The final of the 2013 Betfair World Snooker Championship will see defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan face Barry Hawkins after two very different semi finals finished at The Crucible today.
It's been one of the anomalies of the sport over the years that many of the clashes we would have loved to have seen in the final actually took place in the semi's.I'm thinking here of Davis v Hendry in 1994 and the three occasions where Ronnie met Hendry at the semi final stage.
We can now add to that list the names of Ronnie & Judd,as the most gifted players of their respective generations met here in the most eagerly anticipated match the Crucible has seen in many years.
Judd had reached this stage after coming through a thriller with Murphy 13-12 in a match that showed his growing maturity and he spoke of taking the game to Ronnie and having no fear.
In their first session both showed what they were capable of as firstly Ronnie opened a 4-1 and then Judd countered to finish the session at 4-4. The score moved to 6-6 at start of second session but Ronnie,perhaps smelling a bit of blood upped a gear after the interval to move 9-6 ahead This was now threatening to get away from Judd,but he managed to win the last of the session to close to 9-7.
In a match over this length it is often the third session that is the decisive one and so it proved here in a night of high drama and a little controversy.Ronnie,still not at his heavy scoring best,but certainly with his game head on opened up a 13-8 lead before Trump won the next make it 13-9.The night took a strange turn in the next when firstly it appeared someone in the crowd was deliberately trying to put Judd off and then Michealla Tabb warned Ronnie for making a rude gesture with his cue.This seemed to rattle Ronnie for a few shots and give Trump the upper hand as he took the frame to close to 13-10.
This put major emphasis on the final frame of the night and is was perhaps here more then anywhere else we saw the benefits of the work Dr Steve Peters has done with Ronnie as he put all that had gone before behind him to take it in one visit and go 14-10 overnight.
This left Trump with a mountain to climb this afternoon and it proved to be beyond him as Ronnie closed out the match to win 17-11.
So that was it then from a match that although never quite living up to it's billing qualitywise was highly entertaining none the less.Trump will look at the fact that he scored in nearly every frame but just could never get the cue ball on a string the way he needed to really make the big breaks and push Ronnie.He will learn from this though and his all round play in this tournament suggest he is maturing as a player.He will certainly be back
For Ronnie this will be a highly satisfying win as ,although he didn't make a century,he by and large controlled the match in every department and punished his young opponent for every mistake.He will strongly fancy his chances of adding a fifth world title to his cv here on Monday night.
The man hoping to stop him winning that fifth title will be Barry Hawkins after he came through an extraordinary match with Ricky Walden.With neither player having experienced the one table set up at the Crucible before there was always a danger that they both could get caught in the headlights in this one and so it proved to be,as both struggled to find their best form.
In a first session where both were badly out of form it was Walden who got off to the better start and took a 6-2 lead. Hawkins was nothing like he was in beating Selby or Ding so it was to his great credit that he managed to come out of the second session only 9-7 behind.
Onto the third session and it was Walden who again made the better start and stretched his lead to 12-8 at the mid session interval.There were four frames left in the session now and Hawkins would have felt he needed to win three of them to stay in touch.As it happened he did better then that as he won all four to level the match at 12-12.
This set up a grandstand final session that basically boiled down to a best of nine for a place in the final.The first frame seemed to be going the way of Hawkins again but Walden fought back to force a respotted black to go ahead for first time in the match at 13-12.This was the 5th frame in a row for Hawkins and he would incredibly make it 8 in a row as he moved to the brink of the final at 16-12.
Walden must have been wondering how on earth his world had caved in so quickly here,but he showed he still had a bit of fight still in him to make it 16-13 and then 16-14.For all the poor quality snooker then,this was beginning to build up into a fascinating finish.In the next Walden was again in first but unluckily knocked in a red when trying to split the pack and Hawkins did enough to get over the line 17-14.
This is a match you feel will play on the mind of Ricky Walden for a long time as he will be left to rue that slump that saw him lose a commanding four frame lead.half way through third session.Hopefully though in time he can put this behind him and start to focus on making runs like he had here a regular occurrence
For Hawkins this will have been the realisation of a dream,that it is unlikely even he saw coming true when the draw.came out.The fact is though he has beaten Selby and Ding here and managed to come through a semi final where he had only managed a high break of 47 in the first two sessions,so he deserves his place in the title decider.
He will also have the advantage of going into the final as a big underdog which may allow him play more his natural game then he was able to do against such an evenly matched opponent in the semi final
That said though I really don't see him having enough in the locker to take 18 frames off O'Sullivan and I think we will be hailing King Ronnie the 5th come early Monday evening.