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Saturday, 16 March 2013

PTC Grand Finals Quarter Finals round up

Quarter Final day at The PTC Grand finals in Galway and finally a bit of respite from the nightmare that has been the scheduling this week,with two matches taking place in the afternoon followed by the other two taking place in the evening.

First into the arena this afternoon were Tom Ford and Marco Fu.Fu,by virtue of his previous experience at this stage of tournaments started as favourite but it was the Englishman who took the opener with a break of 63.That lead became 2-0 after both players had missed relatively easy pots while looking well placed among the balls.

These were worrying times for Fu and that anxiety was only increased when he lost the third to trail 3-0.To his credit he managed to claw one back in the next but it was Ford who saw out the match with a break of 84 to clinch a 4-1 victory and book his place in a ranking event semi final for the first time in his career.

Speaking afterwards Ford spoke of his relief that he managed to get through without the game getting too close as he feared he might not have got over the line but i think he is doing himself a disservice in saying that.The fact is Ford has the potential to trouble anyone and if he can start believing that a little more himself he could really flourish next season particularly when we switch to the flat draw.

Ford's semi-final opponent will be Neil Robertson after the Aussie got the better of Xiao Guodong 4-1 in a scrappy quarter final encounter.In a tense first frame it was Xiao who eventually won it lead 1-0 before Robertson hit back winning the next two to go 2-1.Robertson was starting to find a little fluency now and he extended his lead to 3-1 with a break of 92..

It was now make or break time Xiao and he seemed to be up for the fight until he missed a black off the spot when on a break of 52 in the fifth and although he need two bites of the cherry,Robertson did enough to seal a satisfactory if not spectacular win.

So the first semi final will be a clash between two men who have only met three times previously,all strangely at the UKChampionship.In their most recent meeting in this seasons event Robertson,who has won each of the three matches beat Ford 6-1 in a performance that included four centuries.I dare say he'd settle for something similar tomorrow.

The one thing that had been missing from this tournament,as well as maybe the tour as a whole of late,has been a really top quality encounter.but that is exactly what we got this afternoon,as recent World Open winner Mark Allen played Ding Junhui in a quarter final that will live long in the memory.

This one got off to about as perfect a start as any match can as Ding knocked in a superb long red and followed it another 14 of them accompanied by 15 blacks and the colours to record the fifth maximum 147 of his career.To a man the delighted crowd rose to acclaim a bit of snooker history.In recent years they may have become a little more common,but they still have that special "I was there quality" to them that those lucky enough to witness it will remember this for a long long time.

As the old adage goes though a 147 still only wins you one frame and it was unsurprising after what had just happened that frame two was a little scrappy with Allen winning it to level at 1-1.Allen also took the next with a 58 before Ding found his focus again to make it 2-2 with a 138.

Into the next and Allen looked set to re-establish his lead only to miss a red with the break on 44.That was a cardinal sin in this one and Ding capitalised with an 81 to lead 3-2.The standard now was just getting higher and higher and Allen quickly responded with a timely 125 of his own to make it 3-3.

Into a decider we went then and it was Ding who was to win it with another century,this time a 108 to move into the semi final after what was a superb match to watch.It was just a pity it was only best of seven.

For Allen,he may look at that missed red when among the reds in the fifth frame as the crucial moment but really he shouldn't dwell on it too long as this was simply a case,as has happened him a lot this season,of coming up against someone playing at the top of their game.For Ding this was the second match in a row that he has made three centuries this week and when he is hitting the ball as well as this he will take some stopping wherever or whoever he plays.

As a postscript it was lovely to see him stay in the arena for so long after the match signing autographs and posing for pictures.This was a special day for all those here and it will have only been enhanced by this gesture from the man from China.

In the semi final he will face Kurt Maflin after he overcame Ben Woollaston 4-3 in the last of the quarter finals.Maflin was quick off the blocks in this one as he raced to a 1-0 courtesy of a 99 in the first.From here things started to get a little scrappy and although Maflin won the next to make it 2-0 ,Woollaston pulled the next two back to level at 2-2.He made the running in the next also but broke down allowing Maflin to fight back and take it with a run of 89.

Into the sixth and Maflin seemed to be powering towards victory and a place in the semi final only  for his break to stop on 62.Woollaston,not for the first time this week showed all his battling qualities and table management t claw his way back and force the decider.Maflin was again in first in the decider but this time he wasn't to be denied and wrapped up the win with a break of 66.

This was the first time Maflin has reached a ranking semi final and the £20,000 that he is now guaranteed will go a long way to paying for his upcoming wedding during the off season.

One Day left in this years PTC Grand Finals then and two interesting semi finls to be played tomorrow afternoon. Conventional wisdom tells us that we should be looking at a Robertson v Ding final tomorrow evening but who is to say what will happen in a week and indeed season that has seen shock after shock.The one thing we do know is that whoever does lift the trophy tomorrow evening they will become the ninth different winner from the nine ranking events this season.Things really have never been more open.

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