8 became 4 today in the Shanghai Masters as John Higgins,Mark Williams,Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump all progressed through their quarter final matches to set up what promises to be a weekend of top quality snooker.
The story of the week so far has been the return to form of John Higgins.It is a measure of how much he has struggled in the last twelve months that his 5-3 victory over Carter today meant he progressed to the semi final of an event for the first time since he lifted the World title in 2011.Though as I'm sure he would admit himself his game has not yet returned to the extraordinary level it reached in that season,but a John Higgins playing well and competing at the business end of tournaments can only be a positive for the sport.
His semi final opponent will be Shaun Murphy who in truth didn't have to get out of second gear to beat a badly out of sorts Stuart Bingham 5-1.For this reason its hard to evaluate Murphy on his performance today as he was never under any pressure to produce his best.This wont be the case in the semi and I have a feeling that the momentum may now be with Higgins who will be relishing the chance to get back into a ranking final again.
In the other half Mark Willaims reached the last four with a deciding frame victory over Joe Perry.In a match that struggled to get going till near the end Williams sealed victory in the last with a fine 79 break after Perry had forced the decider with a superb 131.
The final player through to the semis was Judd Trump who also won by the minimum margin holding off a spirited Graeme Dott fightback.Indeed for the first time this week it was Judd who made the good start and lead 4-1 before Dott through caution to the wind and leveled at 4-4.It has been a characteristic of Judd since probably his Masters defeat to Neil Robertson to struggle to apply the finishing touches to games so he will be delighted to have held his nerve the way he did in taking his chance in the decider.
This semi final will again be a tough one to call but my feeling is Williams will continue his remarkable record in these events and get the chance to avenge his Final frame defeat in last years final.