April 26, 2010

No Laughing Matter: The Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:04 pm

No more jesting: Mark has to knock off the jokes and I can't hide under the table anymore.

Tuesday sees things start getting ultra-serious when this great championship enters the final stages. It’s fair to say that a couple of these matches at least are not the ones that were widely predicted at this stage.

Obviously the unlikely hero to some and star of the show so far has been Steve Davis, his performance already the equivalent of a seventh world title to most people and he takes to the stage today against the man at the top of my Crucible shortlist Neil Robertson.

Another surprise package to some has been the reimurgence of the former champion Graeme Dott after a big slump in the rankings and a win for him against the very impressive Mark Allen would bring him a welcome return to the top 16 after a couple of years scraping around in the qualifiers.

This afternoon sees arguably the tie of the round begin, no not Shaun Murphy again, it’s Ronnie O’Sullivan against Mark Selby, when these two lock horns in big matches it’s usually memorable but they’ve never met here. To complete the last eight we see who I think is now the games most consistent player Ali Carter play Shaun Murphy who dumped out a disappointing Ding Junhui last night, meaning no representation for China at the quarter final stage, the Chinese onslaught onto the snooker scene not quite ready yet.

Bettingwise Monday afternoon saw some very odd strokes of good luck in the century break bets with Ali Carter managing to hit two against Joe Perry to land the odds and with Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams managing to hit all four of the ones we needed to land the 11/10 post match odds, but they did this in four of the last five frames of the match, which wasn’t exactly the gameplan.

Any deluded fool with blind faith in yours truly (not advised by the way) who still fancied this to happen before the final session and decided to have a go on it would surely have got a three figure price. They should also never ever consider doing it again and should seek professional help and sectioning immediately for their own good.

In terms of the outright betting two out of three of the initial shortlist of winners are still there, Robertson and Selby, whilst the third, Ding went out. I won’t mention my bet on Dott again but it means that I have a representative now in all but one of the last 8 matches.

So let’s see what those nasty tightfisted bookies are offering us poor punters for the last 8:

Steve and his fans 'The Snoks' after his win against Higgins


Steve Davis v Neil Robertson

Head to Heads: 3-2 (all since 2004)

Last Relevant Meeting: 10-2 Robertson, here last year.

I have to admit I was surprised at the head to head here as the last time I remember these two playing each other it was one of the most one-sided matches imaginable, last year at the Crucible. Whatever happens here Davis has won the hearts of snooker fans all over the world and may well be responsible for a resurgence, who knows? What a legacy that would be to leave the game with after all this time. The man in snooker terms at least, is a true one-off.

But enough of this sentimental gushing we want a winning bet here. Surely lightning can’t strike twice and the thunder will prevail here? Surely? I’m asking the question as  don’t know the answer. Davis will play exactly the same game as he has against King and Higgins and will try to frustrate Robertson at every opportunity, all the pressure is on Neil but he proved he could handle that in the last round, unlike me, I was almost behind the sofa shaking like a baby at the end. Trying to find a bet on this is difficult, as the minute you decide on one you remember the Nugget’s smiling face at the end of the last match and just can’t bring yourself to hit that ‘confirm’ button.

But I figure the best way to approach this is clinically, assess the form, assess the performances of the players and their opponents so far, assess who is improving and who isn’t. On all those counts it has to be Robertson and it has to be fairly comfortable. I think he has had the ideal preparation for this and that his profile so far is fitting in with John’s when he won last year. He’s grinding out results and sooner or later his fabulous potting game and courage will return.

Robbo - usually gets out of bed at the crack of noon

My only reservation is that the first session is in the morning when Robbo isn’t at his best, I would not be surprised to see this end 4-4 after the first session (or even Davis leading, a bigger price than the first bet recommended) so that is the reason for the first recommended bet, as you will then effectively have a bet on Robertson to win the match at 4/1, the second one follows the old adage fortune favours the not so brave and expects some tight safety duels, containing safeties and dump shots but surely there will be a few 50 breaks, or something like that anyway.

Recommended Bet: Half-Time / Full Time Result (First 8 frames and Match Result) TIE/ROBERTSON (4/1 Bet 365)

Also: Over 11.5 50 breaks in the match (4/6 Skybet)

Mark Allen v Graeme Dott

Head to Heads: 2-1

Last Relevant Meeting: 5-1 Allen China Open last month

Graeme’s one win between the two was in a round robin match at the Grand Prix a few years ago and can probably be discounted, in fact I’d argue that in this ‘Clash of the Titches’ the record book can be thrown out of the window. I would argue that in terms of consistency, these have been the two outstanding players of championship so far. Did I mention my bet on Dott? OK, I’ll move on…

Make no mistake these two are both challengers for this title and I would not be a bit surprised to find one of them in the final, despite the more illustrious names that await the winner in the next round. They both love the venue and have enjoyed their finest moments here. This year they hold 4 of the 5 highest breaks of the championship at this stage and have 8 between them so far with only a 147 to stop Allen taking that prize.

I’m very impressed with both of them and can’t split them. I think the only reason why Allen is such a strong favourite is that he did well here last year and he’s higher in the rankings, but if I had to pick a winner I’d go for Dott who may look like a whippet but he’ll fight like a Rotweiller, he is more experienced, he needs the win to get back into the top 16, so has the incentive which may even inspire him and that could count for a lot in this match. I’d expect this to be a punch for punch affair.

Recommended Bet: Dott (+2.5 frames EVENS Tote)

Also: Over 2.5 century breaks (5/6 Paddy Power)

Dott has the pedigree, chum.


Ali Carter v Shaun Murphy

Head to Heads: 3-3

Last Relevant Meeting: 5-2 Carter (Welsh Open 2009)

Fair play to Shaun Murphy, he is finally beginning to show some form after a very poor season. I’m sure he’d say that this was the plan all along but even he couldn’t convince himself of that. But it is Ali that has the better of the recent duels between the two in terms of ranking events and he showed plenty of character to bounce back yesterday after a late surge by Joe Perry threatened his solid record this year in terms of early rounds.

Ahhhh Diddums.

Murphy for me is still missing too many easy balls but over the longer matches the fact that he is also producing winning clearances and big breaks when given chances means he is largely getting away with it. As ever his greatest weapon is his self belief but I do wonder how he will cope with Ali who won’t give him anything like the chances that the rather careless Ding did.

Carter gave Murphy a real going over in this in 2008, winning 13-4, will that spur Murphy on or sow the seeds of doubt just enough for Ali to win again? There is little doubt that this won’t be the scoreline this time, it is screaming ‘final frame decider’ to me this one and for that reason I will take the world number three in waiting to deliver the handicap odds. I also hope he wins, as I like him.

Recommended Bet: Ali Carter (+2.5 frames 5/6 Skybet)

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby

Head to Heads: 6-3

Last Relevant Meeting: 10-9 Selby watch it here (Masters Final 2010)

Ronnie - Had a go at Rob, the big bully.

The tie of the round gets underway with the first eight frames today and I have always had a feeling that these two would meet at this stage this year. Many will see this as deciding the winner as it will see the successful player emerge from the ‘Quarter of Death’, to see Selby’s reaction to beating Hendry click here and to see Ronnie’s reaction to his hard fought win over Mark Williams click here ,to see him getting wound up at blog icon, poor old Rob Walker click here. Anyway, both of them should be well up for this match.

The two recent times that Selby has got the better of Ronnie have been in deciding frames in finals, the Masters clip above and the Welsh Open in 2008. But it is Ronnie that holds the advantage in the head to heads.

I thought Selby was tremendous against Doherty and even better against Hendry, but Ronnie was awesome in the final session yesterday against Williams, the best he’s been since the Masters. I just hope they both carry that form over to this match. I can see it being tight but at the odds there is only one bet for me here. Just sit back, relax and enjoy it.

Recommended Bet: Mark Selby (7/4 Ladbrokes)

Neil is taking no convicts, I mean prisoners.


Steve Davis v Neil Robertson (1-7 Second Session)

If he comes back from this one I think Hollywood will be knocking on the door. The last two matches have stood Robbo in good test for this test. Steve looks to have had his glory for this year and can content himself with the memory of Saturday as being for me, the highlight of the sporting year. Never mind the World Cup, this is your sports personality of the year. But he won’t be winning the World Championship and may even get tomorrow off if Neil doesn’t let up. My man is coming good at the right end of the tournament.

A rare serious moment between the two giggling imps.

Mark Allen v Graeme Dott (5-3 Second Session)

Mark Allen came out today in very determined mood and raced into a four frame lead at the speed of light, only missing a couple of pots. Dott looked like death warmed up when he entered the arena but the colour returned to his cheeks after the mid-session interval and he came back fighting and will be pleased to be just two frames down after the first session. The two of them were having a right old chinwag between frames and looked like they were telling each other jokes, an interesting tactic I have to say.

I still think this one will be a punch by punch affair and with Allen a very good front runner he is the obvious favourite, but for those that still fancy Dott for this he is 7/2 at Boylesports and bigger on the exchanges at the interval. I’m considering possibly going in and backing him before this session gets under way but I’ll leave that up to you.

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