016,so Ali may well smell blood here.That said though I still think Robertson might just edge it in a close encounter that may well go the distance.
Score prediction Robertson 6-5

Judd Trump v Marco Fu
Another intriguing encounter here with Trump trying to put aside an indifferent Masters record against the tours most recent winner in Scottish Open victor Marco Fu. Trump for his part has also tasted success this season,but after that impressive victory in European Masters,it has once again been disappointing that he hasn't kicked on to challenge for silverware more consistently.I still think Trump might edge this one though.
Score prediction Trump 6-3

John Higgins v Mark Allen
Leave aside Selby and without doubt the player of the season has been John Higgins. The legendary Scot has been at times back to his very best with superb victories in the China Championship & the Champion of Champions.He may even have claimed another UK had it not been for a deciding frame defeat by Selby .Included in those fine runs were a couple of victories over his opponent here and despite a poor Master record by comparison with everything else I expect Higgins to progress here .
Score prediction Higgins 6-4

Bottom Half
Stuart Bingham v Joe Perry
A match here that will also be hard to call,but that is mostly down to the fact that both these players have largely struggled after decent starts to the season. I think though Binghma might have the edge here,provided Mrs Bingham hasn't gone into labour!!
Score prediction Bingham 6-2

Ding Junhui v Kyren Wilson
Potentially the tie of the round here with the Chinese no.1 taking on the brightest of the games rising stars.Ding delighted his home fans with victory over Selby in the Shanghai Masters in September,but when he was beaten 10-1 by the same opponent in the International Championship it seemed to rock his fragile confidence again and his form dipped thereafter.Wilson has also had a mixed time of it,at times looking the real deal and at others looking that he still has much to learn,just how he handles his debut here may well tell us where he is.

Another tough one to call,but I think experience may seal it for Ding
Score prediction Ding 6-4

Shaun Murphy v Barry Hawkins
Murphy has been in the headlines in recent weeks with his stated aim of becoming world no.1 and although this tournament does not carry any ranking points,victory here would maybe show that such a dream may still be achievable. His opponent here Hawkins will be hoping to go one better than last year,but a remarkable head to head record in Murphys favour here may well be the telling thing.
Score prediction Murphy 6-3

Mark Selby v Mark Williams
The big question this week is can Selby join the elite club who have held the games three biggest prizes at the same time. Selby was at his very best  just last month in beating Ronnie to claim the UK  title and a repeat of that form here would certainly see him go very close to achieving that.Ironically Selby's first round opponent here is the last man to hold all three majors at the same time, Mark William,The Welshman has shown flashes of his old best of late,but I doubt he has it still to repel Selby
Score prediction Selby 6-2

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Trump The European Master

Judd Trump is the European Masters champion after getting the better of Ronnie O'Sullivan,9-8 in a pulsating final in Bucharist this evening.

A final between these two always comes with the promise that there might be something special in the offing and that is certainly what we got here in a free flowing exhibition of all that is good in the game.

This was Trumps sixth ranking title and its hard to believe any of the other would have given him as much satisfaction as this one did against an O'Sullivan playing near the top of his game, in fact is says a lot for Trump that despite what his opponent was producing,it was he who produced the bigger breaks.

Into the match itself and it looked early on as if it was going to be "one of those days"for Trump as after a few slices of bad fortune he somehow found himself 3-1 down at the first midsession interval & then 5-3 down at the end of the first session.

Trump though,with what seemed total faith in his game reeled off the first three of the night to lead 6-5.,before a 72 from Ronnie stopped the rot to level at 6-6.When Ronnie then also took the next two to lead 8-6,a 29th ranking title for O'Sullivan looked assured,but back came Trump with a 109,his third century of the day,to close to 8-7.

Into the next and on the flight home it is perhaps on this one that Ronnies mind will focus when he thinks about where he lost it.On three separate occasions here Ronnie knocked in cracking opening reds,but couldn't fashion any of them into the match winning chance he needed and Trump capitalised to level at 8-8.

Into the decider and it was Ronnie again who failed to capitalise from the opening chance,before Trump took full advantage of a missed long red .holding his nerve to construct a fabulous match winning break despite the black tied up in baulk..

When Trump burst on the professional scene in 2011,you would never have though it would take him until 2016 to win a sixth ranking title,but he has perhaps at times not shown the game or his talent the respect it deserves,hopefully now though we are looking a a mature young man who will go on the fulfill his full potential in the game.

As for Ronnie,although upset that he didn't win this,he will also probably be quite satisfied with his game that seemed to be getting sharper and sharper as the week with on. On the evidence of this there is little doubt that 29th ranking title is not far away.

This of course was the first ranking event held in Romania and after a week where the the crowds and enthusiasm just grew and grew I have no doubt we will be back here for many years to come.

Finally it would be remiss of me to let the day pass without mentioning the late great Paul Hunters,whose tenth anniversary occurs today.Its hard to believe with the way the game has gone in that time that he wouldn't have been by now probably a multiple world champion.Sadly that chance was robbed from him at a much too young an age.One thing for sure though is that he would have approved heartily of the swashbuckling way this final was played today.

We now move into a manic period of tournaments with the English Open starting in the morning.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Shanghai Masters-Glory for Ding

An emotional Ding Junhui claimed the 2016 Shanghai Masters title earlier today,with a 10-6 win over world champion Mark Selby in a highly entertaining final

This was Dings 12th ranking title and ends a two year ranking title drought for the Chinese number 1 and gained him a small slice of revenge for his Crucible final loss to Selby last March.

Those two seasons had been torrid for Ding,as he seemed to lose all confidence and had fallen so low as to have to qualify for that world championship.Those days can be forgotten now though as what we saw this week was the Ding of old.

Into the match itself and though both showed themselves to be in good stroke early on with a century each,it was Selby who took the lead to the first interval at 3-1.From here though it was all Ding and as his confidence grew he first drew level at 3-3 ,before continuing to dominate,eventually reeling off five in a row to finish the session 6-3 ahead.

If we know anything about Selby though it is that he never gives in and into the evening session he made a storming start,rolling in breaks of 76,102 & 53 without reply to level it up at 6-6. 

This made the next frame vitally important and it is a testament to Dings mental strength that he could knock in a superb 97 to edge ahead again at 7-6.

That put him on the front foot again and when they resumed further breaks of 52 & 63 put him on the brink of victory at 9-6.That victory eventually came in the next,despite the best snookering efforts of Selby,as Ding sealed the 10-6 win.

This was really an excellent final and a fitting end to what has been a super week of snooker. The crowds were great and the atmosphere for the final was possibly the best we've had for a final In China.The fact that we only had 32 players at the venue really helped as it didn't have the rushed feeling we get from so many of the flat draw tournaments. It was also nice to not have best of 7's for a change.

As for the players,this was the second great final between these two in a matter of months and if the Selby v Ding rivalry was to become the narrative for the season,we wont have any complaints.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Shanghai Masters Semi Final Round Up

The final of the 2016 Shanghai Masters will be a repeat of last seasons world final as Mark Selby once again takes on Ding Junhui for the £85,000 top prize.

Mark Selby was the first player to secure his place in the final ,but only after completing a trademark Selby comeback to eventually sneak past Stuart Bingham 6-5.

This of course was a battle between the games two most recent world champions and at different times today,they each showed flashes of the form that helped them claim those titles.

First out of the blocks in this one was Selby,who,with the help of breaks of 76 & 65,went to the interval leading 3-1.When they resumed though the game changed completely as Selby's form went walkabout under a barrage of scoring from Bingham.Runs of 67 & 123 drew him level,before further breaks of 72 & 87 gave him four frames in a row and put Bingham on the brink of the final at 5-3.

As we all know by now though,there is noone in the game at the moment more dangerous when he's behind than Selby.Back he came to take a scrappy ninth,before breaks of 63 & 68 drew him level at 5-5 to force the decider.From here there was probably only one winner and the world no.1 got over the line to secure his final place.

His opponent there will be Ding Junhui who shook off the challenge of Stephen Maguire 6-3 to claim his final place.This one didn't quite have the quality of the first semi final as a cagey start saw them go to the interval at 2-2.

A counter attack in the fifth frame saw Maguire take the lead at 3-2,but that was as good as it got for the Scot as Ding took the next four to seal the 6-3 win.

So as I said this is a repeat of last years Crucible decider and I'm sure Ding will be hoping he starts this one a bit better than he did that.Lets hope he does and that both players give this tournament the final it deserves.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Shanghai Masters Quarer Finals Round Up.

Four players remain in the hunt to be crowned the 2016 Shanghai masters champion after a day of hard fought last 8 action.

The first semi final tomorrow will see the last two world champions battling it out for a place in the final as Stuart Bingham takes on Mark Selby

Bingham has shown a welcome return to form here this week,but in truth didn't have to be near his best today as Ali Carter struggled to reproduce the snooker that had seen him beat John Higgins yesterday.

Bingham took the opening two frames here to lead 2-0,before Carter got on the board taking the third frame on the black.That was as good as it got for him though as Bingham pulled away again to seal a comfortable 5-1 victory.

Mark Selby on the other hand had to fight a bit harder to reach the semi final against a stubborn Ryan Day.

This was a tight affair with Selby perhaps counting himself lucky to be leading 3-1 at the interval.The next couple were shared,before Day got back within one again at 4-3.That was as close as  got though as Selby got the frame he needed to close out the 5-3 win.

The other semi final see's home favourite Ding Junhui take on probably the player of the week so far in Stephen Maguire.

In an exciting match Ding finally ended the challenge of Michael Holt to the delight of the home crowd as he sealed his semi final spot with a 5-3 win.

It was Ding who took the early initiative here to lead 2-0,but runs of 77 & 50 drew Holt level at the interval.Ding again edged ahead with a 103 when they resumed,but back came Holt again with a 64 to make it 3-3.It was Ding though who pulled away again with a 61 to go 4-3 and he sealed the win in the next to secure his last four place.

Stephen Maguire had a much easier time of it as he swept by Michael White 5-1..

Both best of 11 semi finals take place tomorrow with Selby v Bingham up first with Ding v Maguire following in the evening.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Shanghai Masters Last 16 Round Up

Last 16 day in Shanghai and we had victory for the home favourite,good wins for the last two world champions and  the exit of a couple of the games legends legends,

The home crowds once again went home happy as Ding Junhui progressed to the quarter finals with an impressive 5-2 win over Mark Allen.

Ding had struggled in the previous round to see off Scott Donaldson ,but although he lost the first frame here he quickly found his groove to reel off four in a row to lead 4-1.A 64 was enough for Allen to pull one back in the next,but Ding was not to be denied as he took the next to seal the win

He will now face Michael Holt,who followed up his victory over the defending champion Kyren Wilson in the last round with another fine display today to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 5-2.

Although he had come through the last round by the skin of hid teeth it didn't mask just rusty Ronnie had appeared to be and against an opponent like Holt has become,you simply can't get away with that.Three frames in a row from Holt here saw him turn a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead and although Ronnie threatened to spark a comeback in the next,another miss on an easy black spelled the end for him as Holt cleared with 64 to seal a famous win.

A strange thing that seemed to creep into Judd Trumps game last season was a tendency for the wheels to fall off when he seemed to be completely in control in a match and that reared its head again today against Michael White.

Trump had won his first round here without dropping a frame and stormed into a 3-0 lead today,but back came White and Trump had no answer as the Welshman won five in a row to win 5-3.

He will face the maximum man Stephen Maguire who continued his fine run here this week with a 5-3 win over Barry Hawkins.

Former world champ Stuart Bingham surely must be starting to grow in confidence again as he booked his quarter final place with another solid display to overcome David Gilbert 5-2 & he next faces Ali Carter again showed his game to be in a good place beating John Higgins 5-2

World champ Mark Selby needed to produce something nearing his best to eventually shake off the determined challenge of Stuart Carrington,eventually getting over the line 5-3 & will now play Ryan Day who beat Mei Xi Wen 5-2.

Quarter finals
Michael Holt v Ding Junhui
Michael White v Stephen Maguire
Stuart Bingham v Ali Carter
Mark Selby v Ryan Day

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Shanghai Masters The Story So Far.

Three days into the 2016 Shanghai Masters and we've already had plenty to thrill what seem for once to be very healthy Chinese crowds.

Of course to begin with here,we had the dreaded wildcard round,which although nothing more than an inconvenience to most,still always seems to trip someone up.This time it was Martin Gould who went down 5-0 to 16 year old Yuan Sijan..The other thing of note from this round was a 147 from Stephen Maguire in his win over Yi Chen Zu.

Into the tournament proper then and we've already said goodbye to our defending champion Kyren Wilson who wen down 5-2 to the always tricky Michael Holt..He will next face Ronnie O'Sullivan,found some form just in the nick of time as he fought back from 4-1 to beat Liang Wenbo 5-4.

Home favourite Ding Junhui had to also use all his battling skills to eventually see off Scott Donaldson 5-4 & he will now face Mark Allen who dispatched recent Indian Open winner Anthony McGill 5-0.

Michael White held his nerve to see off Ricky Walden in a deciding frame 5-4 where by contrast his opponent in the  next round Judd Trump had a much easier time of it,easing past Ben Woollaston 5-0.

5-0 scorelines were much the order of the day as Barry Hawkins whitewashed Robert Milkins to set up a last 16 clash with the in form Stephen Maguire who dispatched new father Shaun Murphy by the same scoreline.

Stuart Bingham showed signs of a welcome return to form with a 5-0 win over Jamie Jones and he will now play David Gilbert,who turned around a 3-0 deficit against Marco Fu,winning in the end 5-4.

Also making a slow start in his match was John Higgins,who was perhaps lucky to reach his interval with Matt Selt only 3-1 behind,but the veteran Scot found his touch when they resumed to run out a 5-3 winner.

A slow start is probably not a luxury Higgins can afford in his next match though as next faces an in form opponent in Ali Carter,who dispatched Kurt Maflin with the minimum of fuss 5-1.

Ryan Day & Mei Xi Wen will also face each other after both provided the only real shocks in the first round.Day reached the last 16 with a 5-2 win over Neil Robertson  in a match that wont live long in the memory,while Mei Xi Wen beat former world champ Mark Williams 5-3.

Finally world champ Mark Selby brought the run of  Yuan Sijan to an end with a 5-1 win & will now play Stuart Carrington who beat Joe Perry 5-4..

From here the tournament now starts to up the pace with all last 16 matches taking place tomorrow.Hopefully from here the already good crowds continue to build to what could be a grandstand weekend.