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Friday, 28 February 2014

Welsh Open Quarter finals round up.

Quarter finals round up

Ding Junhui remains on course for his fifth ranking title of the season,but only after surviving a real scare against 19 year old Joel Walker.

The early stages of this oneshowed little of what drama was to come,as Ding lead 2-1 before a superb clearance from the last red drew Walker level at 2-2 going the interval.This was Walkers first match in front of the tv cameras,but he certainly wasn't showing any nerves as he came to win the next two frames with breaks of 74 & 101 to move into a 4-2 lead,one away from what would have been the shock of the season.

Ding was looking under real pressure now,but a couple of good scoring chances in the seventh for Walker went begging and Ding won it to close to 4-3 ,before showing his class,winning the next two with breaks of 139 & 104 to seal the win 5-4.

Walker will no doubt look back at the seventh frame as the turning point in this one.but he can be proud of a great week here and there is no doubt we will be seeing a lot more of this young man.

For Ding though he showed once again,what a good matchplayer he has become and it certainly seems his "glass chin"when put under pressure is a thing of the past.

His opponent in the semi final will be Joe Perry after he produced a stunning display to beat Mark Selby 5-1.Selby had reached this stage of the tournament with the minimum of fuss,but he had no answer to Perry who took all four of the frames before the interval to lead 4-0 .Selby managed to get off the mark in the next, but there was to be no comeback as Perry took the next to seal a convincing win..

The match all snooker fans were looking forward to the most today was the clash of those old rivals Ronnie O'Sullivan & John Higgins but unfortunately,unlike many of their matches in the past this one was very one sided as Higgins struggled to get going and Ronnie continued his serene progress through this event recording the most straight forward of 5-1 victories.

 Ronnie's opponent in the semi final will be Barry Hawkins after he,with the aid of breaks of 125 & 134, completed an easy 5-0 win over Marco Fu

A great weekend of snooker in store then with the tastiest of final between Ding & Ronnie still a very real possibility,mind u Messers Perry & Hawkins will have something to say about that.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Welsh Open Last 16 round up.

Last 16 day at the 2014 Welsh Open saw the games current biggest names all record straight forward wins,one veteran achieve at much needed confidence booster and one new kid on the block announce himself on the snooker stage.

So lets start with the biggest shock we've had this week,as 19 year old Joel Walker edged past the defending champion Stephen Maguire 4-3.Walker,who Ronnie picked out as potential future champion in a Riley sponsored event at the age of 16,has showed some good form of late,but this is surely the biggest win of his career to date and it can only serve him well in the future to have held himself together so well in a tense decider.

His reward for this victory is a quarter final against the in form man of the season Ding Junhui,who wasted no time at all in whitewashing another young talent Scott Donaldson 4-0.

I'm not sure if Joel Walker was even born the first time Ronnie O'Sullivan faced John Higgins in a ranking event,but he will certainly have,like the rest of us,enjoyed their many battles over the last 20 yrs and we will get another chance to see these two great rivals clash tomorrow after both came through contrasting matches today.

Ronnie's progress through this tournament has been remarkably smooth and he once again made short work of Ricky Walden here,The one small consolation for Walden was that he managed to avoid another whitewash against the Rocket by taking the fourth frame,only a blip as Ronnie eased over the line in the next to win 4-1.

Higgins,for his part,had to come through a real battle with Judd Trump,eventually beating his young opponent 4-3.This will have been a particularly satisfying win for the Scot who spoke before this event about his lack of belief in his own ability to kill off the close ones these days,He managed that here courtesy of a wonderful cocked-hat double on the final red before clearing the colours,to set up that mouth watering Quarter final clash with Ronnie.

Home favourite Mark Williams couldn't quite make it three out of three for the "class of  92" as he failed to make most of some good scoring opportunities before going down 4-2 to Marco Fu. Fu will now face Barry Hawkins who beat Liang Wenbo 4-2.

Elsewhere Mark Selby continued his own comfortable passage through the tournament with a fine 4-1 win over an out of sorts Ali Carter and he will now face Joe Perry who came through a deciding frame with Stuart Bingham winning in the end 4-3.

A great day of quarter final awaits us on Friday then with the O'Sullivan v Higgins match the obvious stand out match,but the other games also hold their own fascination.The action starts on Eurosport at 12pm GMT

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Welsh Open Last 32

One of the oldest tournaments on the circuit seems to be set for a grandstand finish this weekend as 16 of the worlds best remain in contention to be crowned 2014 Welsh Open champion

Here is a quick summary of todays action

As is always the case for as long as he's in any tournament,the favourite for the title is  Ronnie O'Sullivan who came through his last 32 match against Xiao Goudong with the minimum of fuss,winning by a scoreline of 4-1.Next up for Ronnie  is Ricky Walden,who beat Anthony Hamilton 4-2.Of course these two met at last months Masters where Ronnie produced a record breaking display of snooker from the Gods.Walden will be hoping to at least get some table time in this one.

Mark Williams kept the home challenge going with his biggest win for a while when he disposed of Neil Robertson in a tense match 4-3.This was by no means a vintage performance but perhaps that will make it all the more pleasing for the Welshman who has been struggling of late,Next up for him is Marco Fu who beat Graeme Dott 4-2.

John Higgins completed a great day for the multiple world champions with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Mark King.He will now face a resurgent  Judd Trump who eased past Anthony McGill 4-1.

Defending champion Stephen Maguire seems to be putting his injury problems behind him as he reached the last 16 with a straight forward 4-0 win over Andrew Pagget.He now faces Joel Walker who kept his fine week going with a 4-1 win over veteran James Wattana.

Mark Selby continued his smooth progress the week with a 4-0 victory over Dominic Dale.Next up for him is a clash with Ali Carter who scored a vital 4-3 win over Mark Allen in the fight for automatic Crucible qualification

Ding Junhui's quest for a record equaling fifth ranking.title this season is still alive but only after he survived a real scare against \Ben Woollaston,eventually winning 4-3.He'll now face Scott Donaldson who also edged through 4-3 beating former runner up Andrew Higginson.

Elsewhere Barry Hawkins fought back from 3-1 down to beat Jack Lisowski 4-3 and now faces Liang Wenbo who brought Shaun Murphy,s recent good run to an end also by a scoreline of 4-3.and finally Joe Perry beat Matthew Stevens 4-3 and will face Stuart Bingham who beat Michael Holt 4-3.

A busy day of action with some really fascinating matches to take place tomorrow.As I said this could turn out to be one of the tournaments of the season as it build towards its conclusion on Sunday.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Welsh Open A week in

The marathon that has been the  2014 Welsh Open is a week old tomorrow and  is now finally starting to take shape as we enter the round of 32.

When it was announced last year that the majority of tournaments would be played on a flat 128 basis,the question was,how would this,albeit admirable system, actually work out in practice and I think it is fair to say that World Snooker have yet to come up with  the perfect solution.

So far this season we have had a week of confusion at the UK Championship  with many matches taking place at the same time as well as certain games been held over until the tv cameras came in.This made things almost impossible to follow for a seasoned snooker observer,never mind a casual fan,Then only last month we had 64 player been brought to Berlin for the German Masters with 60 matches having to be squeezed in to three days to allow the semi finals & final to be played in a one able set up over the weekend.

Here in Wales we have the opposite with the tournament been stretched out over 12 days and matches been contested in best of sevens,a situation which has lead to some referring to this as the Welsh PTC..This is slightly unfair,yes like most snooker fans I  prefer the longer matches,but I do agree that there is a place for all types of formats.I do also appreciate that getting a venue for a fortnight is not always possible,but given the choice between this and what we've seen in the above examples I would certainly rather see World Snooker aim for more events played out like this one.

So what of the tournament itself then.Well if it has been remarkable for anything so far it has been for the lack of anything remarkable happening,with most of the games top players safely progressing through with little fuss.Those attending on Wednesday,where the whole last 32  will be played,can look forward to seeing Ronnie O'Sullivan, four time ranking event winner this season Ding Junhui,century man Neil Robertson,home favourite Mark Williams and defending champion Stephen Maguire,as well as the likes of Mark Selby,Mark Allen John Higgins Shaun Murphy and Judd Trump

The only unfortunate thing is that only four of these matches will be televised.The action will be broadcast on BBC Wales tomorrow afternoon and on .Eurosport all day.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

German Masters Final + thoughts on the week.

Ding Junhui is the 2014 German Masters champion after he produced some of his very best snooker to beat Judd Trump 9-5 in front of a packed house at the Tempodrom in Berlin.

This is remarkably the fourth ranking title of the season for the Chinese player,who has now added consistency to his already impressive list of attributes.

The match itself always promised to be a free flowing affair with these two attacking players involved and so it proved to be with the opening four frames taking no time at all,as Trump established an early lead to go to first midsession interval leading 3-1.

Coming back out the players shared the next two frames to move the score along to 4-2 before Ding produced some of his best form to take the next two and leave things perfectly poised going into the evening session at 4-4.

A close tight finish looked on the cards,but Ding had different ideas,as he flew out of the traps taking the first of the night with a 125 and following it up in the next with another century,this time a 101 to go 6-4 This was faultless snooker from the Chinese and he got in again to take the next with a 71 to extend his lead to 7-4.

Trump,who had yet to pot a ball in the evening session,knew the next frame was a big one if he was to have any chance  of mounting a comeback,but although he had his chances in the next he failed to kill it off and Ding clinched it on the black to go 8-4

Coming back out Trump did pull one frame back after the interval to make it 8-5,but although Dings inch perfect control of the white from earlier in the evening seemed to have deserted him,a missed blue in the next allowed him in and he cleared the colours to clinch the 9-5 win.

This was a really superb performance from Ding,who now moves level with Jimmy White on the all time ranking titles list with 10 to his name and it would be a brave to say he's finished yet.

For Trump,once the initial disappointment of losing fades,he can look back on his best week in a ranking tournament for quite some time.Hopefully he can build on this for the rest of the season,as he is far too good a player to not be competing for the games big titles.

So what of the week as a whole? Well firstly you have to once again praise the huge numbers of German fans who packed the Tempodrom each day and gave every match the attention and respect they deserved.It really is lovely to see the game been played in front of such a appreciative audience.The problems here though lay elsewhere.

The flat draw,which in a perfect world is obviously the fairest system you could have,again proved problematic.Here we had 64 players competing(the 128 round having taken place in December) in a tournament that where the main arena was only available for 5 days.This meant,to get down to the one table set up for the semi finals,we had 60 matches having to be completed in three days. Apart from the logistical nightmare this proved to be with seven tables in the main arena and one shoved in somewhere around the back,it also makes it all nearly impossible to follow for those of us who are genuinely making an effort to do so never mind the casual snooker fan.

The other problem is that because of this set up,we only have one televised tables in each session which means only 11 of the 63 matches this week were available to be broadcast.

We also had some serious complaints from the players on the outside tables about conditions with the numbers of "kicks" seemingly way above average.

The weekend action here when we got down to one table showed why this tournament has so quickly established itself as one of the highlights of the season and it would be a real shame if the problems I've outlined above were to take away from this really special event.The enthusiastic German fans do not deserve that.

These are perhaps though discussions for another day.Lets tonight salute our champion and indeed our runner up for producing such great snooker,not just in the final but all week.It is not inconceivable that at just 26 (Ding) and 24 (Judd) that these two have yet to reach their peak and who is to say they can't go on to dominate this game for the next decade.

German Masters S/F round up & Final preview

Despite a week of shock results the final of the 2014 German Masters at the Tempodrom today see's two of the games real big guns squaring off against each other as Ding Junhui faces Judd Trump for the 80,000 euro top prize.

Ding gave himself the chance to claim his fourth ranking title of the season,by coming through a hard fought semi final clash with Ryan Day.

This was a strange match that limped to 3-3 with neither player showing their top form before what looked like a pivotal seventh frame went to Ding on the black to make it 4-3.That certainly appeared to be the decisive moment as Ding suddenly found his form to go 5-3 with a break of 121.

Day though wasn't quite finished yet and won the ninth with a century of his own (109) and also took his chance in the next to force the decider at 5-5.This match was now anybodies but Ding showed once again the fine player under pressure that he has now become to hold his nerve and he sealed the win with a beautifully constructed 79.

Trump on the other hand had a much easier path to the final as despite losing the opening frame to Rod Lawler he eased through the gears to win the match 6-1 with the help of breaks like 127,122 &117.

So to todays match then and what has the potential to be a real classic.Leave aside Ronnie's masterclass in the Masters and Ding has been the man of the season,showing time and time again that he now has the temperament to handle the big matches and the patience to dig in even if things are going against him.

Judd on the other hand has had a nightmare season by his standard,but the signs have been there in recent time that a return to form was close at hand and he has reached this final only losing four frames here all week.he will no doubt relish the unique atmosphere generated by the capacity Tempodrom crowd.

This one really is impossible to call with the full seventeen frames a distinct possibility.That said though my slight leaning is towards Trump,purely based on how he seemingly improved with each match this week,but I wouldn't be putting my house on it!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

German Masters semi final preview.

Well after three days of action & 60 matches completed then, we are down to the final four players who are still in with a shout of lifting the 2014 German Masters title.

On what could potentially be a fascinating days action,first up this afternoon we have Ding Junhui v Ryan Day. Ding of course this season has been in the form of his life and already has three ranking titles to his mane,but Day after a few seasons where he seemed to lose his way,has been showing some decent of late himself & has two high profile wins over Ding in the World & UK Championships to inspire him if  need be.

That said though,the Ding that fell away so spectacularly in those matches doesn't seem to be around any more and seems to have been replace by a man who can now produce his best under all types of pressure and I expect him to win this one comfortably.

The other semi final will see as much a contrast in style as we are ever likely to see with Judd Trump v Rod Lawler. Trump has reached this stage with an impressive record of only dropping three frames here all week and has made recent talk of a career crisis look a bit premature,albeit he still may be just short of his best form.By contrast Lawler in his own unique style has had a week of tight matches,reaching this stage on the back of three consecutive final frame deciders,the most recent a 5-4 Q/F win onver mark Davis.

The key to this one then may well be how Trump handles the more methodical approach of Lawler,If he copes with as well as I expect him to,this one could be another one sided encounter.

The semi final action gets under way on Eurosport from 12pm, GMT