January 30, 2010

Semi Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:23 am

In terms of percentage success rate yesterday’s 50% was the lowest of the week by some stretch. The day started positively with the afternoon matches going according to plan (and even the Ronnie vintage display as predicted!) but then the Welsh guard all but fizzled out last night for whatever reason, meaning that the only Welshman we are likely to see on finals night is our old pal John Evans with a microphone mercilessly poked in either John or Ronnie’s face at the end, as surely now the winner of tonight’s clash of the titans will win this event.

But if nothing else, this blog is all about exclusives and I have been privy to some top secret information over the last day or so, yes, I have had an exclusive preview of what it is Johnny E will be saying to the winner on Sunday evening when they let him loose on the unsuspecting public and petrified new champion. He has been given strict orders since last year to keep it snooker related and has stuck religiously to the brief, it goes something like this, (though it is in draft at the moment and is subject to change):

John has been working tirelessly to perfect his interview script

‘So Ronnie, before I ask you whether the red passed the blue from your angle hence making it a rolling pot along the cush to corner bag, I believe you have a shop selling ladies lingerie, tell us all about it’ The second line being slightly altered should Higgins triumph; ‘So John, tell us about this fascination with the television series Dallas’. I think you’ll agree that he’s followed the instructions to the letter.

But enough of that, let’s get onto the preview as we seem to have got to a situation where the top four seeds are contesting the semi finals, something of a rarity in snooker these days. I’ll start with this afternoon:

Ali Carter v Stephen Maguire (1-0 – only meeting in 2000)

The two conquerers of the Welsh challenge meet this afternoon for the first time in a decade. Ali is doing a fine job defending his title and I for one am surprised he’s still here given his recent form. After last night’s win over Day he commented “I’m having a crack at defending the title, I’ve got no expectations, so everything is a bonus. I’m just going out there and playing snooker and seeing what it brings. I spent too much time trying too hard to win. I didn’t give Ryan a sniff for the first three frames tonight.” Carter has been strong at the start of matches this week and seems to have the lions share of the job done before the interval, which leads me to suspect that the first four frames today will be crucial to his chances of winning.  

Will the Captain make another flying start?

Maguire said after ending Williams hopes “It’s the best match I’ve played all season by far but that wouldn’t be difficult! I’ve seen that a few times down the years when a player gets within a ball of losing then goes on to win, it’s as if their name is on the trophy” ermm, slightly presumptious that, but he’s got to cling to something. Neither of these have been anywhere near as good as the two protagonists tonight, but they should serve up an entertaining match. I’m tempted, by the 11/10 available at Boylesports for Ali to be the first to three frames, just given his record in starting matches like a whippet out the traps this week, but I suppose it could be argued Maguire has been the same, but to me not quite as clinical early on as Ali. But however the early exchanges go I think from then on it gets twitchy, so for a winner, I am going to break the habit of a lifetime and plump for Maguire.

Predicted: Carter first to three frames (11/10 Boylesports), Maguire to win a nervy battle.   

Ronnie O’Sullivan v John Higgins (15-17 – since 1994)

“I’m hitting the ball solidly and playing well but it will be a big occasion. It should be a good crowd and hopefully it will be a great game, you always want to play him, he’s the best in the world.” said a typically modest Higgins after his 5-2 win over Selby. The first three frames of that match were almost flawless, Selby and Higgins really serve up high quality fayre and the Jester shouldn’t be too downhearted at losing to the World Champion, he’s still a major player for the rest of the season and all of a sudden the thought of him dropping out of the world’s top ten seems a distant memory. He’s definitely one to watch in China.

Will John need Allen's white flag?

But all eyes yesterday were on the mercurial, magnificent O’Sullivan. A seemingly effortless display against the talented Allen was as entertaining a sporting spectacle as you are ever likely to see. Wonderful stuff from surely the greatest player that has ever graced the game.

I think Ronnie cares a lot more about this tournament than he’s letting on and make no mistake he would love to beat Higgins, the only player that deep-down he really truly believes can touch him.     

Higgins has won 4 from the last 5 meetings of the two but something tells me Ronnie is in the zone for this one. Anything could happen, it should live up to the billing. I’ve backed Higgins outright at 8/1 so can just sit and enjoy with a small glass of something cheeky. I don’t need a bet, I suspect O’Sullivan will win but the prediction I’ll make is:  

Recommended: John Higgins +1.5 frames (10/11 Corals or 17/20 at Boylesports if that goes)

Let’s hope for a classic and best of luck today and thanks again for visiting.

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