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Monday, 2 May 2016

World Champion 2016 is Mark Selby.

Mark Selby is the 2016 Betfred World Champion after he held off the determined comeback from Ding Junhui to claim the title in the end by a scoreline of 18-14.

Coming into this championship there were plenty of question marks over which Mark Selby would show up here after he missed the last two tournaments due to personal reason,but really we should have known better as what we got was the hard as granite match player we been used to seeing over the last ten years.

There are times in matches and indeed torunaments,where you just think this man surely can't win,but time and time again he digs deep into his reserves and produces something from nowhere to get a result.At times it isn't pretty,but much as some people complain of his style what must also be acknowledged is an unquenchable will to succeed that one can only admire.

As for the match itself the damage was really done in that early burst from Selby where he lead 6-0.From there Ding did his absolute best to get back,twice getting within one frame,but crucially Selby immediately responded on each occasion and Ding could never quite manage to get level.This happened last night when he closed to 8-7 & again today at 11-10,but each time Selby won the next two to build that three frame cushion.

Coming out for the final session the lead stood at 14-11 and that quickly became 16-11 as Selby looked to put a lid on things quickly.There was still time for one last surge from Ding.closing it to 16-14,but when a lengthy 31st frame went to Selby the writing was on the wall and he finished it in the next to seal the 18-14 victory.

A wonderful moment for Selby then,as he saluted his loved ones on potting match ball,but heartbreak for Ding who has undoubtedly been the player of the tournament.The fact he had to qualify is laughable when you see the way he played here and you would hope,with confidence now restored we will see the real Ding Junhui next season ,building towards another assault at the one big title to allude him thus far.

As for the tournament as a whole I'm not sure I agree with some of those saying that this has been thebest championship in years.Yes we did see some great snooker,but with the best will in the world and regardless of how well he played,I don't think a 45 year old Alan McManus reaching the semi finals reflects well on the quality of the tournament.

It was also once again disappointing to see the tables dominating the chat on social media.Big bounces, kicks & over the generous cut of the pockets all serve to make a game,which is decided so much on fractions,a bit of a lottery.

It wasn't all bad though and there were a few things we can all get excited about.

The emergence of Kyren Wilson has been the story of the season and here we saw again just why many are tipping this young man as a future world champion.Just how he does next season will be fascinating to watch.

Other off the table positives were the announcement of the new 10 year deal with Eurosport which may include coverage of the qualifiers for net years championship.Their dedication to snooker has been superb and such a deal can surely only see the sport grow even more on mainland Europe.Now if only they'd get rid of Colin Murray!!

Also announced today we had a two year extension to the BBC deal,which after some newspaper reports in recent months is huge a relief and the best news of all,that the championship will be staying at the Crucible for the next ten years.

So thats it for another season,as we toast again our 2016 champion Mark Selby.They say the Crucible is a marathon of the mind and this year Selby proved once again he is the sports ultimate marathon man.

Talk to ye all soon

Sunday, 1 May 2016

The Final-Story So Far

Half way through the 2016 world final and things are beautifully poised as Mark Selby holds a 10-7 lead over Ding Junhui

All last night on social media the debate about who would win this match centred on the key question of how ding would handle his first world final playing someone with the game & experience of. Selby.From this the overriding opinion was the for him to have a chance Ding needed a good start to settle down.Unfortunately for him the complete opposite happened.

It was indeed Selby who took the opener,but Ding looked set to level at 1-1 when potting the black off the last red to leave Selby needing a snooker,It was just one snooker though and Selby got it before clearing the colours to lead 2-0. That soon became 4-0 as Selby started to boss things and Ding's looked increasingly desperate.

Things didn't improve much for the Chinese when Selby won the next two as well to go 6-0.That really should have become 7-0,but with the help of a missed blue from Selby, Ding took it to get off the mark and also the next to finish the session 6-2 behind,a result,which all things considered, wasn't the worst in the world for him.

Into the night session and a complete sea change..Selby,having looked every inch the world number one in the afternoon now started to look a little edgy,despite taking the opening frame of the night to go 7-2 & in contrast Ding started to find the break building prowess that had got him here in such style as he took the next three to close within two at the interval,the score now 7-5.

Selby again stretched his lead to three going 8-5,Ding now had a bit of momentum and won the next to close to 8-6. He looked as though he was comfortably on his way to  winning the next,but having potted frame ball red he missed an insurance red down the cushion leaving Selby needing two snookers,As we know thats a dangerous thing to do against Selby and 45 minutes of safety play ensued before Ding eventually potted the pink to close within one at 8-7.

It served to knock him out of his rhythm though and Selby took full advantage to grab the last two of the night to hold that 10-7 overnight lead.

So Selby will start tomorrow needing eight more for his second title.For Ding it will be a case of trying to win the afternoon session and going from there.A fascinating day lies ahead.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Semi Final Round Up Plus Final Preview

Ding Junhui will face Mark Selby over the next two days for the £330.000 top prize and more importantly the title of 2016 Betfred World Champion.

This will be Ding's first appearance in a world final after many years of struggle at the Crucible and perhaps the way he held off the determined comeback of Alan McManus,never losing his focus in what was a superb match,that has been the main difference this year.

This was really a cracking match from the very beginning with Ding at his free flowing,break building best,rolling in four centuries in the first session to lead 6-2

When that lead became 9-3 in the second session ,it looked as Ding may be heading for a second session to spare victory in a row,but McManus has in many ways been the story of these championships & he continued to roll back the years,claiming the next four to finish the session just two behind at 9-7.

Into the third session and McManus closed the gap to one at 9-8,but Ding regained his grip to take the next three to lead 12-8.Mcanus wasn't quite ready for the fairytale to end though as he rallied again to close to 12-10.

Ding,who must have been wondering what he had to do to shake off this veteran Scot,won the next to lead 13-10 and then in what was probably the pivotal moment of the match,he clinched the last of the session on the black to lead 14-10.

This proved a bridge to far for McManus today and it was Ding,who,collecting a record seventh century of the match along the way, sealed the win 17-11.

The other semi final between Mark Selby & Marco Fu always had the look on paper that it may be a more methodical affair and so it proved in a match that can prob be best described as "one for the purists"

This one was tight the whole way through with Selby,holding the advantage after the first session at 5-3,only for Fu to win the second session by the same score to level it up at 8-8.

Neither player was playing at the top of their game here as the score moved on t 10-10 at he interval,then 11-11 and eventually 12-12 as Selby took a 76 minute final frame of the morning to leave it all square.

Into the final session and what was effectively now a best of nine.To be fair to both players the standard improved slightly,but what didn't change was the fact that  they could still not be separated. as the score went 13-13,14-14 & 15-15.

Now though that little bit of experience that Selby has of winning here just began to show and he edged ahead again at 16-15 7 in another frame that lasted over an hour Selby eventually got over the line to win 17-15

So what can we expect in the final,Well undoubtedly the favourite based on a evidence over the past fortnight is Ding.He has looked back to his very best in among the balls,as evidenced by his phenomenal break building stats,but more than this,as I said above,his focus has been exceptional.It can't be a coincidence that he has had the services of Terry Griffiths in his corner.

As for Selby,well he hasn't been playing anywhere near his best,but how often has he won tournaments where he has seemed to have no form at all.What he does have of course is an amazing will to win and a never say die attitude.Also having won the title here two years ago he knows what it takes to lift this title.

This final will be intriguing to watch but I just think that maybe Ding's time has come and wouldn't it be well deserved  

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

World Championship Quarter Finals Round Up & Semi Final Preview.

After two days of the most extraordinary days of snooker action four men remain in the hunt for the 2016 world title and each will just be starting to feel that this may just be their year.

Alan McManus at 45 bridged a 23 year wait for another chance at the single table set up with a hard fought 13-11 win over John Higgins.

This one looked on paper as though it would be a tough old fashioned tussle and so it proved as we started the night with Higgins leading 9-7.The first four were shared to eave it 11-9 to Higgins at the interval.

At this point though something unexpected happened,just when we were expecting the four time champ to seal the deal,he actually was the first to blink as runs of 71 &52 firstly drew McManus level and then a 128 & 60 saw him over the line to a famous victory 13-11.

In the semi final he will face his fellow qualifier Ding Junhui who had things a who had things a whole lot easier as he swept past Mark Williams 13-3.The first four frames here were actually shared,but from here Ding upped a gear to go through with a session to spare.

So hard as it is to think of Ding as a qualifier,he actually is and as such we are guaranteed someone who started in Ponds Forge getting into  in the final.Mcmanus will no doubt feel he is riding the crest of a wave here this week,but in reality.will Ding ever have a better chance of claiming the games big prize

Score prediction Ding wins 17-8

Marco Fu reached the single table set up for the first time in ten years with what the record books will show as a 13-11 win over Barry Hawkins,but that doesn't even to begin to explain just what a match this was.

Indeed how different it all looked in the early stages,as Hawkins,still recovering from his marathon match in the previous round couldn't get going early on ans Fu lead after the first session 7-1.

That became 9-1 this morning when Fu took the opening two frames,but Hawkins at the time managed to firstly stave off the humiliation of losing with a session to spare by winning the next three to make it 9-4 & then the last two of session to give himself a squeak at going into tonight at 10-6.

Out they came for the final session and it was again Hawkins who ramped up the pressure on Fu with runs of 50,75 & 85 putting him back within one at 10-9.

Fu was now visibly under the most extreme pressure,but breaks of 50 & 93 moved him to the hill at 12-9.Into a lengthy 22nd frame where Fu had the chance to claim victory on the green,but he missed and it eventually went to Hawkins to make it 12-10.That became 12-11 in the next & it looked for all the world like we were heading for a decider when Hawkins lead by 60-0 in the 24th,but Fu,who had now gone 41 mins without potting a ball,rolled in a superb long red & then produced as big a bottle clearance as we're ever likely to see to to win a classic 13-11.

He will next face Mark Selby,who like Fu built a big lead early on and held his nerve when things got close later. Selby had not looked anywhere near his best in his first two matches here ,but was more like his old self here in opening up a 6-0 lead over Kyren Wilson.

Plenty of people have compared young Wilson to Selby and the way he battled in this one you can see why.After getting off the mark by taking last two of first session to go 6-2 he got back within two in the next at 8-6,but Selby took a crucial last two of the session to lead again by four at 10-6.

Into the morning and the writing was on the wall for Wilson when Selby moved it to 12-6,but Wilson had one more trick up his sleeve,knocking in a new tournament high break of 143.That was to be his last hurrah though as Selby sealed the win in the next 13-8.

So its Selby v Fu for a place in the final. Obviously the betting here will favour Selby,but he has looked poor at times this championship & taking for granted that Fu can recover from tonights game mentally,he may shock a few here.That said though I still think Selby will have a enough to prevail
Score prediction Selby 17-13

Monday, 25 April 2016

World Championship Day 10 Round Up

Day 10 and the most dramatic day of the tournament so far,as the hot favourite for the title Ronnie O'Sullivan,went down 13-12 to Barry Hawkins in a real Crucible classic.

Hawkins had lead 5-3 in this one after they had shared the second session he lead coming into tonight 9-7.Its funny how often you see in these long matches that an early lead can last the whole way through a match and it seemed to be happening here as twice Ronnie got within one,only for Hawkins to win the next to keep the gap at two going to the interval 11-9.

Out they came to play to a finish and what looked the decisive moment as Hawkins moved within one of victory at 12-9.This was not a case of Ronnie been disinterested and just how much he wanted this was evident as two quickfire frames brought him within one again at 12-11.

Hawkins had a chance to seal the victory,but after a kick he never gained full cueball control and when he presented Ronnie with one last chance he duly took it to set up dramatic conclusion.

Into the decider and it was Ronnie who potted the initial red,but failing to get position on a baulk colour a tense safety battle ensued. With only a few reds in the open it looked like whoever got the first scoring chance would be in pole position and when Hawkins got in,he build a lead that despite his best efforts Ronnie could not retrieve.The final nail in O'Sullivan's coffin came when in potting a red the cueball went in off and Hawkins was left with the easiest of match ball reds to claim a famous 13-12 win.

So Hawkins marches on to the quarter finals and can take great pleasure from the fact that not only has he laid some of his "Ronnie ghosts" to rest,but he did so against a Ronnie playing very very well.If that doesn't give him confidence going forward,nothing will.

With Ronnie now gone suddenly the bottom half of the draw looks very open and those left will start to maybe fancy their chances.That will certainly be the case for Kyren Wilson who held off a Mark Allen comeback to book his last 8 place.

Starting off this morning with an 11-5 lead Wilson was a big favourite to advance,but just as he had done last night Allen won the first four of the day to pull back within two again at 11-9.

The interval though once again checked the Ulstermans momentum and Wilson held his nerve to take the two he needed to win 13-9.

There will also be those who feel that this may just be the year that Ding Junhui finally makes a charge at the games biggest prize after seeing off Judd Trump here 13-10.

This one had not been the free scoring match we.had expected early on,but that changed this morning as both men started to fire in the big breaks.The tone for the session was set in the opening frame with Ding first in with 65 only to see the frame go to Trump with a 70.Ding though quickly re-established his four frame lead with a 72 and moved to the hill with a 91,his lead 12-7.

Trumps back was now very much against the wall,but to his credit he came out fighting.Runs of 61,56 & 88 saw him claim three in a row as Ding looked to be feeling the pressure,but the Chinese managed to hold himself together to win the next and win the match 13-10.

Ding can now look forward to facing Mark Williams in the quarter finals ,but for Trump its a case of back to the drawing board.He has played it down since,but surely the fact he lost four frames in a row following his interval Twitter spat with Dominic Dale during the first session cannot be discounted as coincidence.Maybe he needs to learn how to focus more during a game. If he doesn't change something we may well be looking back at 2011 as the closest he's got to winning a title that for so long looked to be his birthright.

Meanwhile making his way serenely through the tournament is John Higgins who clinically saw off Ricky Walden to set up an all Scottish quarter final against fellow veteran Alan McManus.

Starting the night 10-6 ahead Higgins took the opening frame to go 11-6.Walden to his credit managed to pull two back to make it 11-8,but runs of 92 & 99,either side of the interval,saw Higgins home with a comfortable 13-8 win.

So eight men start out tomorrow maybe just feeling this could be their year.Whatever happens we have a few very interesting days ahead.

Quarter Final Draw
Alan McManus v John Higgins
Ding Junhui v Mark Williams
Marco Fu v Barrly Hawkins
Kyren Wilson v Mark Selby

Sunday, 24 April 2016

World Championship Day 9 Round Up

Day 9 at the championship and although officially no match finished today,in three of the four matches its going to take a major turnaround tomorrow to change what looks like the inevitable results.

Lets start though with the one that could be about to produce the biggest shock of all,as Barry Hawkins leads Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-7 .

Hawkins of course started today with a 5-3 lead and will no doubt have settled in his mind to share todays session 4-4 and that is exactly what happened.Apart from laying the ghost of his crushing Masters final defeat,Hawkins will also be taking great heart from the fact that he is currently leading a Ronnie playing in the balls as well as ever.The difference here is that every slight mistake from Ronnie is been punished.It makes for fascinating final session between these two tomorrow evening.

As for the other matches,well they seem all but decided as the leaders in each hold big overnight advantages.

John Higgins kept up his challenge for a fifth title by extending his lead over Ricky Walden to 10-6.
Starting at 5-3 the first four were shard to leave it 7-5,but it was Higgins who took three of the next four to stand just three more frames from securing his place in the last 8.

On paper the tie of the round looked to be the clash between Ding Junhui & Judd Trump and although this one hasn't yet turned into the free scoring match we might have expected,I'm sure Ding wont mind as he holds a 10-6 lead going into tomorrows final session.

Looking even better is Kyren Wilson who is six clear of Mark Allen at 11-5.This was an extraordinary match with Wilson amazingly taking an early 7-0 lead,before Allen got off the mark in the final frame of the session to trail 7-1.

Into the night and Allen began to fight back,taking the four to the interval to stand just two behind at 7-5.Things were now perfectly poised,but although he had his chances Allen could not close the gap any further and Wilson pulled away again to build what is surely an unassailable 11-5 lead.

With no morning session all four of these matches play to a finish tomorrow afternoon and evening

Saturday, 23 April 2016

World Championship Day 8 Round Up

Day eight at the championship and we now have half the quarter final places filled after a day of  real tense dramatic Crucible finishes

2014 champ Mark Selby booked his place in the last eight tonight,but only after coming through a real dogfight with Sam Baird

This one was real nip and tuck in the first session and it started out again here this morning as they shared the first four to make it 6-6..From here what looked a decisive move from the world number one took him three clear at 9-6..Baird though kept his hopes alive,winning the last of the session to make it 9-7

Into the night and again Selby seemed to take control going four clear at 11-7,but from here Baird dug deep and started to drag his way back.11-7 became 11-11 as Selby showed signs of real struggle,losing the lengthy frames that are normally his forte.

Another shock was now on the cards ,but Selby is never beat till the very end and he dug deep into his reserves to take the two he need to advance to the next round with a 13-11 victory.

Earlier in the day the old man of the tournament Alan McManus reached the quarters for the second time in three years with a hard fought 13-11 win over Ali Carter.

The 45 year old started the day trailing Carter 9-7,but after winning the first of the morning with a superb black,he also took the next with a century before adding the next two to go to the interval 11-9 up.

Carter managed to stop the rot in the next to close to 11-10,but a close 22nd frame was decided with a McManus fluked snooker on the brown which put him on the brink at 12-10.Carter did rally again to claim the next with a century,but the Scot would not be denied and as he won the 24th frame to seal the 13-11 victory

Another player proving the myth that this is a young mans game is Mark Williams,who this morning held off a brief Holt rally to secure his last 8 place with a 13-8 victory.

Starting the final session with a 10-6 lead ,Williams took the first to extend that to 11-6.Holt now with nothing to lose suddenly started scoring and runs of 75 and 109 pulled it back to 11-8.

Into the next and Holt was well in again,but just when it was starting to look that this may become interesting,Williams nicked it in typical style and duly took the next as well to claim the 13-8 win.

In matches that started out today ,those who were already giving the trophy to Ronnie O'Sullivan were given something to think about as Barry Hawkins took the last three of the session to lead 5-3 overnight,

Also holding a 5-3 lead is John Higgins who just about deserved to have that edge after a quality first session against Ricky Walden.