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Sunday, 6 December 2015

UK Championship Final.Robertson the Champ.

Neil Robertson is the 2015 UK Champion after he completed a fine 10-5 victory over Liang Wenbo tonight in York.

Robertson has been in superb form all week and started today as an overwhelming favourite to claim a second UK title.Liang for his part was hoping that,with his Masters place now secure after his torturous semi final win,he could relax more into his natural game that had seen him reach the latter stages.

This afternoon then it was the Aussie who got off to the better start to lead 3-1 at the interval.Liang pulled one back to make it 3-2,before Robertson produced the moment of  the championship when he rolled in a flawless 147 break to send the Barbican into a frenzy.Robertson had been the opponent earlier in the week when Un-Nooh missed the final black,but he made no mistake as he rolled his in to secure the £44,000 bonus.Liang to his credit managed to stay in touch and finished the afternoon just the two behind at 5-3.

Into the night then and as so often the case when the winning line is within sight,both players started to make a few mistakes.The difference was Robertson could afford to,as try as Liang might,he just couldn't get that crucial frame to draw level. The session interval came with Robertson maintaining his two frame lead at 7-5.

On resumption things got even more nervy with Liang pulling off amazing shots only to miss far simpler ones and allowing Robertson,who was also now missing a few to eventually stretch away and claim to title 10-5.

This was Robertsons second time to claim the UK title and was a well deserved success for a player who in truth has looked like the winner in waiting since the last 16.

As for Liang ,the man who the phrase "heart on his sleeve" could have been invented,he has won a lot of friends here this week and maybe this run might just give him the confidence to finally move out of Dings shadow to become a regular feature in the latter stages of events.

For Neil Robertson this win,along with his success in the Champion of Champions will give him massive confidence going into the second half of the campaign.This really was more like the Robertson of a few years ago,before he started to get a bit bogged down around the table to the detriment of his natural game.Hopefully for him he can now keep it going.

 As for the championship itself.Well with the greatest respect to those who got to the latter stages I don't think this is a tournament that will live very long in the memory.Many will point to the openness of the competition here as evidence that the format changes of recent years are working,but I think it may point to an inconvenient truth that I will blog about about later in the week.

For now thoguh lets congratulate our champion Neil Robertson who will no doubt be looking forward trying to make it a hat trick of tv events in The Masters in January where the field will include the returning Ronnie O'Sullivan.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

UK Championship Semi Final Round up

Neil Robertson & Liang Wenbo  will battle it out tomorrow for the UK Championship title and the top prize of "150,000 after a day of contrasting semi final action.

First up this afternoon we had the most improbable semi final pairing we have perhaps ever seen as Liang Wenbo took on David Grace in the biggest match of both their careers.Unfortunately this seemed to wear heavily on their shoulders as they both struggled to settle.

Frame after frame went by in an error strewn session with Grace getting the better of the early exchanges to lead 3-1 a the interval.The next two were shared to make it 4-2 ,but,from here it was .Liang who found that bit extra to,firstly draw level at 4-4 and then to take the lead at 5-4. Vicrory was within touching distance for Liang in the next,but Grace has shown tremendous fighting spirit this week and dragged his way back into it.A decider was now very much on the cards,but in one final twist Grace missed the pink to the middle and his fairytale run came to an end when Liang potted the black to seal the 6-4 win.

This victory secured Liang a place in the Masters and you would hope that having now reached the final,he will feel a weight lifted allowing him to play his natural attacking game,because if it doesn't he will really struggle against a Neil Robertson who has been in superb form this week.

Robertson reached another UK final with a surprising 6-0 victory over Mark Selby.This was not Robertsons best performance of the week and indeed the scoreline could well have been a lot closer had Selby not committed some uncharacteristic errors at vital moments.

So into the final itself and to be honest,well and all as Liang has played at times this week,I don't see anything here other than a Robertson victory & a comfortable one at that.
Score prediction 10-4

Friday, 4 December 2015

UK Championship Quarter Finals Round up.

After the most thrilling day of the championship so far four men remain in the hunt to be the 2015 UK champion.

Arguably the best two performers this week have been Neil Robertson & John Higgins,so it was in many ways a pity that they had to meet at the last 8 stage,but this did however leave us with the possibility of a classic Friday afternoon encounter and for once we were not to be disappointed.

The scene was set for this one straight from the off as Higgins flew out of the block with a run of 119 to take the opening frame.This was deja vu for Robertson,who also lost the opening frame of his previous match to a century only to find his scoring boots and pull away.It looked as though the same thing was going to happen here as he took the next three to the interval with some more stylish break building.

This continued on their resumption as he extended his lead to 4-1. Things were now looking ominous for Higgins,but he hasn't done all he's done in the game by rolling over and back he came with runs of 69 & 134 to close to 4-3.Robertson claimed the next to move within one of victory,but back cam Higgins again,this time with breaks of 134 & 66 to force the decider this one deserved.

Into that decider then & it was a strange frame with Robertson missing more than he has in two days,but only ever leaving Higgins half chances.By the time Higgins knocked in a great long red Robertson had built a 55 point lead & when Higgins got a suspected kick on a green to the centre pocket it left it open for Robertson to seal the 6-5 win,which he duly did.

Robertson will now face Mark Selby in tomorrows semi final,after the world no.1 booked his place there with the minimum of fuss,beating Matt Selt. This was not Selby at his absolute best,but in truth it never needed to he ran out a comfortable 6-1 winner.

In the top half of the draw and one of the stories of recent times in the sport continues to build as David Graces fairytale run has now carried him into a first ranking semi final.

That looked long odds against for much of this evening as Martin Gould played some beautiful snooker to build a 5-1 lead,but then the unbelievable happened,Grace started to drag his way back into it and as we have seen at times over the years Goulds suspect chin began to give way.So back to 5-5 this one was to go to give us the most dramatic of deciders.

Grace got in first to build a 61 point lead,but a missed match ball red allowed Gould to counter.The pivotal moment was to come on the last red though when having had seven misses called the ref deemed Graces eighth attempt to be have been close enough to not warrant the ball been replaced. This was a big call from the ref and to Goulds credit he didn't question it.

Gould did get one more chance,but failed to chip the black into the centre pocket & Grace got the balls he needed to pull of the most extraordinary comeback.

In the semi finals he will play Liang Wenbo,brushed aside the controversial comments made by his opponent last night to reach the last four with a 6-5 win over his good friend Marco Fu.

In what can only be put down to the sourest of grapes Tom Ford was scathing in his criticism of Liang after last nights encounter & his branding of the Chinese player as "boring" was well and truly shown up for what it was as Liang flew out the traps today,taking a 3-0 lead with breaks of 106,132 & 138.This was a phenomenal standard and although Fu stopped the rot,he could do no better than share the next four to leave it 5-2.

Liang was now just one frame from a place in the semi final ,but having shown himself to be the king of the comeback this week,today he had to experience that from the other chair as Fu fought back to level at 5-5.

Another decider then and both players had their chances,but it was Liang who held his nerve the better to claim a 6-5 victory.

So what a day of action and it continues tomorrow with first up in the afternoon David Grace v Liang Wenbo & in the evening those two modern men of granite Neil Robertson & Mark Selby all battling it out for a place in Sundays final.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

UK Championship Q/F preview with round up of last 16 action

The 2015 UK Championship reaches the last 8 stage tomorrow and I think its fair to say if anyone predicted this line up at the start of the tournament then they possibly be burned for been a witch!

Here is a look forward to the Q/F's & also a look back at the last 16.

 David Grace v Martin Gould
Well what a fairytale week it has been for David Grace,the world no.81 has been making a name for himself recently for his work on the canvas with his fine portraits of his fellow professionals,but this week has stretched his artistry to the table.He reached his first major quarter final here with a hard fought 6-2 win over Peter Ebdon.It must be said Ebdons performance here was a shadow of the display he produced in beating Bingham in th last round,but even still he fought for every ball and Graces victory was well earned.

He will now play Martin Gould who just had too much for Joe Swail,getting the better of the Northern Irish man 6-3 in a match played in the best of spirits.

Well and all as Grace has done this week I think this one may be a match too far for him and expect Gould to reach the semi final without much bother.
Score prediction Gould 6-3

Liang Wenbo v Marco Fu
Marco Fu reached another UK quarter final beating Shaun Murphy 6-4 in a high quality match. These two have always been difficult to separate and so it proved here with the first six frames been shared for 3-3.Fu looked to have made the decisive move when he took the next two to lead 5-3.Murphy pulled back the next to make it 5-4 ,but Fu regained his composure to seasl the win in the next 6-4.

Perhaps some of the pressure Marco was feeling towards the end of that one was something to do with the fact that with the way the top half of the draw has opened up,he has a right chance to reach of making a final,but first he'll have to get past someone who is gaining a reputation as a comeback king here this week,Liang Wenbo.

It was perhaps lost in all the talk of Trumps collapse the other night just how well Liang played in getting back into it from 4-1 behind,but it certainly couldn't be ignored today as he played his best stuff of the match to come from 5-3 down to beat Tom Ford 6-5.

He will again prove a handful for Fu tomorrow,but you just feel Fu's greater experience will tell to see him through
score prediction Fu 6-4

Neil Robertson v John Higgins
Neil Robertson produced the performance of the championship so far with a simply awesome display of scoring,which included three centuries,in beating Stephen Maguire 6-1.This had looked on paper like it could be a real cracker and when Maguire opened with a 118 we looked set for a thrilling afternoon,but that was as good as it got for the Scot as Robertson steamrollered his way into the last eight.

There he will face John Higgins who came through a mid match slump to eventually see off Jamie Burnett 6-4.Higgins has been in fine form this season and looked to be heading comfortably for the quarters when he lead 4-1.From here though the wheels started to slightly come off as Burnett fought his way back to 4-4.Higgins was now starting to rock a bit,but showing once again just how close he is to his best form,he produced two trademark Higgins clearances to clinch the match.

This has the potential to be the match of the tournament and if both play to their best it undoubtedly will be.My feelings are,despite how well Robertson played today,that Higgins might just edge this one,I base this on nothing but a hunch but they can be right sometimes too!
Score prediction Higgins 6-4

Matt Selt v Mark Selby
Its funny how often we see someone who has just scraped through in their previous match suddenly, with the air of a reprieved man,find some formThats what seemed to happen yesterday as Mark Selby put his struggles against Jamie Jones behind him to produce some of his very best snooker to ease past Dechawat Poomjaeng 6-1.That said,its har not to have a little sympathy for Poomjaeng who only completed his extraordinary comeback from 5-0 down against Joyce around midnight & had to come in the afternoon session to play this one.That said though he would still have had to produce his very best to hold Selby here and exactly what Matt Selt will have to do if he is to live with the world no.1 tomorrow.

Selt had found himself trailing Luca Brecel 3-1 at their interval,but managed to take control of things from there,to frustrate the young Belgian,reeling off four in a row to lead 5-3. A superb clearance from the brown pulled one back for Luca to make it 5-4& he nearly stole an exciting tenth frame as well only for adrenalin to rob him prime position on the yellow.Forced to play with the rest,he missed it by miles to allow Selt the chance to seal the 6-4 victory.

To be honest I can't see anything here other than a comfortable Selby victory
Score prediction Selby 6-2

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

UK Championship Last 32 round up.

Two days of last 32 action in York have produced a mixed bag of one sided matches and close finishes and have thrown up some potentially intriguing last 16 encounters.

Here are the headlines,
  •  World champion Stuart Binghams woes this season continued as he crashed out 6-3 to the 2006 UK  champ Peter Ebdon,,Next up for Ebdon is Davis Grace who dug in to beat Jack Lisowski 6-4.
  • Mark Selby is still in with a chance of adding another UK crown to his cv,but he,like the rest of us,will be wondering after an extraordinary late night finish against Jamie Jones.This was a game Selby never looked like winning,but somehow managed to battle his way to 5-5 before bossing the decider to go through.He'll now play Dechawat Poomjaeng who incredibly fought back from 5-0 down to beat Mark Joyce 6-5. 
  • Neil Robertson kept his hopes of back to back titles alive with a comprehensive 6-2 win over Thepchaiya U-Nooh,but this one will be remembered for a heartbreaking moment for Uh-Nooh who,with all the hard work done, missed the final black for a 147.
  • In what looks like the stand out tie of the round Robertson will next face Stephen Maguire who dug deep to see off Mark Davis 6-4.
  • Many peoples fancy for this title,John Higgins moved safely into the last 16 with a comfortable 6-2 win over Ali Carter.He will now play his fellow Scot Jamie Burnett who beat Li Hang 6-3
  • Shaun Murphy continued his serene progress here dispatching Ben Woollaston 6-2 & will now play Marco Fu who got the better of David Gilbert 6-3.
  • Martin Gould produced a great all round display to see off Mark Allen 6-4 & will now face a rejuvenated Joe Swail who swept past Michael Holt 6-1.
  • Luca Brecel once again showed what a real talent he is when it all comes together,producing a stunning display of scoring to beat Robin Hull 6-2 & will now face Matt Selt who beat Robbie Williams 6-2
  • Liang Wenbo produced an amazing comeback to beat Judd Trump 6-4.This was helped in no small part by Trump,who flew out of the blocks to lead 3-0 only for his game to implode as the night went on.Liang will now face Tom Ford who produced a shock of his own in beating Kyren Wilson 6-1.
Last 16 Draw
Peter Ebdon v David Grace
Martin Gould v Joe Swail
Liang Wenbo v Tom Ford
Marco Fu v Shaun Murphy
Neil Robertson v Stephen Maguire
Jamie Burnett v John Higgins
Luca Brecel v Matt Selt
Dechawat Poomjaeng v Mark Selby

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

UK Championship Preview

Today the eyes of the snooker world focus on York for the start of the 2015 UK Championship.

This of course is traditionally the games second biggest prize and despite what has seemed a determined effort to destroy it recent years,it still remain so in the minds of most snooker people.

Personally I still can't understand why this event couldn't have been  given a similar protected status to that given to the World Championship,but we are where we are and 128 players will start out today in the hope of lifting the title.

One man who isn't there is the defending champion Ronnie O'Sullivan,who is still to play a competitive shot this season,though reports at the weekend suggest he will be back for the Masters.

In his absence we are left with a wide open tournament that you could maybe name 6 or 7 players as the winner and any one of them wouldn't be a surprise.

On the evidence of this season so far John Higgins would have to high on anyones list of contenders.A years ago it seemed his career was in terminal decline,but he has lifted two ranking titles already this season & a repeat of the form he showed in the International Championship would make him man to beat here.

Other players who will be buoyed up by recent good form will be Neil Robertson,who won the recent Champion of Champions & the man he beat in that final Mark Allen who had lifted the a PTC event the week before.

Things have not gone so well this season for our world champions Stuart Bingham,who has struggled under the weight of the crown,but the chance to hold both titles at the same time might give him an extra incentive here.

Also in the "yet to set the world on fire" category we can put the likes of Mark Selby & Judd Trump you can never rule either of these two men out & indeed that can be extended to Ding Junhui & Shaun Murphy.

So all in all we are in for 12 days of fascinating snooker with the BBC coverage starting at the weekend.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

International Championship - Higgins Rules Supreme

John Higgins today added the 2015 International Championship title to his list of career wins beating David Gilbert 10-5 in the final in Daqing.

This,Higgins second title of the season,having already lifted the Australian Open in July,will have all the more significance for the Scot,because it draws him level with his boyhood hero Steve Davis on the 28 ranking title mark.

Strangely that 28th title for Davis came in the Welsh Open in 1995 where he beat a 19 year old John Higgins & it was in the Welsh Open earlier this year that Higgins finally ended a 29 month title drought,a win that it now seems has sparked new life into a career that was just threatening fade out.

Any obituaries that were been written then though can now well and truly be torn up as what we saw this week was the vintage Higgins that lifted three world titles in five years between 2007-2011.

The final itself  was a high quality affair and his opponent David Gilbert,who was appearing in his first ranking final,can maybe curse his luck a bit that he ran into someone playing so well,as on another day,against another opponent, he could really have gone close to his maiden victory

As it was he did well here to stay in touch for so long and may will look at a couple of possible turning points like in frame 6 where Higgins nicked it on the colours and frame 13 where he missed a tricky red on 54 & Higgins dished with 88 to to go 8-5.It was that frame that seemed to finally break the Englishman as he lost the next two after the interval to go down 10-5.

Gilbert has always struck me as one of those players who might just be one good run in a big tournament away from really kicking on & making a name for himself in the game.Hopefully now for him that time has come.

Today though belongs to John Higgins.As well as drawing him level with Davis, this win also moved him ahead of Ronnie O'Sullivan on the ranking titles list. That seemed unlikely to happen around this time last yr as Ronnie was claiming a fifth UK title & Higgins was struggling so badly for form.Here we are now though almost 12 months later with Ronnie yet to hit a ball in anger this season and Higgins looking to the future with renewed hope.Not only that,he seems to have also rediscovered the consistency that is needed to compete for the games real big prizes.A fifth world title for the Wizard of Wishaw come next May anyone?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

International Championship Quarter final round up.

And then there were 4 after a day of hard matchplay snooker at the the International Championship in Daqing.

The first semi final tomorrow will see Thepcheaiya Un_Nooh face David Gilbert after both came through tough deciding frames to book their places in the last four.

Un-Nooh of course has been no stranger to deciders this week having played four of them already just to reach this stage and he showed what good form he was in,turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. Mark Allen though is no pushover and pulled it back to level things up at 4-4.From here the standard upped another gears Un-Nooh knocked in a 99 break to go 5-4 only for a 114 from Allen made it 5-5.

Into that decider then and it was Un-Nooh who was always in control of it to run out the 6-5 winner.

Meanwhile on the other table David Gilbert was battling it out against the 2013 runner up Marco Fu.

 This was a real high quality encounter with Fu looking in great touch as he opened up a 4-2 with the help of breaks of 66,72 & 89.Gilbert though is one of those players who has threatened for a long time to make a name for himself in the game and maybe now that time has come.He levelled things up here at 4-4 before a break of 130 put one away from the match at 5-4.Fu though levelled with a 78 to make it 5-5.

The decider here was a real nailbiter and looked to be going the way of Fu ,but Gilbert held his nerve to clear from the last two reds and seal the 6-5 victory on the black.

If the semi final line up in the top is a surprising one,there is something quite familiar about the two who will contest the one in the other half of the draw.

Mark Selby stayed in contention for the title with a 6-4 victory over Neil Robertson.

There is always a danger when these two hardened match players face each other that they may well cancel each other out and so it seemed today as both struggled to find any real fluency.The telling move in this came when Selby took three frames in a row to lead 4-2 and although Robertson knocked a 127 to get within one again at 5-4 ,Selby did enough to get over the line 6-4.

John Higgins seemed t be picking up where he left off yesterday against Murphy when he raced into a 4-0 lead early on here against Joe Perry.This was indeed a run of 15 consecutive frames over three matches from Higgins,but Perry stopped the rot taking the next and he gradually dragged himself back into it.

Higgins was now feeling the pressure ,but managed to pot a superb pink in frame nine and followed it with the black to seal a 6-3.

So now we are down to the final four we revert to a single table set up and that rarest of things in todays game,a best of 17 semi final.Lets savour a weekend of glorious snooker drama

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

International Championship Last 16 round up

Last 16 day at the International Championship and as is often the case at this stage of a big event,we the usual mix of one sided matches & closes finishes.

Undoubtedly the performance of the day came from John Higgins who produced the kind of display that was once his trademark to ease past Shaun Murphy 6-0. This on paper looked like the tie of the round,but such was the scoring power on display from Higgins that the writing was on the wall here from early on.Breaks of 56,74 & 62 saw him to 4-0 at the interval,but if anything he stepped up another gear when they resumed & a break of 138 & 78 sealed an impressive victory.

As Higgins was easing his way into tomorrows quarter final the man he will next face was in a fight all the way deciding frame on one of the outside tables,It could all have been much easier for Joe Perry as he stood one frame from victory at 5-2,but back came Ben Woollaston,taking the next three to level at 5-5.Perry though held his nerve in the decider to go through 6-5.

World no.1 Mark Selby was far from his best today ,but in truth he didn't need to be as he was presented chance after chance by his Welsh opponent Michael White.The Leicesterman ran out a comfortable 6-3 winner in the end,but will surely have to up his game in the next round against his old adversary Neil Robertson.

Robertson for his part saw off the challenge of Graeme Dott by a scoreline of 6-1,the decisive moment in this one coming in frame 5 where needing a snooker with just pink & black remaining, Robertson got one and then cleared potted the two remaining balls to lead 4-1.From here he quickly mopped things up with runs of 73 & 75 to seal the win.

In the top half of the draw Mark Allen brought the run of Tian Pengfei to an end with a 6-1 win & will now play Thepchaiya Un-Nooh who beat Zhou Yuelong 6-5.The quarter final line up will be completed by Marco Fu who beat Jimmy Robertson 6-3 & David Gilbert who beat Dings conqueror Ryan Day 6-4

Quarter Finals
Mark Allen v  Thepchaiya Un-Nooh
Marco Fu v David Gilbert
Mark Selby v Neil Robertson
John Higgins v Joe Perry

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

International Championship Last 32 round up.

Last 32 day at the International Championship in Daqing and on another busy day of action here are the headlines.

Home favourite Ding Junhui bowed out to his old nemesis Ryan Day after their match went to their customary deciding frame,the Welshman winning in the end 6-5.He'll next face David Gilbert who kept up his fine recent form with a 6-4 victory over Oliver Lines.

World no.1 Mark Selby gained a small bit of revenge against his Crucible conqueror Anthony McGill,winning comfortably here 6-1 to set up a last 16 clash Michael White who bear Lee Walker 6-3

Neal Robertson came through a tough examination against Fergal O'Brien bating the Irishman 6-3 and will now face Graeme Dott who beat Peter Ebdon by the same scoreline.

In what on paper looks to be the standout match of the last 16 Shaun Murphy will face John Higgins,Murphy having beating Jamie Jones 6-2 & Higgins coming from 3-1 down to bear Michael Holt 6-3.

There wont be back to back ranking titles for Kyren Wilson after the recent Shanghai Masters winner went down 6-3 to Mark Allen.He will now play an in form Tian Pengfei who followed up his win earlier in the week over defending champion Ricky Walden,with a 6-3 victory today over Liang Wenbo.

Mark Williams went down 6-5 to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh and he will play Zhao Yuelong who took care of Sanderson Lam by the rather more comfortable scoreline of 6-0.

Elsewhere Yu Delu couldn't repeat the performance that saw him beat world champion Stuart Bingham in the last round as he went down 6-5 to Ben Woollaston .He will now play Joe Perry who beat Dominic Dale 6-3 & finally Jimmy Robertson produced some snooker to beat Barry Hawkins 6-4 & will ow play Marco Fu who beat Jack Lisowski 6-3.

Last 16 draw
Tian Pengfei v Mark Allen
Thepchaiya Un-Nooh v Zhao Yuelong
Jimmy Robertson v Marco Fu
David Gilbert v Ryan Day
Mark Selby v Michael White
Graeme Dott v Neil Robertson
Shaun Murphy v John Higgins
Joe Perry v Ben Woollaston

Monday, 19 October 2015

The season so far plus other bits & bobs.

Maybe its the first  real signs of a winter chill in the mornings,or the gradual drawing in of the evenings or maybe even the fact I attended a wonderful exhibition last night as Steve Davis & Ken Doherty entertained an enthusiastic theatre full of snooker fans,but I figured today was as good a day as any to fire up this blog again for the long season ahead.

Today,indeed saw the start of the Haining Open,the first of seasons Asian Tour event & next weekend sees the start of the International Championship,but more of that later in the week when I will be writing preview.For now though I'll quickly look back at what we've seen so far this 2015/16 season.

In a summer where we haven't seen quite as much snooker as we have in recent years,not in itself a bad thing,we have none the less been treated to a couple of superb finals.

The first of these was in the Australian Open in Bendigo where in the first round saw home favourite Neil Robertson  crash out 5-4 to Matt Selt,a fate which also befell to the first reigning world champion to make the trip down under Stuart Bingham who went down 5-4 to Fergal O'Brien.

The title itself though was to go to John Higgins who,despite turning 40 only a few weeks before this event,proved there was still life left in the "Wizard of Wishaw"as he came through a thrilling final of the highest quality with Martin Gould by a scoreline of 9-8..

This was the 27th ranking title of his illustrious career and whereas another world title may at this stage prove to be beyond him,you certainly wouldn't rule out another ranking title victory which would draw him level with Steve Davis on the all time list.

If Higgins victory was a salute to the golden era of the last 20 yrs,then the victory of Kyren Wilson in the Shanghai Masters was very much one for the next generation as the 23 year old produced some stunning snooker to claim his first ranking title with a superb 10-9 win over Judd Trump.

This was another really thrilling final with Wilson digging deep on more than one occasion to hold off a spirited Trump fightback,before clinching that decider with a fine 75 break.Such was the level of his displays in this tournament we will surely be seeing a lot more of this young man who bucked the recent trend of victories for the thirtysomethings.

Also this summer  have seen three of the European Tour events with,Barry Hawkins winning the Riga Open with a 4-1 final win over Tom Ford,Ali Carter lifting all our hearts as well as the trophy in the Paul Hunter Classic with a 4-3 victory over Shaun Murphy and Rory Mcleod,at the ripe old age of 44,claimed his first title with a 4-2 win over Tian Pehgfei in the Ruhr Open.

Away from the table the it has to be said man causing the most stir on social media has surprisingly been Shaun Murphy.

The first of his utterances to get people talking was his well thought out proposal of reducing the main tour  to 64 from 128,with the top 48 keeping there places every year and the other 16 places been filled from a new challenge tour.

I actually think this wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.Since the game has gone to the flat 128 draw I think certain events have lost their narrative with the UK Championship been all but destroyed as a event which is supposed to be the second biggest in game.

We also have first round matches been played long before the actual event and even worse in places where large numbers can be accommodated we have events been squashed into a tight schedule.Less players allow tournament organisers a little more breathing space and maybe even allow a return to some even slightly longer formats instead of these annoying best of 7's.

The other topic that Shaun seemed to start the debate on during the recent Ruhr Open was the subject of a shot clock. I'm not sure if he had started this before or after the record for the longest frame was smashed by Alan McManus & Barry Pinches as they broke 100 minute barrier,but it seemed to grow legs after that with everyone seeming to want to throw in their two cents worth.

Lets though just draw a line through this immediately.The day a shot clock is introduced to the game is the day the music dies.No discussion,no arguments, no exceptions.It would be the day the game of snooker as we know it dies.

Anyway thats all from me for now .As I said above I'll be back later in the week with a preview for the International Championship.Until then happy snookering.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

World Championship 2015 - What did we learn?

Well thats all folks,a season that started way back in China last June  comes to an end with a memorable final last night in Sheffield and the crowning of a new world champion So as the dust settles on another Crucible marathon and Stuart Bingham rides off into the sunset with the sports most coveted title,just what have we learned over the last 17 days?

Well there is only one place to start and that is with our new champion.Stuart Bingham is hardly a new name to snooker fans,but I'm sure most people like myself only ever looked on him as being a solid pro,capable of producing the odd big result against one of the top players,but not someone who would ever win one of the "big Three". Boy did he prove us wrong here.Not only did he produce some superb snooker, to win this title,he managed to produce it when under the most severe of pressure.There is no greater measure of a true champion than that.

Staying with the final Shaun Murphy showed us again in defeat just what a gentleman he is and you got the feeling his words of praise were not just meaningless soundbites,but genuinely heartfelt.No doubt he will be devastated to lose the final,but he can look back on a championship where he produced perhaps his best snooker at the Crucible since he lifted the title in 2005 and following on from a great season,this leaves him well placed to challenge for the games big prizes again next season.

Judd Trump can also look back on a season where he started to get his career heading the right way again,but will no doubt feel he may have left this title behind him,such was his standard in the early rounds.I got the distinct impression,especially in the first session again Bingham in the semi finals,Judd was suffering a little from the "expecting to be playing Ronnies"and may have underestimated his opponent.(Something we were all guilty of with Bingham). Of course everyone expects that one day Trump will be a world champion and while I share that view,nothing is guaranteed.If he can build on his efforts this season though,it is more likely that day will come than not.

From talk of a potential future champion to some great champions of the past and perhaps the signs we are nearing the end for the "class of '92". It has seemed for a couple of seasons that the chances of John Higgins or Mark Williams adding to their world title tallies were slim,but  maybe now the that is  also the case for the most decorated of that trio,Ronnie O'Sullivan. Ronnie just didn't seem to ever settle into this tournament and  as he has been since the Welsh Open,he  was strangely irritable. In my preview blog for this tournament I said that I felt if Ronnie had claimed his sixth title last year against Selby,that I had no doubt he'd be winning a seventh here.The fact is he didn't and there is now a strong possibility that he may not have it to challenge for the title here again.

As they say time or tide though wait for no man and there will always be players coming along to take their place.The question is where are they?

We constantly hear of all these great young players coming through,but the evidence just isn't there to support it.Bingham at 38 winning his first world title is seven years older than Davis & Hendry were when they won their last and it comes on the back of a season where seven of the nine players who won ranking titles were 31 or older.People will point to the likes of Michael White,Luca Brecel & Anthony McGilll who shocked Selby here as well as others,but a time comes where potential must be translated into results. I do really feel though that if the right player were to come through now,there is an opening to dominate this game for a decade.

Finally to a topic that had Twitter up in arms,particularly from the one table set up on and that was the pockets which seemed at times bucketlike. Ok that is a slight exaggeration,but there is no doubt that compared to other years they were certainly a little more forgiving.Barry Hearn responded to complaints on Twitter by saying they were templated as usual,but there are ways around this such as undercutting that can make them marginally more accepting of the ball.At this level the slightest easing of the difficulty makes a massive difference,as we saw here with the century break record being smashed.

As a one off this wouldn't be something worth worrying about,but the fear would be that if it continued into other events,in the mistaken belief that all snooker fans want to see is wham bam one chance frames then it would awful for the game. After all for all the big breaks in the final the most compelling frame lasted 64 minutes.

So thats it then,I don't think when we look back on this fortnight we will remember it  as one of the great championship,but in Stuart Bingham we got a winner who show showed all the all the traits we like in our champions,skill, humility, determination & calm under pressure.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read this blog over the season and I hope it proved informative, I will be using the next couple of months to try and spruce things up a bit around here and I hope to come back with a bigger and brighter website for the new season.Till then,take care & enjoy your summer.

The Green Baize

Monday, 4 May 2015

The World Champion is Stuart Bingham

Stuart Bingham is the World Snooker champion,beating Shaun Murphy 18-15 in a dramatic and memorable final at The Crucible Theatre.

Before this tournament started few would have considered Bingham a serious contender for the title here,but after a first round struggle against Robbie Williams,he blew former champion Graeme Dott away in the second round,before a superb victory over Ronnie in the quarter final,and a dramatic deciding frame win over Trump in the semi.

Even with these victories behind him he still started this final as the underdog against a Shaun Murphy who had been in splendid form,breezing through the top half of the draw,to reach his third world final.

Bingham was to prove once again though that writing him off is a dangerous pass time as he showed just what a competitor he has become to claim the sports most coveted prize.

Of the match itself,unlike the first two session yesterday it was Bingham who got off to the better start today,taking the first four frames to turn his 9-8 overnight deficit into a 12-9 lead and although Murphy managed to stop the rot a bit the next four were only shared to leave Stuart 14-11 ahead going into the final session.

Murphy would have been aware he needed a good start tonight and got it,taking the first of the night to close to 14-12 Bingham though reopened his three frame lead in the next to lead 15-12.

Bingham was now just three frames from the title and maybe those thoughts were starting to enter his head as he started to miss a few & Murphy,being the great player he is started to fight back,taking the two before the interval to close to 15-14 and then the next level it up at 15-15.

This had been a match of the highest quality,with most of the frames coming down to whoever got the first chance,but it was a good old fashioned long nervy 31st frame that perhaps decided the destination of the title.

After a long battle on the reds the pendulum seemed to have swung toward Murphy when Bingham potted a great long red only to see the white cannon off another red and go in off. Murphy now had a chance to clear to win,but he failed to get ideal position on the yellow and a safety battle ensued.The key moment here was to come when Bingham paid an excellent snooker on the yellow and from here really controlled the exchanges,eventually winning the 64 minute frame to lead again 16-15.

This was indeed to prove the pivotal moment as Bingham held himself together to win the two he needed to lift the title 18-15 and claim the £300,000 top prize

Murphy of course was every bit the gentleman we would expect in his hearty congratulations of Stuart and although he will be disappointed he didn't add a second world title ten years on from his first,he can look back on a tournament & indeed season where he established himself once again as one of the games real top players.Once he gets over this he can certainly look back on his performance with a lot of pride as well as look forward to next season where if he keeps this form up he will be a title contender wherever he plays.

But what of  our champion Stuart Bingham.As I said few would have ever seen him as a potential world title winner (& I include myself in that as readers of this blog will know,I tipped him for defeat in every round since the second) ,but what a way to prove your doubters wrong. There has been plenty of talk about the new calendar & burnout over the last twelve months,but maybe now that argument can stop,when a player playing his 120th match of the season goes on to lift the world crown.

In these last five seasons,Bingham has never complained about the schedule,but instead  adopted a "have cue will travel" attitude and has as such reaped the rewards,from his first ranking title in Australia,to his second in Shanghai,his numerous Asian tour successes as well as the Premier League and now this.

Some will no doubt question what it says about where our sport is at when a 38 year old with only two rankings titles in 20 years as a pro can win the world title,but they are questions for another day.Tonight lets just agree that it shows everyone in the game that if you put in the hard yards and never stop believing,then in the end you may just get the rewards you deserve.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

World Championship Final First Day

Half way through the 2015 final and which of these two will be holding aloft the famous trophy tomorrow night is still very much in the balance after a day which showed just why Shaun Murphy & Stuart Bingham have reached this stage.

Following two highly entertaining sessions its Murphy who holds the narrow advantage at 9-8,but he may feel slightly frustrated that its not more having twice threatened to pull away with this only for Bingham to find reserves of strength to fight back.

In his semi final match here Murphy also faced,in Hawkins,someone who had been involved in a late night decider and on that occasion he steamrollered him from the off. The same looked a possibility here as he stormed into a 3-0 lead.

Bingham though has not reached this stage without playing well and fought back to level the the match by the end of the session at 4-4.

Out tonight it was Bingham who got in first and looked to going ahead for the first time in the match only to break down on 57 and Murphy pounced with 74 to go 5-4.From here Murphy went into turbo drive taking the next three to lead 8-4 at the interval.

As so often in the past though the interval can change things and back came Bingham again to close within one at 8-7. Murphy had now gone from been in total control of things to not potting a ball for half an hour,but he put that to right in the next to go ahead by two again at 9-7.

Into the last of the night and although both players had chances it again to went to Bingham to leave things perfectly balanced going into tomorrow with Murphy leading 9-8.

Roll on tomorrow afternoon.

World Championship Final Preview

After 15 days of green baize drama,we are down to two men who are left with a chance to become the 2015 world champion as Shaun Murphy takes on Stuart Bingham for the title and the £300,000 top prize.

Murphy will no doubt start a warm favourite to collect a second world title ten years after his first and his short price is well justified based on the serene progress he has made through the tournament to this point.

As often stated before,a year ago Murphy was at a crossroads in his career seemingly unable to find a way to convert runs to quarters & semis into titles,but this season he has been a different animal.Back is that confident stomp around the table you get from Murphy when his confidence is high and that coupled with a beautifully natural cue action have made him one of the games toughest competitors again.

In this tournament he has been immaculate around the table and to reach a final here only conceding 25 frames along the way is remarkable.

As I've said above he will start a short favourite to win today,but he is not someone who will be weighed down by this expectation.

In many ways it is astounding that Murphy might win the title here without having had to face Selby,Robertson,Ronnie or Trump,but of course the reason he's avoided the latter two is his opponent here Stuart Bingham.

When Bingham beat Ronnie,a lot of people ,myself included,saw it as more of Ronnie not been really up for this rather than Bingham playing well but following his remarkable 17-16 victory over Trump last night that opinion has had to reviewed.

Bingham of course is well used to been underrated,capable of playing well and producing an odd surprise result,but not someone who'd ever challenge for the games real big prizes. 

Well that has all changed now,as not just his victory over Trump,but also the manner in which he stood up to the pressure in the final frame having seen his opponent level it at 16-16 form 16-14 with back to back centuries,have shown he has the stomach for the the fight.

So what of this match,well as we often see,even in these long matches,the first session is key.In three of his first four matches here Murphy has established a big lead early on and never looked back.If he can do that again here he may well be out of sight before Bingham knows whats happening.

Thats why I believe its vital for Bingham to put any tiredness he may feel to the back of his mind and get some frames on the board early.  From that position he could build on it tonight and give himself a fighting chance tomorrow.

Dangerous as it has proven to write off Bingham here this week though,I do feel Murphy will win this and possibly a tad comfortably,but hey as anyone who has been reading this blog throughout the championship will know.I've been wrong before!!

Friday, 1 May 2015

World Championship Summary of the Semi Finals so far

After two days of semi final action technically we still have four players in with a chance of making the final here,but in reality,its going to take something the like of which we've never seen before,if Shaun Murphy is to be denied the chance to claim a second world crown come Monday.

Murphy has quite simply been in superb form all tournament and unlike in previous years where he flattered to deceive early in tournaments only to fall away,here if anything, he seems to be only getting better as the matches go by.

After all that had happened the night before,the first session yesterday afternoon was always going to be difficult for Hawkins and he looked visibly tired as play commenced. Murphy on the other hand,looking resplendent  in his colourful trousers & waistcoat,was not in the humour to be letting him ease his way into the match,pouncing on every mistake to take an early 6-2 lead.

The hope this morning for Hawkins then was that,after a good nights sleep,he could work his way back into this one by winning the session.Those hopes were to disappear pretty quickly though,as Murphy produced yet another morning of flawless snooker to firstly take the opening four frames to extend his lead to 10-3 then, three of the next four to leave the possibility of finishing a session early very much on the cards at 13-3.

Into tonight then and Murphy took the opening frame to extend his lead to 14-3,but Hawkins,willed on by the Crucible crowd,finally got some form going to take four in a row & make it 14-7.He couldn't quite maintain it though as Murphy found his groove again with runs of 90 & 106.

He was now just one away from his spot in the final,but Hawkins to his great credit took the last of the night to force an afternoon session tomorrow.The score 16-8.

If that semi final is all over bar the shouting,that certainly could not be said of the other one with all very much still to play for tomorrow with Stuart Bingham leading Judd Trump.9-7.

Following Binghams surprise victory over Ronnie in the previous round Trump was installed as a warm favourite to claim the title here,but perhaps in yesterdays first session he too was adjusting to the fact he wasn't facing Ronnie as Bingham opened up a 5-3 lead.

Its a funny thing sometimes in these long matches that once a player gets a lead it can be difficult to get it back.So it proved today,although for most of the afternoon it was Trump working to keep it a two rather than threatening to close the gap As it were the eight frames were shared leaving us with a fascinating mornings snooker to look forward to tomorrow.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

World Championship Semi Final Preview.

Well after all the drama of yesterday,four men remain in with a shout of claiming the title,but they may not be four we were expecting.

Shaun Murphy v Barry Hawkins.
What a difference a year makes,last season Murphy was Mr Consistent,reaching the latter stages of many tournaments,without ever really looking like winning any of them,this term though we have seen a different player as was apparent in his Masters triumph and that old determined stomp around the table is back.

To reach this semi final he has played some really top quality snooker here that has possibly gone below the radar,with the headlines been made by others.His victory over McGill though showed he is cuing as well as he has at any stage since he lifted the crown here in 2005.

Hawkins on the other hand has endured a nightmare season,but as so often in the past ,he has discovered his best form here and his victory over Robertson last night can only have given him him even more of a boost.

This one could go very close,but I just think Murphy might have too much in the end and win something like 17-14 or 17-15

Judd Trump v Stuart Bingham
Judd Trump has been doing what Judd Trump can do in this tournament,thrilling the crowd with some extraordinary snooker. As we have seen this season,though Trump now has an all round game too and will undoubtedly feel he has every chance of going one better than he did here in 2011 when he was runner up to Higgins. The bookies certainly think so too ,as they have made him a very short favourite to claim a first world title.

I'm sure Trump was expecting to be facing off against his great rival Ronnie O'Sullivan here,but Stuart Bingham had something to say about that and he produced a string of big breaks to end Ronnies hops of a sixth title here last night.

Trump would do well not to think too far ahead of himself here,as Bingham has shown what a dangerous opponent he can be when he gets going in a match.That said though Trump in this form is a very different proposition to an O'Sullivan playing below his best and it would be an even bigger shock if Bingham were to get through here. 

For that reason I think this one may not be as close as the other semi final & I expect Trump to win comfortably 17-9 or 17-10

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

World Championship Day 12

A dramatic days action at the Crucible has left us with four players still in the running to become the 2015 champion,but before we look forward to that lets look back at what was beyond doubt the day of the championship so far.

The best place to start is with not just the best match of this tournament so far,but maybe the best match we've seen in many a year here.

Barry Hawkins started out today with a 5-3 lead over Neil Robertson,but noone could have predicted the classic we were going to have.Hawkins had reached that lead having won the last four of the session yesterday and he continued that run to extend his lead to 7-3 here. He seemed to have Robertson right under it,but when he missed a simple red Robertson pounced to close to 7-4.That missed red then took on more significance as Robertson also won the next three to level at 7-7.The next frame was a long and fascinating affair that after 72 minutes play finally went to Hawkins,but also resulted in play been stopped early to allow the afternoon session to begin.

Into tonight then and one of the highest quality sessions of snooker we are ever likely to see.

Robertson got the ball rolling with a fabulous 141 to make it 8-8 ,before Hawkins responded with runs of 104 & 108 to lead 10-8 only for breaks of 90 & 65 from Robertson either side of the interval drew thins level again at 10-10

This really was phenomenal stuff and the high quality continued as Robertson edged ahead again,this time with a 142 & Hawkins responded with a 109 to make it 11-11 .This was by now fast becoming a match that would live long in the memory and it got the finale it deserved as the next two were shared to make it 12-12. In the decider both player had a chance,but it was Hawkins who got the first real opportunity to win the match and he held his nerve to clinch a fantastic 13-12.

For Hawkins this result showed once again his bottle for the big occasion & indeed his knack of producing his best at the Crucible,but its impossible not to feel some sympathy for Robertson who has lit up this championship and may have beaten anyone else in draw on this form.

Its says a lot for the quality of that match that it has stolen the headlines from Stuart Bingham who on the other table tonight brought Ronnie O'Sullivans quest for a sixth title to an end with a gritty display.

Bingham had the upper hand in this one coming into todays second session.leading 5-3,but Ronnie appeared to have weathered the storm to lead 8-7 with a frame left in the afternoon session.Ronnie seemed set to win that one as well but he broke down on 68 and Bingham dished to level at 8-8.

Into the third session and Ronnie again took the lead at 9-8,but amazingly that would be the last frame he would win as runs of 74,88,51,85 & 66 gave Bingham a famous 13-9 win.

So there will be no sixth title for Ronnie this year and after his defeat in last years final as well it now seems that time for him to beat or equal Hendry's record of seven may have run out.

For Bingham though he can look forward to a first semi final where he will face Judd Trump who completed his match with Ding Junhui this morning in the blink of an eye,getting the frame he needed to complete a 13-4 win.

In the other quarter final Shaun Murphy finally saw off the challenge of Anthony McGill winning the end 13-8. McGill though can certainly hold his head high and I have a feeling that this will be the point where people will remember seeing him for the first time as he goes on to much success in coming seasons.

There we have it then with four men just the 35 frames from lifting the crown. Full preview will be u in the morning.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

World Championship Day 11.

The quarter finals in the world championship are generally where you start to see who among the players who have gotten this far are genuine title contenders and if that is the case today Judd Trump announced himself as perhaps the favourite to lift the crown come Monday.

On paper at least his match with Ding Junhui looked like it may be  classic to rank along side their semi final battle in 2011,but the one caveat to that was that Ding couldn't afford a poor start like he had had in his opening two matches.That though was exactly what happened as Trump roared out of the blocks to lead 6-0.Ding to his credit kept his hopes alive,winning last two of session to end the morning 6-2 behind.

Ding needed a good start tonight to build on that ,but Trump was simply unplayable as he surged further ahead,finishing with back to back centuries to stand one away from a place in the semi final at 12-4.

Shaun Murphy is also in pole position for a place in the semi final,but he still has some work to do  holding a 9-7 lead over Anthony McGill going into tomorrow afternoons final session.This had been nip and tuck all day as having finished the morning at 4-4 they reached the interval in the night session tied at 6-6 after a couple of lengthy frames.From here though Murphy hit one of his hot streaks,winning the next three to lead 9-6. McGill needed the last of the night to just stay in touch and to his credit he got it to leave his one still very much in the balance.

In matches with only one session completed Ronnie O'Sullivan & Neil Robertson both have a little bit of work to do trailing 5-3 to Stuart Bingham & Barry Hawkins respectively.

Ronnie had started in superb fashion with a century on the first frame,but although he also added another before the interval the score was still only 2-2.After the break that irritability that has seemed to be bubbling beneath the surface for Ronnie here all tournament reared its head again & Bingham took advantage to win last of the session to lead 5-3 overnight.

Robertson has been in phenomenal form here and lead 3-1 going to their interval,but Hawkins has a brilliant Crucible  record in recent years and reeled of all four frames after the interval,without Robertson potting a ball to lead the Aussie 5-3.

Monday, 27 April 2015

World Championship Day 10 / Quarter Finals Preview

As expected Shaun Murphy (13-5 Joe Perry), Judd Trump (13-8 Marco Fu) Ronnie O'Sullivan (13-5 Matthew Stevens) & Neil Robertson (13-5) all went through today with the minimum of fuss to complete the Last eight line up and what an interesting set of matches we have in store over the next two days.

Anthony McGill v Shaun Murphy
In many ways the story of this championship so far has been the emergence of Anthony McGill and his victory over defending champion Mark Selby in the last round showed just what a talent this young Scot is. Its not just ability on the table that has endeared him to people here,but also the fact that he seems to be really enjoying what he is doing.Add to this a real all round game and we're looking at someone who without question will be challenging for titles in the coming seasons.

The question here is can he continue to ride the crest of the wave and make a challenge for this title.If he is he is going to have to get past a former champion in great form.

It could be argued this season that Shaun Murphy is playing the best snooker he has since he won the title here in 2005. This was really apparent in his Masters victory in January and he has reached this stage only conceding eight frames in his first two matches.I'd certainly expect this one to be a lot closer than that,but i just feel Murphy will have too much for McGill this year and I think he'll got through.
Prediction: Murphy 13-10McGill

Barry Hawkins v Neil Robertson
There is little doubt the most impressive player so far in this championship has been Robertson who has breezed through the first teo rounds here without breaking sweat.Of course he was helped by two opponents who were playing well below their best ,but  among the balls he has looked phenomenal.

Hawkins on the other and had had an extraordinary championship form nearly throwing away his first round match to clinching a victory against Allen in the next round having looked second best throughout.Looking at this one you must also consider Hawkins great Crucible record in recent years,but really I just think Robertson is playing to well and will win this comfortably
Prediction: Robertson 13-6

Ding Junhui v Judd Trump
Here we have undoubtedly the tie of the round and if it matches their epic semi final here in 2011 we are in for a real treat.After a season of disappointment Ding has started to look like his old self here this week and there are few easier on the eye when it comes to constructing a break than him.

Trump on the other hand come here on the back of a season where he has seemed to grow as a player and has done nothing here to discourage those who believe this may well be his year.

This one is really too close to call,but the one thing that from a form line that may sway it is the fact that Ding has started his first two matches here quite slowly before finding some form and if that were to happen here you feel Trump may well be gone out of sight.For that reason I just give it to Trump but it may well be very close.
Prediction Trump 13-11

Stuart Bingham v Ronnie O'Sullivan
So we come to Ronnie and after two rounds just how is the "Rocket" playing.Well its hard to know as he has been put under very little pressure.At times he has looked near his best,but perhaps most worrying for his supporters is an irritability that seems set to blow at anything that goes wrong.

Its probably equally difficult to say just how Bingham has played after he came through a real slog in round one before beating a physically wrecked Graeme Dott with ease in round two.

I have to admit though,if Ronnies state of mind here is suspect under pressure I don't expect it to be tested in this one.
Prediction Ronnie O'Sullivan 13-6

Sunday, 26 April 2015

World Championship Day Nine

The 2015 championship reached the halfway stage today and although no match was down for conclusion today,it is going to take something quite spectacular tomorrow to stop any of the four players who currently lead from reaching the last 8.

Ronnie O'Sullivan won seven of the eight frames this afternoon to all but put his match with Matthew Stevens to bed leading now as he does 12-4. Of Ronnie himself.he still look a little irritable at times,but he showed here,particularly in frames 12 & 13 with back to back centuries,that he is starting to hit the ball well.

Another man who has been hitting the ball as well as anyone in this championship is Neil Robertson and he may be a little disappointed that he hasn't given himself the day off tomorrow,but credit to must go to Carter who won the last two frames of the afternoon to close 11-5.

Shaun Murphy too would have been thinking of a day off tomorrow when he lead Joe Perry 10-1,but Perry won two of the next three to make it 12-3 and then won the last of the night to avoid the indignity of losing with a session to spare to end 12-4

Judd Trump is also very much on course for a place in the last 8 leading Marco Fu 10-6. Starting out tonight Trump had lead 5-3,but quickly made that 9-3 by taking the first four of the session. Fu to his credit though,was better after the interval  and managed to keep a glimmer of hope going into tomorrow winning three of the next four to close four behind at 10-6.

There is no morning session tomorrow and there might not be much of an afternoon or evening session if these matches go to form.I hope Dennis remembered to bring his goggles for an exhibition. 30th anniversary black ball finish anyone?

Saturday, 25 April 2015

World Championship Day Eight.

This years championship is a week old today and in the light of Selby's exit last night we may have seen today a few players who might just be fancying this  now,start to manoeuvre themselves into position.

The first of these os Ding Junhui who came through a real test against John Higgins today.Starting the morning 9-7 in front,he made the most of a Higgins miss to dish with 63 and also took the next to move four clear at 11-7.Higgins just couldn't seem to get going as he would have liked here but dug deep to take the next to close to  11-8.Ding though was beginning to look his old self among the balls and with an 89 in the 20th frame he moved to within one of the quarters at 12-8.

Ding really should have won the next,but a bad kick on the pink when in and some more bad luck later allowed Higgins get one back to 12-9.Again in the next it looked all over  when Ding left Higgins needing snookers on the last red,but unbelievably he went in off getting out of the snooker and worse still left Higgins a free ball.Higgins though made a mess of the clearance,something that would never have happened in his prime,and Ding got the pots he needed to seal the 13-9 win.

So a season of struggle could yet have a happy ending for Ding,who probably came here with the lowest level of expectation around him he has ever had.That may just have suited him as he he tries to claim the one big prize that has so far eluded him. You would say he will need to start off better than has here in his first two matches,but once he's got going in his games he has looked as comfortable among the balls as he ever has.

For Higgins sadly he will look back with disappointment at a session today where he never really got going ,but as the saying goes,time or tide waits for no man and it may just be the case that at this stage of his career Higgins just doesn't have it to challenge for this great championship again.

The tie of the round so far though was the tussle between Barry Hawkins & Mark Allen.

Allen held a 5-3 overnight advantage overnight and they shared the first four to leave it 7-5.Hawkins closed to 7-6 before what looked a pivotal moment in the next when Hawkins,having gotten the three snookers he needed missed the easiest of blues to give Allen a two frame lead again at 8-6.

Allen then took the next to go 9-6 and he seemed set fair for a four frame lead in the next when Hawkins needed a snooker on the blue,only for Barry to get it and clear to make it 9-7.This gave the match a completely different perspective coming into the final session,but you still had the feeling Allen would get over the line.

On resumption the first four frames were shared again to move the score along to 11-9,but from here something in the match changed.Hawkins started to up his game and after drawing level at 11-11,he took the lead for the first time with a break of 102.A tense 24th frame followed,but there was to be no decider as Hawkins potted the black to seal a 13-11 win that until the last few frames never looked likely.

In other results Stuart Bingham quickly put the finishing touches to his match with Graeme Dott,getting over the finish line in style with a 104 to seal a 13-5 win.

In matches that started today,Ronnie O Sullivan recovered from a slow and rather grumpy start against Matthew Stevens,coming from 2-0 to lead 5-2,before Stevens took the last of the session to keep in touch at 5-3  & Neil Robertson kept up his ultra impressive form from the first round to take a 6-2 lead over Ali Carter.

Friday, 24 April 2015

World Championship Day Seven.

Day seven at the Crucible and there is really only one place we can start.

Defending champion Mark Selby crashed out of the tournament tonight,going down 13-9 to Anthony McGill in as big a shock result as we've seen here in a long time to prove the Crucible curse for first time returning champions remains alive and well.

These two played out a highly entertaining first session yesterday which ended level at 4-4,but it was McGill who started the better this morning.taking three of the first four to lead 7-5 at the interval.A run of  83 from Selby closed him within one again at 7-6,but McGill dominated the next three frames to end the session 10-6.

So the question going into the final session was could the young Scot playing at the Crucible this year for the first time finish off the job or would Selby do,well a "Selby" and dig himself out of trouble. With all this in mind the first frame was always going to be crucial and it was Selby who made the early running with a series of great shots,only to carelessly run out of position when among the balls. From here McGill produced as magnificent a break 68 as you could see under pressure to go 11-6.

A 67 in the next closed Selby to 11-7,but another immaculate break,this time a 87,from McGill moved him th the hill at 12-7. Selby is a fighter though and he pulled the next two back to keep his faint hopes alive at 12-9.The problem for him though was that no matter what he did McGill was always at some stage going to get a chance to win it and he was playing too well to let it slip by if it came.Thats what happened in the next as McGill closed out a famous victory with a run of 82 and seal his 13-9 win.

The biggest victory of his career so far then for McGill and I think what will have impressed people the most was the way he looked around the table,always comfortable,smiling and actually seeming to be enjoying what he was doing.Add to this undoubted ability and I think we can be sure,regardless of how the rest of this tournament goes,that here is a young man who we will be hearing quite a lot of.

For Selby,he will feel disappointed that he couldn't put up a better defence of his title,but this has been on the whole a disappointing season for him.I know that sounds strange to say of someone who won two ranking titles,but on closer examination how well did he play to win those? He now has a couple of months to reflect on things and I'm sure next season he will be back to the tough a granite Selby we are used too.

In other action today DIng Junhui has completely turned things around against John Higgins to hold a 9-7 lead going into their final session in the morning having started this afternoon 5-3 down. Higgins will no doubt be regretting not taking control of this game last night when he lead 5-1 and he will be even more frustrated by the number of unforced errors he produced this afternoon.He is a four time champion here though and if he can find his game in the morning we could be in for a grandstand finish to this one.

Another Scot in much graver trouble is Graeme Dott,who must somehow find his very best form if he is to trouble Stuart Bingham here as he trails the Englishman 11-5 overnight.

Also in the early stages of their second round encounter re Mark Allen & Barry Hawkins with the Ulsterman holding a 5-3 lead after the early skirmishes,

 The day though belongs to Anthony McGill.Well done young man.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

World Championship Day Six.

Day Six of the championship finally saw the conclusion of the round one matches as well as the first shots fired over the bows of round two.

Starting out today with a 7-2 lead I'm sure Judd trumps thoughts were of a comfortable afternoon hoping to finish it off before the interval,but Stuart Carrington had different ideas and started like a man possessed here,taking three of the first four frames with runs of 97,74 & 70 to close to 8-5.It was play like this last week that earned him his debut here at the Crucible and his regret here will be that he didn't find it earlier when he may  well have made a real match of it.AS it was it was too little too late as Trump won the two more he needed to clinch a 10-6 win.

Trump is many peoples idea of a winner of this event and his performance here will have only given his fans even more reason to believe this may be his year.The same could also be said for the suppoters of Shaun Murphy who put the finishing touches of his match with Robin Hull in style,running out a 10-3 winner,

Of the second round matches that started today Mark Selby is level with Anthony McGill 4-4 after a very entertaining first session and John Higgins leads Ding Junhui 5-3

So 16 players now remain in with a chance of collecting that famous trophy come May 4th and really we are no nearer knowing which of them it will be.Purely on performances in that first round you would say Robertson,Murphy & Trump are all cuing as well as they can,but how hard were they pushed? There are in all probability six who you would consider as a realistic potential winners. Its going to be a fascinating weekend.

Round Two                                     Predictions
Mark Selby v Anthony McGill   (Selby 13-10)
Joe Perry v Shaun Murphy         ( Murphy 13-7)
Barry Hawkins v Mark Allen      (Allen 13-9)
Ali Carter v Neil Robertson         (Robertson 13-5)
Ding Junhui v John Higgins         (Higgins 13-10)
Judd Trump v Marco Fu              (Trump 13-9)
Graeme Dott v Stuart Bingham    (Dott 13-11)
Matthew Stevens v Ronnie O'Sullivan  (O'Sullivan 13-6)

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

World Championship Day Five.

Day five at the Crucible and I think its fair to say this wont go down as one of the tournaments more competitive days.

First up this morning Ronnie O'Sullivan completed the job he started yesterday against Craig Steadman,finishing with a 10-3 victory. Yes its true that if Ronnie is to win a fifth title next weekend he will have to play better than he did here,but that said it was apparent  early on that he wouldn't have to play better than this to win this match and he did look at times in fine rhythm.

Next up for Ronnie is Matthew Stevens who quickly put his match with Mark Williams to bed starting the afternoon with a 7-2 and quickly getting the three he needed to round off a 10-2 win.

In the other match finished today Joe Perry saw off Zhang Anda with what in the end was a 10-4 scoreline,but it briefly threatened tonight to become a lot closer than that. Perry had established an 8-1 lead this morning ,but Zhang to his credit came out all guns blazing to win the first three tonight to close to 8-4.The next frame was a real tense affair that went to the colours,but it was eventually decided when Perry potted a superb long blue and followed it with the pink & black to go 9-4.With that ended any hopes of a comeback and Perry put it to bed in the next to seal the 10-4 win.

Elsewhere two of the real contenders for this title finally got their first round matches underway in impressive fashion as both Judd Trump & Shaun Murphy hold 7-2 leads over Stuart Carrington & Robin Hull respectively

They play to a finish tomorrow where we also see the start of Round two with Mark Selby starting out against Anthony McGill and,in what on paper looks the tie of the round Ding Junhui begins his tussle with John Higgins.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

World Championship Day Four.

One of the real beauties of watching sport is the unpredictability that each event brings.Last year Ding Junhui came to the Crucible very much the man in form having collected five ranking titles through the season,but crashed out to Michael Wasley,This time around he comes here on the back of an awful season ,but there may just be signs that he is starting to find his game again.

In the first session of his match with Mark Davis he was all at sea early on trailing 4-0,but it had seemed he'd weathered the storm escaping from session 4-3 and so it proved today as Davis had no answer for Dings heavier scoring,with the Chinese running out a 10-7 victor.Just how much he was concentrating was apparent in frame nine when it was only after potting the thirteenth red and playing up for the blue that he realised he had actually been on for a 147.

Speaking in terms of Ding having a tough year though does pale into insignificance when you think about the health battles off the table that Ali Carter has faced since he last graced the games biggest stage.The welcome he received here from the Crucible crowd I'm sure will stay with him for a long time and once again  he showed his liking for the place with a comfortable 10-5 win over the dogged Scot Alan McManusThe damage here was done early on when he extended his 5-3 overnight advantage to 7-3 and from there never looked back.

One of the seeds I had thought might be vulnerable here was Mark Allen who has fallen off the radar in recent months following an excellent first half of the campaign.Here he faced Ryan Day & it was the Welshman who took the early initiative to lead 3-1. From here though Allen found his best form to reel off nine frames on the bounce to ease through to the second round 10-3.

Elsewhere in matches that started today Ronnie holds a 7-2 lead over Craig Steadman after a bizarre  session that started with a failed maximum attempt from O'Sullivan and ended with him wearing tournament director Mike Ganley's shoes!

The this evening we had the rematch of the 2000 final here between Mark Williams & Matthew Stevens,Suffice it say that this session didn't live up to the standard we saw then as both players struggled,but Stevens strgulled the better to take an overnight lead of 7-2.

So there you have it a day of failed Maximum attempts ( although its debatable if you can call it a failed attempt when the player doesn't realise its on) & shoes swapping. What can day five bring!!

Monday, 20 April 2015

World Championship- Quick Round Up Of Action So Far

Well the world championship is three days old and anyone wondering what makes this tournament so special need wonder no more after some of the drama we've seen so far.Before I get into that though,I must apologize for lack of blog action over weekend,I was laid low by a bug that I will spare you the details of,but now thankfully seems to be behind me.

Anyway back to the snooker and first up on Saturday we had Mark Selby take on Kurt Maflin..If Selby is defend his title here this year he is going to have to defy any number of so called curses,but the main stumbling block may well be that he simply isn't playing well enough.Now I know that is always a dangerous thing to say with Selby as he so often finds a way to win from nowhere in matches,but as I said in my preview,that surely catches up with you eventually.

The tale of the tape in this one  was Selby going into an 8-4 lead before Maflin won five on the spin to go to the brink at 9-8.Maflin did have chances to close it out in the next two frames,but it was not to be as Selby did what Selby does,snatching victory from jaws of defeat to go through 10-9.

His opponent in the next round had to come through a thriller of his own,but Anthony McGill did just that to confirm his status as one of the games up and coming stars,beating fellow Scot Stephen Maguire 10-9.

McGill had the upper hand in this from the get go and smooth progress looked likely when he move into  9-5 lead.Maguire though suddenly started to find something and fought back to level at 9-9.Here McGill showed remarkable nerve to roll in a break of 122 to seal his place in second round.

The other  dramatic deciding frame match we've had involved Barry Hawkins & Matt Selt.That looked unlikely when Hawkins moved 9-4 clear this morning,but he seems to make a habit of letting big leads slip and Selt produced some stunning snooker to level it at 9-9.Hawkins must have been thinking "not again".after letting a 5-0 lead over Nigel Bond at the UK somehow become a -6-5 defeat,but here he held himself together to take his one at his second bite of the cherry in the decider.

The evidence of recent months has been that John Higgins had started to find some real form again and here he produced possibly his best performance at the Crucible since he lifted the title in beating Robert Milkins 10-5

The performance of the championship so far though has come from Neil Robertson who eased past Jamie Jones 10-2 with a heavy barrage of scoring the Welshman just had no answer to which included three centuries.

Elsewhere Graeme Dott came through a real topsy turvy encounter with Ricky Walden 10-8,Marco Fu beat Jimmy Robertson 10-6 & Stuart Bingham eventually fell over the line to beat Robbie Williams 10-7 in quite awful second session.

In matches to a finish tomorrow Ali Carter leads Alan McManus 6-3 & Mark Davis leads Ding Junhui 4-3 after a lengthy afternoon session saw them only complete only 7 of their 9  frames.We also have entrance of a certain Mr O'Sullivan in the afternoon session

Thursday, 16 April 2015

World Championship 2015 Preview

After a season of, mixed results for some of our biggest stars,the return to the winners circle for an all tine great,and two new members of the ranking titles club the eyes of the snooker world once again focus on the Crucible for 17 days of drama on the baize.

So who will claim the title.Well I suppose there is only place to start and that is with our defending champion Mark Selby. Its been a strange old season for Selby.He really seemed to struggle in the early part of it,but victories in both the German Masters & the China Open will have him coming here with every confidence he can be the first first time returning champion to retain the title.The thing for me though is,even in those two tournaments he won,Selby did not play brilliantly the whole way through.Now there is an argument that  this is just the Selby way and what makes him unique is his ability to still dig out the victories,but I'm not sure you can win a world title depending so heavily on your " B"game,so for that reason I don't see him being the man to break the "Crucible Curse"

What then of the man he beat in last years final,.the five time champion Ronnie O'Sullivan? On the face of its it hasn't been a bad season for Ronnie as he claimed a second Champion of Champions title and  fifth UK Championship with thrilling victories over Judd Trump in both,but there have been signs since the turn of the year that all is not well with "The Rocket".On several occasions he has seemed quite angry.most noticeably at the Welsh Open and he also withdrew from the recent China Open apparently due to the return of the glandular fever that laid him low a few years back.It has also been recently reported that he has cut down n his sessions with Dr Steve Peters,but I understand they have resumed in the last few weeks.

So we're back to the eternal question,Which Ronnie will show up in Sheffield next week? Well I have no doubt that had he won a sixth title last season that Ronnie would be collecting his seventh come May 4th,but with that defeat and everything that has come since he may well be a a little vulnerable here.That said though,the draw has been kind enough to him and if he is anywhere near his best he really shouldn't have much trouble until at least the semi finals.What happens from there is anyones guess.

That brings us Ronnies potential semi final final opponent Judd Trump.These two have met this season in three epic finals,with Judd finally getting the better of things in the recent World Grand Prix. When Judd burst into everyones living rooms with his swashbuckling run to the final in 2011 comparisons were been immediately been made with the games other great crowd pleasers,but up to this year I had always seen him as more of a "White" than an "O'Sullivan".What we have seen recently though has forced me to revise my opinion a little as he has shown when in the mood that he also possesses a strong safety game.Bearing all this in mind he may well give this championship a good run this year.

Hoping to put an indifferent season behind him here will be 2010 champ, Neil Robertson.It seems a long time ago since Robertson won the first ranking title of the season taking the Wuxi Classic and although he did a PTC in Poland and reached a couple more finals he has largely struggled for the consistency we've come to expect from the Aussie..The one plus for him here is a kind enough quarter of the draw and it may allow him time to play himself into the tournament.

Also hoping to find something in Sheffield will be Ding Junhui,who after a record breaking season last time around has had an awful time of it over the last twelve months.He show signs of a return to form in China the other week,but he has been handed a very tough first round opponent in Mark Davis and even were he to win that he is in a very tough quarter of the draw.All in all I don't see this as the year of the first Chinese World Champion.

Of the others worth mentioning there are a few players who would need a strong tail wind to lift the title,like former champion Shaun Murphy who played superbly to lift the Masters in January,but would need to,at the very least,rediscover the form he showed for that fortnight in 2005 to be troubling the engraver this time. You can also throw into that category former winners John Higgins & Mark Williams,both have shown glimpses of their very best form in the last few months,but I just don't think at this stage either man still has the game  to add to their totals.

There are others there of course who will be thinking that this is the year that they will be adding their name the the Crucible roll of honour,but I would be majorly shocked if the winner came from outside any of the names mentioned above.

As for who I think will win it? I believe this may be Trumps year.

Recommended bets 
Judd Trump to win the title : 6/1
Value First Round Lucky 15: Graeme Dott (8/5) Anthony McGill (11/4) Ryan Day (2/1) Mark Davis (9/4)

First Round Draw
Mark Selby v Kurt Maflin
Stephen Maguire v Anthony McGill
Joe Perry v Zhang Anda
Shaun Murphy v Robin Hull
Barry Hawkins v Matt Selt
Mark Allen v Ryan Day
Ali Carter v Alan McManus
Neil Robertson v Jamie Jones
Ding Junhui v Mark Davis
John Higgins v Robert Milkins
Marco Fu v Jimmy Robertson
Judd Trump v Stuart Carrington
Ricky Walden v Graeme Dott
Stuart Bingham v Robbie Williams
Mark Williams v Matthew Stevens
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Craig Steadman


Sunday, 5 April 2015

China Open Final Selby Canters to Final Success.

Mark Selby will head to Sheffield to defend his World title  in a fortnight brimming with confidence after claiming the season penultimate prize with a comfortable 10-2 over Gary Wilson in todays China Open final.

This win,his second ranking title of 2015 following on from his triumph in the German Masters in February and his sixth ranking in total, couldn't be coming at a better time for the Leicesterman who had been struggling for form for much of the season.

What we saw here this week was typical Selby,not the prettiest to watch at times,but,as always it was backed up with the dogged determination we have come to expect and to be fair his form did improve in the semi final & final.

Of the final itself,well it may well have been a lot closer had Wilson,playing in his first ranking final,made the most of some early chances,but it was Selby who gradually pulled away,taking an 8-1 lead out the the first session the highlight of which was a tournament high break of 145.

From here it was always going to be an early finish and Selby quickly put it to bed when play resumed,running out an easy 10-2.

For Wilson,he will be disappointed he couldn't make more of a fight of it ,but he is a player certainly going the right way with his career and he can look back on a superb week that saw him beat home favourite Ding Junhui 6-5 in the semi final.

His attention,like  that of the rest of the snooker world will now turn this week to the World Championship qualifiers which begin on Wednesday.

Monday, 23 March 2015

World Grand Prix,Trumps Triumph.

Judd Trump last night lifted the inaugural World Grand Prix title after completing a stirring fight back to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 10-7 in front of a packed house in Llandudno.

This was the third time these two  have met in a major final this season and although in terms of standard it never reached the heights of the other two,it may well prove to be the most significant as the the young pretender finally got the better of the old master.

The match itself was a fascinating affair as twice Ronnie seemed to be pulling away at 4-1 & 7-4,but with Trumps game seemingly in disarray,O'Sullivan couldn't push home his advantage & Judd fought back.

This has perhaps been the most satisfying aspect of the week for Trump as a steeliness and ability to grind it out have now firmly established themselves as part of his already impressive arsenal of skills.

This was very much in evidence in his two previous matches as he sneaked past Mark Williams 4-3 on the final black in the quarter final & fought back from the brink in his semi final to beat Martin Gould 6-5 having trailed 5-1.

In last nights match once he had leveled at 7-7 there was only going to be one winner as the close cueball control we normally expect from Ronnie deserted him and Trumps confidence grew winning six frames in a row to record a famous 10-7 win/

For Ronnie it is difficult to judge how he will be feeling after this,on one hand he freely admitted to little or no practice coming in,so he might see reaching the final as an achievement,but on the other hand once there he will be disappointed he couldn't finish the job when he had his opponent on the ropes.

His attention will now turn to Sheffield and the quest for a sixth world title.The fact that he seems to be thinking of another short sabbatical after that event may help focus his mind for a big title push.

As for Trump his confidence will be sky high.He has of course already appeared in a world final,losing out narrowly to Higgins in 2011,but he now appears a much more rounded player and the fact he will be going there with a recent final victory over Ronnie can only be a positive.

Finally a word on the tournament itself.This event came about from ITV4 wanting to host another event and once again their presentation was superb.That along with the huge crowds all week have probably assured its place on the calendar for many years to come.The only negative for me was once again the best of 7's in the early rounds.As I've often stated before we have to find somewhere in the game for more longer format matches,because as we saw on Saturday with Trump & Gould.,snooker is at its best when a story unfolds over time..

Anyway onward we go to Thailand and more best of 7's as the The Players Championship starts tomorrow.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

2015 Welsh Open Final.

John Higgins is back in the winners circle once more after running out a 9-3 victor over Ben Woollaston in the final of the Welsh Open In Cardiff tonight.

This title,a record breaking fourth win in the event & his 26th ranking titles in total., will feel very sweet indeed for Higgins,who must have wondered in recent times if indeed his tournament winning days were over.

That was a question many snooker fans were asking as well as he struggled in tournament after tournament to get any sort of run going to boost his confidence.Such was his fall that the prospect of having to qualify for the Crucible looked a real possibility.Those worries are gone now though and he can very much look forward to lining up in Sheffield in April as he goes in search of a fifth world title.

Of the final itself,Higgins,by virtue of experience alone started as a warm favourite against his young opponent who was appearing in his first ranking final.and it was the Scot who got the better of the opening exchanges to lead 3-1.

The next two were shared,before Woollaston got within one again at 3-4 with one frame left in the session.That final frame was to prove the pivotal moment in the match as Woollaston lead it 59-0 before Higgins countered to leave it hinging on a battle on the green,that was finally resolved by a fluke from Higgins.

This gave him a 5-3 lead going into the night and he never looked back,taking the four frames he needed to seal a 9-3 win

Woollaston no doubt will feel disappointment that he couldn't reproduce the form that had seen him reach the final,but he can look back with pride on a fine week and use the experience the next time he finds himself at the business end of a big tournament.

As for Higgins,well seeing him holding aloft a trophy is something we are well used to over the last 20 yrs,but,as I already said it,was something we feared we would not see again.Now that he has done it who is to say its not the first shoots of a rich autumnal harvest in the career of the Wizard of Wishaw.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Welsh Open 2015 Semi Final round up

John Higgins will battle it out with Ben Woollaston for the £60,000  top prize and the title of 2015 Welsh Open champion,after both came through thrilling semi finals today in Cardiff.

These days semi finals for Higgins are not the regular occurance they once were,but the way he started today ,you never would have guessed it as two flawless runs of 101 & 137 saw him fly into a 2-0 lead.

Brecel though has shown this week that he is not daunted by falling behind and he made most of his chances to level things up at 2-2 going to the interval..

That good form continued into the next as he took the lead for the first time at 3-2,before Higgins leveled it up again at 3-3. That became 4-4 as the next two were shared to set up a potential grandstand finish.

From here though  Higgins took control again ,taking the lead at 5-4 thanks to a 135 break and doing what he had to do in the next to seal the 6-4 win and end to young Belgians title dreams

What a week it has been for Brecel though.It was 20 years ago that a young John Higgins lost out to Steve Davis in this event,but boy did he learn from the experience. I'm sure the same applies to Luca here and no doubt we will be seeing plenty more of him at the business end in the coming seasons

For Higgins,I'm sure there were times in recent months that he must have wondered if he was ever going to be playing in a final again,but he was always too good a player to simply fade away and he will be relishing the chance to  claim a fourth Welsh crown.

Standing in his way will be Ben Woollaston,who broke Welsh hearts tonight,edging out home favourite Mark Williams 6-5,to reach his first ranking event final.

It was Woollaston who made the better start here and he deservedly held a 3-1 lead going to the mid session interval.Willaims was clearly struggling to find the sparkling form he produced in his quarter final win over Marco Fu,but he has always been adept ar winning ugly when it was required and he clawed his way back into this,leveling it up at 3-3.

Into the next and an unlucky in off from Williams gave Woollaston a chance which he took to lead again 4-3 and he moved within one of victory taking the next to go 5-3.

Back came Williams though,closing to 5-4 and forcing the decider by winning a tight tenth which hinged on a battle on the colours to make it 5-5.

Into the decider then and it was Woollaston who prevailed,clinching victory with two scoring visits to seal a famous 6-5 win.

So tomorrow we will have one man who started this week wondering if he would ever reach another final against someone who must have wondered if he would ever reach his first.With this in mind Higgins will start a warm favourite,but Woollaston has come through some real battles this week and certainly wont roll over. It should be fascinating.