Friday evening and Saturday evening see the finalists decided at Venue Cum-ri in Clan-did-no as the Players Championship moves to the best of 11 frame semi finals, this tournament just keeps getting better.
Whenever this evening’s match up occurs I am immediately transported back to the classic Crucible match that Ali and Judd fought out in 2012 (was it really 5 years ago?). It is without doubt the best match I have seen live since the UK Championship classic finals I witnessed in the 1980’s as a kid, the fact that I was lucky enough to be right down there in the bearpit on the press seats made it even more special. I’d just got to know Ali and was privy to a lot of his ‘under the breath’ moments, of which there were many, during all three sessions of the match.
At the time, there was some needle between the two, not on a personal level but Ali was getting increasingly frustrated at the luck that Judd was having through the match, one incident in particular, which will be revealed in Ali’s book, really riled him and led to a spat on Twitter mid-match between the pair of them, it has to be said, largely instigated by an increasingly agitated Ali. The match really did have everything and it was an experience I will never forget, I suspect Ali won’t either, the manner in which he won couldn’t have been scripted better if it was a movie.
Since then, if you disregard the Championship League encounters they have met just three times, with Ali winning two of them. In fact, if you take out minor events Judd has only beaten Ali once when he whitewashed him at the German Masters. I’m really looking forward to this one, it’s a great stage, it’s Friday night and there is a place in the final at stake, I’m friends with Ali so obviously I’ll be rooting for him but I just hope it lives up to the billing and the best player on the night wins.
Saturday sees Marco Fu taking on a resurgent Ding Junhui in the other semi-final. Marco played solidly against Mark Selby and in the end came through surprisingly comfortably. He’s definitely a different animal these days and assuming his nerves hold up, has to be a challenger in every tournament he plays. He’s matured as a player and is playing a more attacking game, which is reaping the rewards.
As for Ding, his form looks to be returning to something like his best at the right time of year. It can’t have been easy for him emotionally over the past few months and it’s nice to see him smiling again, I’m sure everyone in snooker will echo that.
So here goes a look at what might/probably won’t happen. Great match tonight, stay in, get the beer/wine/soft drinks in, hit the arsedent and enjoy.
Ali Carter v Judd Trump
Judd’s long game in particular has been outstanding this week and he’s definitely the stand out player from the four remaining but his record against Ali isn’t good and I know that Ali is champing at the bit for this one, as he does whenever he is facing a top player. I can forsee two possible scenarios in this match, a comfortable victory for Judd or a deciding frame, if it comes to that I would take Ali every day to win. One thing I will say is that I think the winner of this one will win the tournament and you can still get 8/1 on Carter in the outrights to do just that. But Judd is looking unstoppable to me so far this week so if you put a gun to my head I’d go with scenario one and a 6-3 win for Trump, but obviously I’ll be hoping for scenario two and a late night deciding frame thriller, with the winner having a day off tomorrow that won’t be a disadvantage come Sunday.
Predicted: Trump to win 6-3 (with alternative prediction Carter 6-5)
Marco Fu v Ding Junhui