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Friday, 24 October 2014

International Championship preview.

Well after what  has been a stuttering start to the 2014/15 season,consisting of three full ranking events and a few PTC's,things really begin to pick up pace over the next month with "China's Major" the International Championship starting things off next week in Chengdu.

This tournament of course is a relatively new one on the circuit,but from the outset with its format and prize money it is obviously hoped that in time it will become equivalent to the UK Championship in terms of  stature in the game.

For this this to happen some would argue,as has been the case in its first two years,it needs to continue to be won by the sports biggest names,but two of our brightest stars wont be among those who line up next week having fallen victim to the qualifying round in Barnsley.

The first of these is defending champion Ding Junhui,who,just as was the case with the Wuxi Classic,failed to negotiate the round of 128. I do get the case for the flat draw system,but surely situations like we have here,where practically unknown local wildcards will be playing at the venue next week & China's number one will  not cannot be good for the game. There must be a way around this that satisfies everyone.

The other noticeable absentee is our World Champion Mark Selby who uncharacteristically let a 4-0 lead slip against young Oliver Lines,going down in the end 6-4.This at the time was a major shock,but since then Lines,who is on tour courtesy of his victory in the European Under 21 Championship,has continued to make waves in his first season,following this up with a fine run in the Bulgarian Open and just this morning losing out to Stuart Bingham in the final APTC 2.It would appear,far from that win against Selby been a flash in the pan,that this is definitely a young man we will be hearing plenty more of in the coming yrs.

In the absence of Ding the top quarter looks on all recent form to be a shoot out between Stuart Bingham & Mark Allen.As iIve said already above Bingham this morning added APTC2 to the Shanghai Masters title he won last month, where incidentally in the final he beat Allen.These two are on course for a last 16 meeting here and it would surprise me if the winner of that clash didn't reach the semi final with perhaps only Michael White potentially throwing a spanner in the works.

Into the second quarter & with Ding & Selbys absence it was no doubt a relief to the organisers  that Ronnie O'Sullivan managed to negotiate the first round and will cue up here on Sunday.He faces a potentially tricky opener against Ben Woollaston,but should he  get through there "The Rocket" might start to fancy the job  in a quarter of the draw that,if near his best,shouldn't pose many problems,albeit he may have to face to granite Scottish pair of McManus & Higgins.

Into the third quarter and it may well be a rematch of the 2012 final here with Robertson v Trump that decides it. Robertson,despite a victory in the Wuxi Classic,hasn't produced the consistent form that was his trademark last season just yet,but the season is still young and it will surely come. Trump also has an early season ranking title to his name from his victory in Australia, has rarely since reached the level he did in collecting this trophy two yrs ago.All that said though however this slightly longer format suits both these men and they should enjoy good runs here.

The fourth quarter in the absence of Selby is again an open one,but surely its wide open for Shaun Murphy,who has been brimming with confidence lately to make a real impact in this tournament with the main dangers to him perhaps been,Stephen Maguire,Marco Fu and that young man Oliver Lines who will be looking for a few more major scalps.

The action gets underway on Sunday with Eurosport providing extensive coverage all week.






Monday, 15 September 2014

Shanghai Masters Final - Triumph for Bingham

Stuart Bingham is the 2014 Shanghai Masters champion  after he beat Mark Allen 10-3 in a one sided final yesterday.

Bingham,who away from the limelight  had been probably one of weeks best performers,started like a train in this one winning the opening four frames to lead 4-0 at the first interval.Allen finally got off the mark in the next but the following two were shared to make it 5-2. .A 69 from Allen in the next made it 5-3 with one frame left in the session.

The importance of that frame in the context of the match seemed to get to both players as things got very scrappy,but it was Bingham who eventually took it to lead 6-3,which was in truth a fair reflection of how the session had gone.

Into the final session and another scrappy frame to open,again went to Bingham to move him to 7-3  and from here he never looked back as he went on to win the next three to secure a 10-3 victory/

Glory has come late in the day for Bingham who won his first ranking event aged 35 in the 2011 Australian Open,but few have embraced this new era of snooker with the enthusiasm Stuart has and his "have cue will travel" attitude  has reaped some rich rewards over the last few seasons..

For Allen,though he will be disappointed  to have not made a better game of it yesterday,but this was his third final of the season so far and hopefully he can kick on again and challenge for more titles as the year progresses.

The other news to come this week was the postponement of The Indian Open which has now been switched to March meaning,except for a couple of PTC events in Europe & China we have to wait until the end of October and the International Championship before we see another full ranking event.I would suggest some of our games big stars use this time wisely to tune up ahead of what is going to be a busy time of it from then on.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Shanghai Masters Semi Final round up

The final of the 2014 Shanghai Masters will see Mark Allen face off against Stuart Bingham following a day of comebacks and high drama that certainly gave the crowd their money's worth.

What was to come seemed a million miles away in the first of the days semi finals when Mark Selby flew out of the blocks to take a convincing 3-1 lead over Mark Allen at the interval. That lead became 5-2 shortly after and it seemed only a matter of time until the World Champ sealed the frame he needed to reach another final,but Allen had other ideas.He took a close eighth to close to 5-3 and from here he produced his best snooker of the match,winning the next two with breaks 115 & 64 to level things up a 5-5.

Into that decider then and Selby seemed to have weathered the storm as set about constructing what looked likely to be a match winning break. This wasn't to be however,as a needless attempt to split the reds with his break on 63,left him out of position and a series of scoring visits,the last of which followed a missed pink from Selby to the centre,allowed Allen to clear the colours and claim the 6-5 win on the black.

This win will no doubt have satisfied Allen a great deal having seen been the victim of a similar comeback from Selby in the final of the Riga Open a couple of months back.This time it was the Irishman who out-Selbyed Selby to keep up,what in recent seasons,has been an impressive overseas record

Another payer with a fine record when on his travels is Stuart Bingham,but playing the defending champion Ding Junhui in front of his own crowd,he came into today as the firm underdog.
That seemed to be an accurate reflection of the match when Ding opened up a 4-2 lead,but then something extraordinary happened. Ding seemed to lose his concentration and Bingham started to score in the fashion that had seen him reach this stage of the tournament with the minimum of fuss,

Breaks of  63,59 & 97  were enough to see Bingham reel off four frames in a row and secure his place in the final with a 6-4 victory.

So there we have it, not the final any of us would have been expecting,but a fascinating one none the less. Going on form during the week, Bingham has certainly been the more consistent,but Allen produced his very best stuff in his win over Selby and will no doubt have been filled with confidence following that.

This is really too close to call but with a gun to my head I would slightly favour Allen.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Shanghai Mastersc Quarter Finals round up.

Quarter finals day at the Shanghai Masters and we had a day of relative calm in three of the matches and a real nail biter in the other.

Lets the straight forward results out of the way first.Ding Junhui is still firmly on course to defend the title he lifted here 12 months ago after a convincing 5-2 victory over Graeme Dott. Time was when the weight of expectation seemed to stifle Ding in his home events,but that certainly now it seems well in the past and he will take some stopping this weekend.

His semi final opponent will be Stuart Bingham,who brought the run of Alan McManus to an end,beating the Scot 5-1.

Thins did not fair any better for McManus's fellow veteran Fergal O'Brien,as the Irishman went down 5-0 to Mark Selby. This one could have been a bit closer if at 2-0 down Fergal had managed to take either of the close frames that followed,but he couldn't manage it and Selby wrapped up the whitewash with a 76 break in the last.

The other quarter final also had a one sided look to it when Mark Allen took a tight fifth frame to lead Michael White 4-1,but from here the Welshman found some form,knocking in breaks of 85,83 & 76 to level it up at 4-4. In the decider both had their chances,but it was Allen who eventually fell over the line to win 5-4.

The semi finals take place tomorrow with that Ding v Selby final still very much on the cards.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Shanghai Masters Last 16 round up.

Day four at the 2014 Shanghai Masters and home favouite Ding Junhui stayed firmly on course to defend the title he won here last yr,but not without an early scare against Martin Gould.

As always against the very best player Gould knew he needed a good start here to have a chance and thats what he got,taking the opening frame and a lengthy second to lead 2-0. From here though Ding visibly stepped up a gear and leveled at 2-2 going to the interval.

On the resumption of play Ding extended that lead to 4-2 to stand one away from victory & although Gould managed to pull one back,it was Ding who sealed his place in the last 8 winning the next to secure the 5-3 victory

His quarter final opponent will be Graeme Dott after the Scot won the battle of the former world champions,beating Shaun Murphy 5-3.

World Champion Mark Selby is also well in the hunt for another title after he survived a mid match revival from Michael Holt,which saw Holt level at 3-3 from 3-0 down,to eventually secure a 5-3 win.

Next up for him is Irish veteran Fergal O'Brien,who continued his decent start to the season by defeating Zhao Xindong 5-3.

A free scoring start to this saw the opening six frames shared in this one,before things got a little scrappier & the experience of the Dubliner showed as he ran out a 5-3 winner.Although he did reach the final of a PTC event last yr this is the first time Fergal has reached a full ranking quarter final since 2007. A hard worker at his game,he will not be intimidated by playing the World champ
tomorrow.

Talking of veterans,Alan McManus continued his recent resurgence,following up his victory over Ronnie in the last round with a comprehensive 5-1 defeat of his fellow Scot Stephen Maguire here.

It has really been a remarkable few monthes for McManus,who was a quarter finalist at the Crucible in April & he will go into his last 8 encounter with Stuart Bingham here brimming with confidence.Bingham for his part reached this stage with an easy 5-1 dismissal of Dominic Dale.

Tee remaining Quarter final could potentially be the most exciting as Mark Allen takes on Michael White.

Allen reached this stage with a 5-1 victory over Mark Williams & White defeated fellow Welshman Ryan Day 5-2.

So there we have it.8 will become 4 tomorrow as we  approach the business end of things over the weekend. The draw points to a Ding v Selby final,but when have such things in our sport ever been straight forward!

Quarter Final draw 
Ding Junhui v Graeme Dott
Alan McManus v Stuart Bingham
Mark Allen v Michael White
Mark Selby Fergal O'Brien

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Shanghai Masters The Story so Far.

Three days of action at the 2014 Shanghai Masters and with the completion of the last 32,as well as the dreaded wild card round,we have a healthy mix of big names and those hoping to capitalize on some good early season form left to battle it out in tomorrows last 16.

Here are the headlines from what we've seen so far.

Defending champion Ding Junhui eased his way through with a 5-1 victory over  Jack Lisowski.This had looked on paper as if it could be a tricky one for the Chinese,but in truth he was never really put under any pressure.

World Champion Mark Selby also showed some decent form in beating the veteran Irishman Ken Doherty 5-2.,but his World final opponent Ronnie O'Sullivan opponent didn't fair as well in his first ranking outing of the season,going down 5-3 to the resurgent Alan McManus.

There were mixed results for Ronnies fellow members in "The class of 92" with Mark Williams showing he still has the bottle for the fight,beating Barry Hawkins 5-4 but sadly there was more frustration for John Higgins,who in what seems to be becoming a worrying trend for him,couldn't finish the job off from well in front,as he let a 4-2 lead turn into a 5-4 defeat to Ryan Day.

The last 16 will also be missing the winners of this seasons two previous ranking event with both Neil Robertson & Judd Trump crashing out here in the last 32. Robertson will be wondering just how it came to this as he looked in complete control when leading Michael White 3-0,but the Welshman battled back to edge this one in a decider, 5-4.Trump for his part never looked comfortable and was duly punished by Dominic Dale,going down 5-2.

The much criticized Wildcard round claimed its usual couple of victims with Liang Wenbo & Matthew Selt exiting before their tournament really began,Indeed Selts conqueror Zhao Xintong produced another shock in the next round,beating Marco Fu 5-4. He will now play Fergal O'Brien,who is also doing his bit for the over 40's and reached the last 16 with a fine 5-1 over Robert Milkins.

Elsewhere recently crowned "6 red" world champion Stephen Maguire quickly dispatched Jimmy Rbertson 5-1 and  Shaun Murphy & Graeme Dott will face each other in a battle of the former world champs after recording 5-4 & 5-2 wins over  Joe Swail & Yan Bingtao respectively.

Here is the draw for the last 16

Ding Junhui v Martin Gould
Graeme Dott v Shaun Murphy
Dominic Dale v Stuart Bingham
Stephen Maguire v Alan McManus
Michael White v Ryan Day
Mark Williams v Mark Allen
Zhao Xintong v Fergal O'Brien
Michael Holt v Mark Selby


Monday, 7 July 2014

Australian Goldfields Open Trumps Triumph

Judd Trump finally brought an end to his 20 month ranking title drought yesterday,when he beat home favourite Neil Robertson 9-5 to lift the 2014 Australian Goldfields Open title.

In a match that probably never really lived up to its potential it was the 24 year old from Bristol who produced the better snooker to deny Robertson the home victory he craved as well as the chance of collecting back to back ranking titles following his win in Wuxi last week.

It had been Robertson who had gotten off to the better start to lead 2-1,but things were quickly level again at 3-3 before Trump produced runs of 55 & 114 to lead 5-3 going into the night session.

The first frame of the night could have gone either way but it was Trump who took it on the colours to extend his lead to 6-3.That became 7-3 when he also took the next and he followed that up with a  beautifully crafted 101 break to move to the brink of victory at 8-3.

Robertson of course hasn't enjoyed the success he has in his career by rolling over and he started to find some form taking the next two to close to 8-5. There was to be no fairytale comeback here though as Trump took the frame he needed to clinch a fine 9-5 win.

Thinking back to the last ranking event that Trump had won (2012 International Championship) and the way he was playing then,it is hard to believe that ranking title number four has been so long coming,but such has been the decline in his form during that period that many were indeed starting to question were his best days already behind him?

This is a pressure though that Trump has always been under,ever since his heroics at junior level put him on everyones radar as a certain future champion,with this seemingly being borne out by his run to the World final in 2011.What we have to remember is that Judd is still only 24 years old and at a time where the average age of title winners is creeping into the 30's again he still has plenty of time to live up to his potential.

The fact that he decided to play both here and in Wuxi certainly points to player determined to make an impact this season.

As for Robertson defeat here in the final for a second successive year will be hard to take but he can console himself that he has at least picked up where he left off last season and this current run has put him back to the top of the world rankings.

Snooker takes a break now for the month of July.but what we have seen over the last couple of weeks sertainly whets the appetite for whats to come over the autumn and winter months. The fact that we can now throw the name Trump back into to potential tournament winners pot,only adds to what already looks like being a fascinating season.