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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.


Monday, 30 June 2014

Wuxi Classic Final,Robertson defends title.

Neil Robertson yesterday repeated his 2013 Wuxi Classic triumph,but only after coming through a titanic battle with his great friend Joe Perry,eventually claiming the crown with a 10-9 victory.

Perry came into this final still in search of his first full ranking title and it was he who got the better of the early exchanges to hold a 5-4 lead after the first session,indeed but for a typically gutsy display from Robertson the lead could have been even more. This however did leave things beautifully poised going into the evening session and it did not disappoint.

In a session where the momentum swung both ways it appeared early on that Robertson had ridden out the storm as he took four of the first five frames to lead 8-5. Perry though managed to stop the rot taking the next and drew level in a dramatic 16th frame,where after initially missing the final black he made the most of a second chance to level things up at 8-8.

Into the next and it was Perry who edged ahead again with a 93 to move to the brink at 9-8. A victory over Robertson though is not something that is gifted to you,but something you must earn and the Aussie was not for rolling over here taking the next with with an 87 to make it 9-9.

Into the decider then and it was Perry who got in first,but when he missed the blue with the rest on 18,Robertson pounced like all great champions do,knocking in a 78 to clinch the title and deny his close friend his day in the sunshine.

For Perry this will a heartbreaking defeat,but he can take some comfort  that,despite the fact he is now in the autumn of his career,he is now playing the best snooker of his life and if he keeps up this level of performance surely another run at a title can't be far away.

For Robertson he will be hoping this will be the springboard to more success this season.Of course last season he followed up his victory here by claiming his first UK Championship as well as the China Open and also that extraordinary century of centuries,but for all that I suspect he will look back at the year with a little disappointment that despite playing some superb snooker he didn't claim more trophies. The question for this season is can he make the leap from consistency to domination.

His next chance to do so comes this week with the tournament he'd like to win possibly most of all.The Australian Goldfields Open

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Wuxi Classic 2014

With World Cup fever currently gripping the globe and Wimbledon starting to take over our screens in this part of world,it would be easy to miss the fact that  the new snooker season has started in earnest,but start it has and eight men  still remain on course to lift the seasons first full ranking title this Sunday in Wuxi.

The very reason of course for this tournament been held in Wuxi is the fact that is the homestead of Ding Junhui,so it is therefore unfortunate that he failed to negotiate the first round which was played in England at the start of June and so was missing from the line up here.The fact that he was been made travel half way around the world to play a qualifying match ,while the local wild cards all had their matches held over to the venue is a discussion for another day,but anyway,Ding seems to have put it behind him quickly as he claimed the first of the Asian Tour events last weekend,beating Michael Holt  in the final.

Another notable absentee from the last 8 is our new world champion Mark Selby who went down 5-2 in the last 32 to the always dangerous Liang Wenbo.

So what of the last eight?Well considering this is only the first tournament of the new season we have remarkably strong line up still standing as we reach the weeks business end.

The obvious stand out tie,is the clash between Neil Robertson &  Shaun Murphy  and this one promises to be an early season classic,with both men picking up where they left off at the end of last term.Robertson it has seemed in recent times,has reached a level of performance that he just doesn't fall below and reached this stage with a comfortable 5-1 win over Michael Holt.Murphy for his part beat one of China's real rising stars ,17 yr old Zhao Xintong  5-2 to reach the quarter finals.

The winner of that one will face the winner of  Marco Fu Barry Hawkins.Both these men have fine early season records and came through today with wins over Stuart Bingham (5-4) & Alan McManus (5-2) respectively.

In the other half of the draw Martin Gould faces Stephem Maguire & Robin Hull squares up against Joe Perry

Gould is making a welcome return to the latter stages of an event for the first time in it seems quite a while and got here with a fine 5-3 victory over an in form Ryan Day.On the face of it Maguires 5-0 win over Judd Trump looks like it was a walk  in the park,but scorelines can be deceptive and this scrappy match was a lot closer than the score suggests.

Hull & Perry brought the runs of two of the Chinese contingent to and end with Hull recording a 5-1 win over Cao Yupeng & Perry beating Liang Wenbo 5-2.

The last eight matches all take place tomorrow with coverage on both Eurosport channels from 7.30 GMT

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

World Championship-Selbys Triumph + Thoughts on tournament

Mark Selby is the 2014 dafabet World Champion after an extraordinary comeback saw him beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 18-14 to claim his first world title.

This had seemed a most unlikely outcome on Sunday evening as at different stages Ronnie lead 8-3 & 10-5,but as he eluded to in his press conference an missed black at 10-5 allowed Selby a chance to win that frame and he then took the next,to end a day where he had not played well at all,just three behind at 10-7.

Selby of course has plenty of previous when it comes to mounting comebacks and in an absorbing start to the third session he completely dictated the play with some proper matchplay snooker to freeze Ronnie out and continue his fightback winning the opening four frames to amazingly lead for the first time at 11-10. Ronnie took the next to level at 11-11 and in a 50 minute 23rd frame looked have done the hard work,only to miss the most routine of pinks to the centre and Selby pounced to go 12-11.

Such was the length of time these frames were taking,the players were called ashore at this stage to give them some time to prepare for last nights final session. On resumption,a superb long red from Ronnie followed by a quickfire century saw him level again at 12-12,but Selby was starting to find his best from of the match now and he won the next three to go 15-12 at the interval

Your don't win as much in the game as Ronnie has if you don't have battling qualities and O'Sullivan showed these qualities to close within one at 15-14.We looked set now for a grandstand finish,but form here Selby produced his best snooker of the match,taking the next two with breaks of 127 & 87 to move to the brink at 17-14. Ronnie had his chance to win the next,but he couldn't get it done and Selby pounced to clear and claim a famous 18-14 victory.

This did of course not only secure a first World title for Selby,but it also completed a career triple crown of the sports major prizes and moved him back to no.1 in the rankings.Not a bad days at all then!

For Ronnie I think its probably fair to comment,that for all the fact that he coasted through the quarter and semi finals,he never really hit the heights that he had in the last two years here.This and the fact he let a five frame lead slip away will be big disappointment to him,but in his press conference he didn't give any reason to think he wont be back next year to try and claim a sixth title.

So then today as the dust settles on the the 2014 world championship what sort of 17 days did we have? Well firstly I don't think this,for all the drama of the first round, will be remembered as a vintage year standardwise and this may actually be a trend that was masked in the last two years by the success's of Ronnie.

Secondly another worrying trend is the ever rising average age of the players competing in the latter stages of events.These are of course solid professionals all,but when you have a situation where there are more players over 40 in the last 8 than players in their 20's it possibly points to the inconvenient truth that there is real a lack of great players coming through.This is something I will blog in more detail about in coming weeks

Thirdly it was a surprise to see Ding Junhui once again fail so dramatically here after a season where he had looked to have slayed many of his demons,but there were signs that Judd Trump is beginning to find some form again so maybe he can hit the heights he has previously again next season.

Fourthly, I want to congratulate the BBC on their coverage. Yes I know it was frustrating to see them leave a final frame decider for a repeat of Eggheads and in many ways thats unforgivable,but their early morning broadcasts were a welcome addition,as was their "Table Talk" section where they actually discussed in detail the real issues affecting the sport. For all the complaints I don't see any other broadcaster who could do it better.

Finaly though lets once again salute our champion.I will hold my hands up and admit I have never looked at Mark Selby as a potential world champion and I think that this was because,for all that I admire him as a professional,I could never really make up my mind if he was a decent player who won more than he should because of his dogged style or a great player who possessed a wonderful B game that saw through even when not at his best. I think I got my answer last night.Well done Mark Selby World Champion 2014

Saturday, 3 May 2014

World Championship Semi Final Round Up + Final preview

The final of the 2014 dafabet World Championship will see two of the sports great champions squaring off against each other as defending & five time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan faces Mark Selby over two days & the best of 35 frames for the games most coveted title.

Mark Selby reached the world final for the second time in his career tonight after a hard fought 17-15 win over Neil Robertson in a match that had everything.

From the outset this looked like it would be a close affair throughout and so it proved as a tight first session left Selby leading 5-3. In what was to become the trend for the match Robertson leveled things up at 5-5 at the start of the second session but Selby pulled away again to hold his lead at the end 9-7.

Into this mornings session then and when u have two players as renowned for their safety game as these two,a session like this was always on the cards and so it proved as a very long,but thoroughly engrossing eight frames left things perfectly poised for tonight ending as it did 12-12.

Out both players came tonight then and an extraordinary thing happen,as two players who at times seem to fall into the trap of not trying to lose rather then trying to win,both started to go for it and produce some fabulous snooker.Robertson was the first to strike,taking a 13-12 lead ,before two in a row from Selby saw him lead again at 14-13.Robertson then took the last before the interval to make it 14-14.

The match now had been reduced to a best of five and it was Selby who took a major leap towards the final taking the next two to move to the brink at 16-14. There was time for one more century for Robertson,bringing his season total to 103,but the end was to come in the 34th frame when a 74 from Selby saw him over the line to win 17-15.

By contrast his opponent in tomorrows final Ronnie O'Sullivan could hardly have had a less stressful path through to his sixth world final as,for the second round in a row,he completed victory with a session to spare,beating Barry Hawkins 17-7.

You always felt for Hawkins to have a chance in this one he needed a good start and thats what he got as he lead Ronnie 2-1. He really should have made it 3-1 ,but Ronnie leveled it and never looked back ending the first session with a 6-2 lead.

That became 10-6 after four majestic frames at the start of the second session.Hawkins did at least manage to find some form winning three of the next four,but still trailed 11-5 going into the third session.Ronnie needed six of the eight frames to give himself a Saturday afternoon off and thats what he got,sealing the victory in the last frame of the night winning 17-7.

So now we have the final that snooker fans have wanted to see for a long time. Selby of course has a great record against Ronnie in final with a head to head record of played six. and each won three.Two of those victories from Selby came from seemingly losing positions and such was the way he got under Ronnies skin in those games,That Ronnie christened him "The Torturer" in his recent autobiography.

These performances will of course give Selby encouragement,but as they say,That was then & this is now.Since those finals a few years back I think most would agree Ronnie has stepped things up in every department of his gameplay and as importantly his approach.For a current formline all you have to do is look at the demolition job Ronnie did on. Selby in The Masters final in January.

In that match,as in his last two rounds here Ronnie was quick out of the blocks and never looked back..It Therefore goes without saying for Selby to have a chance of claiming his first world title he needs to be within touching distance of Ronnie after the first two sessions tomorrow.If I'm honest I just don't see him getting close enough to worry Ronnie and my Score Prediction is 18-10 to Ronnie

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

World Championship Day 12 Quarter Final round up.

After yesterdays series of one sided sessions it had seemed we might be in for a day devoid of drama today,but we need not have feared,as The Crucible served up anther timely reminder of what makes this event so special.

Neil Robertson took a step closer his second world crown with a hard fought 13-11 victory over Judd Trump and in the process finally claimed that ton of tons record he had so desperately wanted.

Coming out today trailing 6-2 ,Robertson started to find his game and closed within one a 7-6 before two from Trump took the next two to lead by three at 9-6 going into tonights final session. Here Robertson again got back to 9-8,but Trump steadied himself going to the interval with his three frame lead restored at 11-8.

Robertson won the next to close to 11-9 and it was from here he started to really turn the screw,taking the next with a run of 70 after a long safety battle,before the moment of history came in the next when a break of 101,not only made it 11-11,but also secured his 100th century of the season.His reaction on potting the green showed just how much it meant to him to achieve this record and he deserves all the plaudits he gets for it.

There was however still a match to be won and Robertson managed to pull himself together to win the next frame as well to go ahead for the first time in the match at 12-11. Trump by now hadn't potted a ball for over an hour and was looking a beaten man. Into the next and there was really only going to one one winner and Robertson duly obliged to win his fifth frame in a row and record a superb 13-11 win.

His semi final opponent will be Mark Selby who came out this morning lading Alan McManus 12-4 and although he lost the first frame he wrapped it up in the next to win 13-5

Just as it had  been with Selby,it was expected that Barry Hawkins would quickly wrap up his quarter final having held an 11-5 overnight lead,but noone told Dominic Dale as the Welshman turned this into a Crucible classic.

In an extraordinary  start to the session Hawkins scored just 50 odd points in the first five frames as Dale roared back to trail by just one at 11-10. The next was more closely fought affair with Dale eventually getting the better of a safety exchange to level at 11-11 and unbelievably he took the next in similar circumstances to lead 12-11.

Hawkins head at this stage must have been spinning so it is testament to the player he has become that h managed to steady himself  up to make a 66 break and force the decider before a 65 in that eventually saw him over the line 13-12.

I'm sure after that,he wont need rocking to get to sleep tonight and a good nights rest will be important as things certainly wont get any easier in the semi final,where he faces defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Ronnie started this morning with a 6-2 lead over Shaun Murphy and although he seemed to be having problems with a new tip on his cue,he wasn't been put under any pressure by well below par Murphy.Leading 9-3 at the mid session interval Ronnie managed to take the next four frames to give himself a night off before starting his semi final at 1 pm tomorrow.

So what can we expect in the semi finals? Well Ronnie will start a short priced favourite to repeat his victory over Barry Hawkins here in last years final. and its hard to see past him doing it again.That said Ronnie.was pushed hard by Hawkins in that final.and he will need to be a little tighter early on in this one than he has been in his previous matches. I still don't see anything other than a Ronnie win though  and it may be a tad comfortable again Score Prediction 17-8 to Ronnie

The other semi final has the look of one of those Crucible crackers that could go all the way as two of the games hardest match players face off. of Course Selby & Robertson met earlier this season in the UK final with Robertson eventually coming out on top ,but that will have little bearing in this one.Going purely on form in this championship the favourite has to be Robertson,but I just have a feeling Selby might cause a slight upset here,There wont be much in it though either way. Score Prediction 17-15 to Selby

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

World Championship Day 11

The first day of quarter final action at the Crucible and although nothing is decided yet,tomorrow is going to have to be a day of remarkable comebacks if the leads gained in all matches today are to be overturned.

Defending champion Ronnie O Sullivan will take a 6-2 into tomorrow mornings second session against Shaun Murphy,but it could all have been so different if Murphy could have taken full advantage of a sluggish start from The Rocket.

A lot of Ronnies subsequent problems against Perry in the last round could be traced back to a bad start and he was again slow out the blocks here as Murphy took the first with a 101 and then the second with a 59 to lead 2-0. He really should have been 3-0,but O'Sullivan managed to nick it having got the snooker he required on the green and then clearing up.Murphy again had his chances in the next,but Ronnie again won it  to somehow go to the interval at 2-2.

From here Ronnie started to find some form,winning the next with a 72 to lead for the first time at 3-2 He then the next on the black to make it 4-2 ,before two majestic breaks of 94 & 134 gave him that 6-2 overnight lead.

Today was supposed to be the day we saw snooker history as Neil Robertson started out against Judd Trump needing one century to complete the ton of tons for the season,but its Trump who grabbed the headlines,with some of his best snooker in quite a while to lead this one 6-2 overnight. It had been Robertson who had taken the first frame here,before Trump quickly leveled things up at 1-1 The next also went to Trump as he took a 3-1 interval lead. From here he seemed to step things up a further notch,making it 4-1 with a run of 107 and then 5-1 with a run of 60. Robertson did stop the rot taking the next,but Trump knocked in another century,this time a 117 to take that 6-2 overnight lead.

In the other two matches it is surely only a matter of finishing things off tomorrow for Mark Selby & Barry Hawkins as they both enjoy big overnight leads.

The run of Alan McManus appears to be at an end as he trails Mark Selby. This clash between two of the games great tacticians had the potential to turn into a real war of attrition and it appeared that was the way it was going to turn out as McManus won a series of lengthy frames to lead 3-2 from 2-0 behind.Selby though found his range to go 4-3 before they payed the price for those long frames and were called in early

On resumption it was Selby who started to play better as McManus began to struggle to keep pace and the Leicesterman pulled away to move within touching distance of the semi finals with a 12-4 advantage.

Perhaps the most impressive performance of the day came from Barry Hawkins who leads Dominic Dale 11-5 after a day of high scoring from the 2013 runner up. breaks of 68,63,78 & 134 saw him lead 62 early on and he continued his fine form tonight to move to the brink of the semi finals and a possible meeting with the man who beat him in last years final Ronnie O'Sullivan.