September 7, 2011

Shanghai Masters Day 4 Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:26 pm

We saw two Ding's today

The last sixteen left in the event take to the baize tomorrow to trim the field down to eight as we move into the culmination of the Shanghai Masters.

Before moving on to Thursday’s line up the usual brief summary of how it all went today. This morning we saw some one-sided affairs with Mark Williams whitewashing Andrew Higginson. MJW looked as relaxed as ever and benefitted from Higginson playing very poorly, which it has to be said a lot of players are so far this week. On the other TV table John Higgins started very well against Mark Davis, but almost allowed our Mave back into it with a lacklustre display after the interval before knuckling down in his customary fashion to take the match 5-2.

On the outside tables the match that we all wanted to see between Stuart Bingham and Judd Trump went the way of Bingo. A century in the first frame and then in the second coming from needing three snookers to win must have seen poor Juddly off. Bingo added another century for good measure to finish the match a 5-1 winner, Judd playing a small part by breaking down on 96 on a maximum in the one frame he managed. On the other non-televised table Michael Holt sprang something of a shock by beating Graeme Dott, but Dotty really is not the same player when he heads overseas and I do wonder whether his mindset on travel needs to change if he is to play his part in making snooker global.

The second session saw Ding take a 3-0 lead over Martin Gould and he looked very comfortable with Gould struggling to get to grips with both the venue and the conditions. Martin even disappeared at one point between frames and rumour was rife that he had a touch of the Shanghai Wildeys, but he re-emerged and promptly rattled off five on the spin to send the crowd and his snoozy opponent home with their collective tails between their legs. At 16/1 at the interval only the brave would have touched Gould with a bargepole the way the match was going, but he did it and the last three balls he potted under pressure were as good as I’ve seen him make in such circumstances.

On the other TV table Neil Robertson continued his return to form with an easy victory over Liang Wenbo, to put the final touches to a disastrous day for Chinese snooker. Neil looked determined again and to me he looks the dark horse in this, or blonde/ginger horse if you want to be pedantic about it. But with no Ding and no Liang how are the organisers going to ensure Ding is awarded something at the end? He’s always at the winners ceremony regardless of how he’s done in the tournament and they usually find a way of presenting him with something. He can’t even claim the ‘Biggest Decombustulation’ prize as Dom Dale already has that one in the bag or come on as Liang’s interpreter. They’ll have to think of something, and fast.

Today may also go down as a red letter day in the history of the sport as Stephen Hendry’s defeat to Rob Milkins may mark the last time The Great Hendo appears in the top 16 list. My guess is that he will now carry on playing in the major event qualifiers but skip the rest of the PTC’s. I’d imagine he’ll wait until the end of the season and hopefully a gracious bow-out at the Crucible to announce his retirement. The only other option available to him, and I mean the only other one is to listen to what people are telling him and change the way he plays the game to give him more of a chance of winning. Steve Davis did it, but something tells me Hendry is a different animal to the Nugget and probably an impossible case for a coach to coax out of his stubborn ways. You can almost see him looking at the increasingly frustrated coach in disdain with a ‘have you won 7 world titles?’ look in his eyes. Next!

Stephen Lee needed to beat Matthew Stevens to almost be certain of a return to the top 16 in the next revision and he failed to do so. Matthew winning 5-2 and now himself looking more likely to stay in the elite when the next chop is made after the next two PTC’s. Lee will need to perform well in the remaining PTC’s to be certain with the likes of Jamie Cope, Martin Gould, Mark Davis, Matthew and Peter Ebdon all in there fighting. But well done to Matthew today who is a cracking bloke and I’m really pleased for him as he’s also a cracking snooker player.

On the betting front, it was not a good day. Ding managed to spoil any chance we had of coming out even by scuppering the treble with his capitulation and the only ray of light is that all the outright selections are still there fighting in their respective quarters. I will be disappointed if at least one of them isn’t playing on Sunday, preferably The Ferginator to really launch the game over there.

Head to heads for these are in brackets where applicable:

7.30am UK Time

Mark Selby v Jamie Cope (1-0)
John Higgins v Stuart Bingham (4-3)
Mark King v Fergal O’Brien (3-1)
Mark Williams v Robert Milkins (2-0)

Mark Selby’s only meeting with Jamie Cope went to a decider in a 17 framer in the UK in 2009, the Jester coming out on top. Mark was awful in his match against Nigel Bond and looked very frustrated at times with the table but always finds a way to win. Jamie had a nice win over Jack Lisowski and does tend to play well on his travels. The key for me here is that this match is not on a TV table and to me that gives Cope more of a chance. But I can’t really commit to backing him as I have backed Mark in the outrights, but this match could produce another shock. There will be plenty tempted to trust Stuart Bingham to carry on his great run against the World Champion and it is clear that our Bingo is now a player that cannot be messed with. Incidentally he is still 125/1 (trimmed from 150/1 today – taken, thanks to blog co-pilot onestep who you can follow on Twitter here) on Blue Square for the World Championship, a better price than any around on Stephen Hendry at the moment. For those that like to trade this is a must take price as he will surely be in the top 16 and seeded. Be quick though, it will be gone by the morning. Anyway, back to the match tomorrow and at the odds he’s probably worth a bet, John didn’t look that good today and all Stuart will need to do is to play the same as he did and he has a great chance to win. My new all action hero Fergal takes on Mark King to get to the quarter finals, as you know I think he’ll make the quarters, probably not any further but you never know, stranger things have happened and I trust The Ferginator to win through again tomorrow. There is no doubt that Rob Milkins is having a decent run of form in this, but his opposition, with the greatest respect to Hendry, so far has not exactly been a challenge. I’d be amazed if he beat Mark Williams tomorrow on the TV table, it would be the biggest win of his career and to me Williams looks to be sticking around for a while yet.

Robbo: Looking focused

12.45 pm UK Time

Matthew Stevens v Martin Gould (0-2)
Neil Robertson v Michael Holt (4-1)
Ronnie O’Sullivan v Anthony Hamilton (8-1)
Shaun Murphy v Mark Allen (4-1)

Martin Gould’s two wins over Matthew Stevens came when Matthew was a little in the doldrums. He now seems to be very near back to his best and is enjoying something of an Indian summer in his career. This is likely to be a hugely attacking affair and is a very tough one to call. I’m not touching it. Neil Robertson has a good record over Michael Holt and has ‘that look’ about him at the moment, I’d make Neil my best bet of the day for the second day running. He is the type of match player that can frustrate the easily agitated Holt and I can’t see him losing that one. Ronnie is back on stage again and faces a man with a little beard who can claim with every justification to be the player to beat so far this week in Anthony Hamilton. Pottingham’s finest (only) export has hit four centuries already over there and apparently loves the way the tables are playing, unlike a lot of the others. Perhaps as Anthony is such a solid striker of the ball and relies less on finesse this might be a factor, or perhaps he’s just in the right place at the right time. I hope he gives Ronnie a game as he is one of snooker’s good guys. But beat him? I don’t think so personally. For me the most intriguing match up of the lot is the Murphy/Allen encounter. Two fierce competitors, both never know when they are beaten, Shaun comes into this when he probably should be at home with his feet up waiting for Strictly Come Dancing to start (ahhh, that’s why Dominic lost….explains a lot) and you would think that will spur him on a bit. But to me he still isn’t right and Allen at odds against is going to be the punt in this session, he scored well against Ryan Day and if he plays as we know he can I fancy him to upset the odds tomorrow.

I make no apologies for the gravity of the double recommended. I am chasing a little after today but I can’t see it losing. Oh and apologies to both Stuart and Mark for pairing them together in a very uncomfortable double ugger.

Recommended Bets:

10 points double Williams and Robertson at just on 4/5 with Blue Square.

2 x 2 point singles Bingham (7/4 at Paddy Power) and Allen (11/10 generally)

1 point double on Bingham and Allen at just over 9/2 with Betfred and Boylesports

(Anyone without an account at Befred, Boyles or Paddy Power who would like a bet click the relevent boxes on the sidebar to take advantage of the introductory offers) 

Ante-Post Recommended Bet:

Stuart Bingham to win the World Snooker Championship (sounds weird I know but traders will understand) at 125/1 with Blue Square (1 point each-way)

The best of luck if you are having a bet 

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