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Sunday, 23 June 2013

Wuxi Classic Final.

Neil Robertson lifted the first ranking title of the new season after he fought back to beat John Higgins 10-7 in what was a high quality Wuxi Classic final.

Robertson recently returned to the world no.1 spot and his victory here means he is likely to stay there for a long time,such is the lead he now enjoys over his nearest pursuer .

Here he certainly performed like a world no.1 after this one had threatened to get away from him in the first session as Higgins,playing the sort of snooker that saw him reach the final without much fuss,quickly established a 5-2 lead.

Robertson had been slightly subdued up to this point but suddenly started to find his form and won the last two of the session to be just 5-4 behind at the end of the play.

He started the evening session in the same vein and unbelievably took the first four frames to make it six in a row and lead 8-5 going into the mid session interval. Higgins safety game was unusually below par but he still managed to stop the rot in the next to close to 8-6.

The one thing we do know when we get a final between two of the games proven winners is that neither will blink with the winning line in sight and Robertson moved within one of the title,taking the next to lead 9-6.

He looked like sealing victory in the next when he established a 50 point lead,but Higgins,as he has done so often,dug deep and with the help of a wonderful positional shot from brown to blue he closed to 9-7.

Robertson again failed to make the most of an early chance on the next,but another unexpected safety error from Higgins gifted him the chance he needed and he did enough to secure the win 10-7.

For Robertson this was his second title in China in a row after he took last seasons China Open in  April and  though every title is to be celebrated,he will be particularly pleased here to have won beating an in form Higgins.There was a time over the last couple of seasons where it appeared as if Robertson was beginning to get bogged down in matches and this was stopping him play his natural game,but he seems to have started this season with a different approach and he is reaping the benefits of it.

As for Higgins he will be disappointed to have lost having lead by so much early on,but when you consider how badly he was playing towards the end of last season and the fact he is using a new cue he can take a lot confidence from this going into the rest of the campaign.He has looked back like his old self when in among the balls and you have to feel he will only improve further as the season goes on.I think talk of his demise can certainly be forgotten for a while.

That is it from the first full ranking tournament of the season then and I think if its a sign of things to come we are in for great season.Next up is the Australian Open which unfortunately will be missing some of the games big stars who have decided not to enter.It will though of course feature Robertson who will be desperate to make it back to back ranking titles by winning on home soil.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Wuxi Classic Final preview

The final of the Wuxi Classic 2013 will be between the circuits two in form players,as John Higgins squares off against Neil Robertson tomorrow in search of the seasons first ranking title as well as the £80,000 top prize.

This may have been the first tournament to use the flat 128 draw but the one thing that has always rung true,no matter what the system and that is that the players who are playing the best snooker in each half of the draw will come through and here was no exception.

Robertson was the first of the two to reach the final as beat his Crucible conqueror Robert Milkins 6-2.This one was never really close as Robertson,having taken a scrappy opener,went through the gears to lead 4-0 at the interval.Milkins managed to get on the board taking the next and then reduced the deficit to 4-2,but Robertson again stepped in to seal a straight forward win.

In the second semi final Higgins recorded an equally emphatic win against his old adversary Matthew Stevens,,also winning by a scoreline of 6-2. This one maybe was a little closer then the score suggests,but despite having chances in most frames Stevens could never really take advantage and it was Higgins who,once in,always looked likely to punish the Welshman. It wasn't until Higgins at 5-0 stood one away from victory that Stevens eventually got going,but 5-2 was as close as he could get and Higgins saw out the win with a break of 101 to set up the final most neutrals would have wanted.

So what of the final,Well it may only be June but this really has the potential to be one of the matches of the season as these two giants of the game come in here on top form.Robertson,by virtue of his recent performance will be the World no.1 no matter what happens here but he would dearly love to add this title to his China Open success from last season.Higgins though,fresh from his victory over Robertson in the final of the ET1 event in Bulgaria a fortnight ago will fancy his chances of claiming a remarkable 26th ranking title.

I fancy this to be close but \I just think Higgins might have enough to win it, possibly by a scoreline as close as 10-8


Friday, 21 June 2013

Wuxi Classic The final four.

A repeat of the recent Bulgarian Open final clash between John Higgins and Neil Robertson is very much still on the cards after todays Quarter finals action in Wuxi .

The talk that Higgins was a spent force in the game is starting to look a tad premature and the way the coasted through the field to reach the quarter final suggested he is very much on the way back to his best form.That said it was expected that he would face a much sterner test today against a confident Joe Perry but in truth it didn't materialize as he secured a  comfortable 5-2 win.

His opponent in the semi final will be Matthew Stevens who brought the run of Irelands Davy Morris to an end also by a scoreline of 5-2.Still though this has been a remarkable week for Morris,when you consider that only a month ago he was battling through Q school just to get back on the tour.He has always been highly thought of in Irish snooker circles and hopefully now is when he starts to deliver on that promise.

As for Stevens he has always played well in China and reached the final of last seasons World Open.He has always had a big result in him but I really don't see him denying Higgins another ranking final appearance.

The other form man this season has been Neil Robertson and he came through a really tough test against Cao Yupeng to reach the semi final finally in what was a high quality match.The match seemed to have turned when Robertson missed a black to lead 4-2 and then found himself 4-3 down,but he once again showed us what a battled hardened player he has become to come through 5-4.

It would be hard not to feel a little sorry for Cao as he played well enough to beat most players but on this evidence we could finally have another Chinese with the potential to win titles  and in turn maybe take some of the pressure off Ding who has been carrying his nations hopes for so long.

Robertson's opponent will Robert Milkins after he saw off the challenge of Anthony Hamilton by a score of 5-3 Milkins has been another man who has started to flourish again in this new era of constant snooker and has claimed some big scalps of late,not least Robertson himself in in the first round at the Crucible..On this occasion though I feel Robertson will be too strong and will set up a dream final with Higgins on Sunday.

So we have now moved from  a flat 128 to 4 for the first time in a ranking event and what have we learned? Well I think we have seen that the players who are playing the best snooker reach the semi finals.who knew?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Wuxi Classic & then there were 16

After a hectic few days in the Wuxi Classic,16 men remain in contention to lift the first full ranking title of the season.

The first tournament of the year is always likely to produce some shock results as many of the games top players probably haven't fully committed to their practice routines yet, That certainly seemed to be the case with Trump and Allen as both bowed out limply.

They were joined on the plane home by recent World championship runner up Barry Hawkins who went down 5-4 to CaoYupeng.and Stuart Bingham who lost 5-2 to Anthony Hamilton.

Also failing to make an impact was local favourite Ding Junhui who once again failed to make an impact on homesoil going out 5-1 to Joe Perry,Perry's confidence of course is sky high after his victory in the ATC1 at the weekend.

It hasn't been all bad for the games stars though as John Higgins kept up his fine start to the season by breezing through his first few matches and once again looks the man to beat.Also rekindling some of his old form is Mark Williams who fresh from a good run in ETC1 produced a high quality display to edge past Jack Lisowski.5-4.

Also into the last 16 is David Morris who will be playing at this stage of a ranking event for the first time.Davy has been talked about in snooker circles in Ireland for a long time now and after failing to make a real impact first time around,but after coming through Q School he seems determined to make the most of his second chance.

There is just a quick look at some of the highlights of the week so far and no doubt theings wil be a lot clearer following tomorrows action

Heres the last 16 in full 

Robert Milkins v Scott Donaldson
Mark Williams v Anthony Hamilton
Ben Woollaston v Cao Yupeng
Mark King v Neil Robertson
David Gilbert v Joe Perry
John Higgins , Xiao Goudong
Peter Lines Matthew Stevens
Ali Carter v David Morris

Sunday, 16 June 2013

A look ahead to the Wuxi Classic

The snooker roadshow makes the first of its five visits to China this season when the city of Wuxi plays host to the first full ranking event of the season,The Wuxi Classic.

Of course in this new era of a practically all year round snooker,tournaments come thick and fast and this last week has seen the first two title winners of the 2013/14 season.

Last weekend John Higgins proved that talk of his demise had been greatly exaggerated as,with the aid of a new cue,he beat Neil Robertson 4-1 in the final to lift the Bulgarian Open title in front of a hugely enthusiastic crowd in Sofia and yesterday Joe Perry won the first of the APTC  events with an impressive 4-1 win over Mark Selby in the final.

It is though with the first full ranking event that the season gets going and there will be plenty of players looking to get off to the perfect start. This was the first event to use the flat 128 structure for the draw which meant the first round was played in England to whittle the number travelling to the venue down to a mere 64.Among those who failed to negotiate this round and so wont be here this week were Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy.

Also missing will be Ronnie O'Sullivan who had to withdraw from the qualifiers because of a family bereavement and Stephen Maguire who didn't enter.

This still leaves a strong field though and all eyes locally will be on Ding Junhui to see if he can finally get the monkey off his back and win again on home soil.A lot of attention early in the week will also be on nine times womens world champion Reanne Evans who qualified for this event and by the draw should have been playing Neil Robertson only for the dreaded wildcard round to intervene.Hopefully she can get through this and get the match she deserves.Regardless though it really is time to get rid of this annoying feature of the Chinese events.

So who will take home the winner cheque of £80,000? Well time will tell but one thing for sure is you can watch all the action unfold on Eurosport. starting Monday morning at 7.30

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Victoria Bulgaria Open Preview

Barely a month after the curtain fell on the 2012/13 season with Ronnie O'Sullivan lifting his fifth world title,the first champion of the 2013/14 season will be crowned this weekend in Sofia as the city plays host to the Victoria Bulgaria Open.

In truth though the action has not really stopped as the last month has seen three Q School events,as well as qualifiers for the Wuxi Classic and the Australian Barry Hearns ambition to make snooker an all year round sport comes closer and closer to been realised.

The Wuxi qualifiers,if that is indeed the right term,were the first to use the flat 128 draw and among the big name casualties who wont be making the trip to China are World no.1 Mark Selby,whose slump in form continues  and Shaun Murphy.Ronnie O'Sullivan wont be there either as he was a late withdrawal following a family bereavement .

So on to Sofia we go then and as ever with these European Tour events it serves a mixture of the great and the good. Ronnie is making the trip this time and along with the likes of     Robertson,Murphy,Higgins,Hawkins and defending champion Judd Trump,he will be mixing with amateurs as well as some of the games newer professionals.all of whom willbe hoping to lift the title come Sunday evening.

If last years first staging of this event is anything to go by,those who are playing are certain to be met with full houses and enthusiastic crowds as the popularity of the sport continues to grow all across europe.The  part Eurosport has played in this can't be underestimated and they will again be showing extensive coverage on all their channels over the weekend.

Snooker on tv at the start of June.Did we ever think we'd see the day!