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Thursday, 31 October 2013

International Championship Quarter Finals round up

Quarter final day in Chengdu produced high drama,tension.some top drawer snooker and one very late finish as eight became four in the quest to claim the 2013 International Championship title.

At the start of the day the pick of the four matches appeared to be the clash between Mark Selby and Marco Fu and so it proved as these two served up a thriller.This was on of those matches that swung both ways with Selby getting off to the better start,establishing an early 2-0 lead before Fu turned it around to lead 3-2.

From here Selby won three in a row to move within one of victory at 5-3.It looked likely that that victory would come in the next but he failed to make the most of a couple of really good chances and a tricky snooker wasn't enough to see him over the line as ,Fu somehow found his way out of it at the third attempt to swing the momentum his way..Fu would go on to win that frame and never looked back as breaks of 84 & 112 secured the two he needed to reach the semi final.

His semi final opponent will be Joe Perry who produced the performance of the day in beating Ryan Day 6-1.It was Day who won the opening frame but Perry drew level at 1-1 before producing a break building exhibition,which included three centuries,to run away with the next five and march into tomorrows best of 17 semi final.

The other semi final will feature tournament favourite Ding Junhui after he came through a real battle with Peter Ebdon 6-3..Ding had started the stronger taking the opening two frames to lead 2-0 before two long frames were shared to make it 3-1 at the interval.The pace of the match seemed to be getting to Ding at this stage and perhaps he was there for the taking but Ebdon just couldn't produce the heavy scoring that had been the hallmark of his victory over Neil Robertson yesterday.Despite this he did pull one back to trail 3-2 but Ding reeled off two quick frames to stand on the verge of victory at .5-2.One certainty in this game though is that you seldom get victory handed to you against Peter Ebdon and he pulled one more back to trail 5-3 before one final push from Ding saw him past the finish line 6-3.

His opponent in Saturdays semi final will be Graeme Dott after the Scot brought to an end the fine recent run of Liang Wenbo.This one was a pretty even contest early on,with the score level at 2-2 at the interval.but the story of this one was that of too many chances been offered up by Liang and even though he did win one further frame it was the 2006 world champion who came through 6-3

In an all to rare occurrence these days the semi finals will played over two sessions and best of 17 with Fu v Perry taking place tomorrow and Ding playing Dott on Saturday.The main question though as we head for the weekend is can anyone stop Dings march to a third ranking title in a row?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

International Championship Day Four.Last 16 round up.

Day Four in Chengdu and what a mixed bag it produced with some dominant performances and a couple of real thrillers.

With that in mind there is really only one place to start and that is with the match between the world no.1 Neil Robertson and former world champion Peter Ebdon. Robertson has been playing some really superb snooker of late,knocking in centuries for fun and when he opened up a 3-1 lead here with his 39th century of the season he looked to be in control. Ebdon though has never been one for rolling over and he came back with a fabulous 134 of his own to make it 2-3 and he soon made it 3-3 with a fine 87 in the next.

The momentum was now well and truly with the veteran as Robertson seemed to be feeling it.Another couple of 50 plus breaks saw Ebdon move within one of victory at 5-3  and indeed in the next a run 56 looked like becoming a match winner only for him to overcut a tricky red allowing Robertson the chance to counter. That is exactly what he did,digging deep to close to 5-4.Into the next and it was Robertson who struck first here with 68 before a counter from Ebdon just fell short when he missed the final pink.A few safties followed before Robertson potted a superb long pink to level at 5-5.

Into the decider then and in a thriller,both players had their chances,but it was the veteran Ebdon who came through to win 6-5.Ebdon is a player who has always divided opinion among the snooker public but today was certainly an example of everything that has been good about the former world champion and if I'm honest,I have always found it fascinating watching him construct a break.

He will need to once again be at his best in the quarter final though as he faces the man in form and home favourite Ding Junhui,who came through his match with Matthew Stevens in a canter winning 6-1. To be fair to the Welshman the scoreline doesn't tell the whole story of this one as,after a scrappy start the score could easily have been 2-2 at the interval.From here though Ding visibly upped a gear and was at his brilliant break building best running away with the last three frames he needed to secure the 6-1 win.The hat trick dream still very much alive.

Elsewhere the Zhao Xintong's amazing week came to an end when he ran in to an in form Marco Fu losing.6-2 but on all evidence here he is still a name to watch for.Fu now meets Mark Selby who also enjoyed a 6-1 win over Stuart Bingham.As I said yesterday Selby's progress this week has gone under the radar slightly but he one of those players who,the further he gets into a tournament the harder he is to beat.This one could really be cracker.

Meanwhile Liang .Wenbo followed up his fine victory over Ronnie with a runaway 6-1 defeat of Mark Davis. Its not that many years ago that Liang was expected to become the next prolific Chinese winner after Ding, but he seemed to lose his way and fell down the pecking order a bit.Ths season however he has shown a bit of a revival and winning last weeks Asian Tour event seems to have helped reignite his confidence.He will face now face Graem Dott in the last 8 after the Scot held off a late fightback from Kurt Maflin to go through 6-5

Talking of players who at one stage seemed destined to challenge for titles only to hit a slump in form, Ryan Day showed a welcome return to something near his best in beating Fergal O'Brien 6-3. He will face Joe Perry who also scored two centuries in beating Mark Allen 6-4

Down to the last 8 we are then with Ding perhaps a strong favourite for the title,but there will be plenty of twists and turns before the trophy is lifted on Sunday.

Last 8 draw
Ryan Day v Joe Perry
Marco Fu v Mark Selby
Peter Ebdon v Ding Junhui
Graeme Dott v Liang Wenbo

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

International Championship Day Three

One of the things we are constantly lead to believe is that all these tournaments with short frame formats are a lottery and that to really see the top players at their best we need longer frame formats.If that is indeed the case then what we have seen this week is further proof that the gap between those at the top and the rest is narrower then ever.

On a day of big stories the biggest of all of course was the defeat of the World Champion Ronnie O'Sullivan who went down 6-4 to Liang Wenbo.This had looked unlikely when Ronnie raced in to a 3-0 and he still looked a heavy favourite a 4-1,but a combination of perhaps Ronnie losing a little focus and Wenbo's growing confidence turned things around and he won five frames in a row to record the win.This was the first time he has beaten Ronnie and just how much it meant to him was obvious by the way he celebrated potting the match ball.His opponent in the last 16 will be Mark Davis who beat Stuart Carrington 6-3.

Of Course the man in form coming into this event,is home favourite Ding Junhui who this week is looking to complete that rarest of hat tricks,winning three ranking events on the bounce.Having survived a right tussle with fellow Chinese Cao Yupeng yesterday which he edged 6-5 Ding had to again here pull out all the stops to get past James Wattana,eventually sealing the win 6-3 in what was a highly entertaining match.He will now face Matthew Stevens who comfortably beat a badly out of sorts John Higgins 6-2.

The other story of recent weeks has been the astonishing break building form of Neil Robertson who racked up a further three centuries,including a high break equaling 143, in his 6 -1 win over Un-Nooh.That took his century total for the season to a remarkable 38 and if he keeps this up he will surely smash the current record which stands at 61.Robertson will face Peter Ebdon in the next round after the veteran edged past Mark Joyce 6-5.

With all this going on is easy to look past perhaps the most extraordinary performance this week which has been that of wildcard Zhao Xintong. Firstly the Chinese beat the recently crowned world senior champion Steve Davis 6-1 in the wildcard round,he followed that up with a 6-2 win over Craig Steadman and then today he beat last years Crucible runner up Barry Hawkins again by a scoreline of 6-1.Next up for him will be Australian Open winner Marco Fu who today beat Xiao Goudong 6-4.

In other matches Alan McManus couldn't repeat the performance which saw him eliminate the defending champion Judd Trump yesterday as he went down 6-4 to Ryan Day.Day will now face Fergal O'Brien after the Irishman came through,a match which was very much played at its own pace,beating Rod Lawler 6-4.

Mark Allen is also through after a hard fought victory over Dave Harold,the score 6-4 and he will face Joe Perry who beat David Gilbert 6-3.With all that has been going on former World no.1 Mark Selby has slipped in under the radar this week,but he is still very much alive in this tournament after beating Peter Lines today 6-4 and he will now face  Stuart Bingham who beat Martin Gould also 6-4

Finally rounding of a bad day for the golden generation Mark Williams went down 6-2 to Kurt Maflin who will now face Graeme Dott after the Scot beat Kyren Wilson 6-1.

Tomorrow see's the last 16 matches taking place which are bound to produce more stories in what already been a great week.

Last 16 draw
Ryan Day v Fergal O'Brien
Mark Allen  v Joe Perry
Zhao Xintong v Marco Fu
Stuart Bingham v Mark Selby
Neil Robertson v Peter Ebdon
Matthew Stevens v Ding Junhui
Grame Dott v Kurt Maflin
Mark Davis v Liang Wenbo



Monday, 21 October 2013

The Nugget wins World Seniors title

Steve Davis last night added the 2013 World Seniors title to his long list of snooker triumphs when he came from a frame down to edge past the defending champion Nigel Bond in the final.

This was a case of third time lucky for Steve in this event having lost out in previous finals to Jimmy White and Darren Morgan and it was obvious for all to see how much it meant to him to finally win it.

The other thing that was clear was how his game seemed to step up a notch the further he went through the tournament.This was particularly evident in the final where having gone behind he produced breaks of 66 & 68 to win the match.The fact he had a 95% pot success rate.albeit in a short format,proves once again as they say,that form is temporary but class is permanent.

Class of course is a word that could always be applied to Steve,not just for his displays on the table but also for the way he has always conducted himself off it.The sport of snooker could not ever wish for a finer ambassador.

The tournament itself proved to be a bit of a mixed bag with these legends producing some flashes of great snooker,but also at times some stuff that was hard to watch.This is something we just have to accept with these type of events as these are players who are largely lacking in match practice,but for all that it was still obvious on the table that these guys haven't lost that competitive instincts that made them great champions in the past.

Finally though lets again salute our champion. The one thing that struck me last night looking on Twitter was the outpouring of joy at seeing Steve,after all these years again holding aloft a trophy.As Dave Hendon said this morning in his excellent blog Steve is no longer merely respected by the snooker public he is now also loved. Surely its only a matter of time until we hear Arise Sir Steve.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Indian Open.A look back at an extraordinary week.

Ding Juhhui today became the first player in 10 years to win back to back ranking titles,when he proved too strong for the Aditya Mehta,beating the local favourite 5-0 to add the inaugural Indian Open title to last months Shanghai Masters,but for once the winner is only part of the story after a week that we could very well be looking back on in years to come as a pivotal moment in the games global expansion.

More of that later,but firstly lets talk about our champion. Last month Ding finally got the victory China he had been craving and the question was would he kick on and really make his mark this season?Well since then he has been runner up in the Ruhr Open to Mark Allen and again played some fabulous snooker this week beating,among others,the other form player Neil Robertson on his way to the final here.

In the final itself he was at his ruthless break building self as he quickly snuffed out any hopes of a home victory. The fact that is in indeed 10 years since someone did win back to back ranking titles shows just how well the Chinese is playing at the moment.He has always been an exceptional talent,having already won both Masters and UK titles,but you get the feeling now that he is just moving up to another level and can really challenge for the big one next May.

As I've said though Ding is only part of the story and in many ways how appropriately that he is,as it was his run to the title in the China Open that turned a then general interest into a national obsession with the sport.For Ding Junhui then,read Aditya Mehta no,as he enjoyed the week of his life to become the first Indian player to reach a ranking final.

To say this was a dream run is in no way overstating it,as along the way he beat former World Champions Peter Ebdon and Mark Williams,former UK champion Stephen Maguire and fellow Indian professional Padkaj Advani (who also had enjoyed something of a week himself reaching QF beating Mark Allen).

The final proved to be a step to far,but this is a week Mehta will never forget and he has proven.maybe as much to himself as anything else,that he can mix it with the big boys.Hopefully now both he and Advani can use the experience they've gained this week to really establish themselves as contenders for tournaments in the future.The sport in India certainly couldn't have two finer ambassadors.

As for the tournament itself,it can only be described as a marvelous success.Maybe I missed it but I don't remember any players complaining about the playing conditions,which is a rarity these days and it seemed to be played in front of practically full houses all week.I dare say we will be seeing the tour return to India in the near future.

Anyway onward we go with the Senior World Championship this weekend,Asian Tour event 3 next week followed by The international Championship in Chengdu starting next weekend where Judd Trump will be the defending champion and Ding will be looking for his third ranking title on the spin.