Snookerbacker

April 30, 2017

World Championship Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:08 am

And then there were 2. We approach the two day final which some might say is one for the purists, with the defending champion up against a four times winner who just keeps bouncing back for more.

It’s not really been a championship of memorable matches but undoubtedly the best one was the semi-final between Selby and Ding.

I’m pretty sure that had it been against anyone else Ding would be in the final, but Selby seems to summon up something, from somewhere, when he needs it most, much like his opponent today John Higgins does when he’s at his best.

There is little doubt on form who goes into this as a very strong favourite and the odds on Selby are as restrictive as I can remember in a match involving Higgins who can still be backed at 9/4 to carry off the famous trophy. But we are talking about two players here who have played a total of 201 professional frames against each other and are seperated by just a single frame, so is it as clear cut as the bookies suggest?

They met of course on and at this very stage ten years ago to the calendar weekend with Higgins winning the third of his four titles 18-13. This is the fifth time they will have faced each other at The Crucible with Higgins holding a 3-1 advantage so if you look at some of the stats out there, you begin to wonder if this really is simply a case of a Jester Coronation.

Then you have to look at how they got here. Selby was workmanlike in his first three matches, losing just ten frames to Fergal O’Brien, Xiao Guodong and a totally out of sorts Marco Fu, before being pushed to the wire by Ding and letting out a celebratory fist pump and table smack rarely if ever seen from him.

Higgins meanwhile, in what most considered to be the ‘easier’ half has had to beat Martin Gould and three seeded players in Mark Allen, Kyren Wilson and Barry Hawkins, losing just four more frames than Selby in doing so against most would agree, a far tougher foursome.

So again, a strong case can be made for Higgins based on history and what’s happened here. So why is Selby such a strong favourite?

My opinion is that Selby is now a better all round player than Higgins. Perhaps John still has the edge on shot selection and arguably is as good as Selby in the balls but tactically I think Selby is outplaying everyone these days. When it comes to bottle they are probably the best two in the business so there really isn’t a lot to choose between them at all despite John’s advancing years.

It’s a match up that I’m sure Bazza would not have picked given the choice. It will lack that razzmatazz that he thinks snooker needs more of. It’s the sort of match that staff in old people’s homes around the country will be rejoicing at as they can just plonk it on and sit the residents down in front of until the last one has nodded off while they go off shopping. Like I said in the intro, it’s definitely one for the purists.

I’m going to rely on the fact that John will come into this battling and showing that ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’ spirit that has seen him raise his game time and again when many are writing him off. I hope it doesn’t live up to expectations and is a hugely entertaining match with plenty of thrills and spills.

In terms of a scoreline I’ll go for 18-15 to Selby (14/1 best price) and him joining the elite band of the games greats who have won this great event more than twice.

Thanks for tuning in throughout the championship and for all your tweets and messages. The blog itself has hit over 85,000 visits over the course of the 17 days so you’ll be pleased to hear that you are not alone in tuning into this particular corner of the webosphere. Now for two more days and a well earned break.   

April 29, 2017

Ding Junhui Press Conference

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:26 pm

Ding is a beaten semi-finalist in this year’s World Championship, losing again to Mark Selby. Whilst being disappointed, he’s also taking some positives. I’d liked him to have won this year but I’m sure he’ll be back.

Here’s what he had to say after the match – one line struck me ‘The only pressure Mark Selby feels is winning it again’, very different to the one he feels.

April 27, 2017

World Championship Semi Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:17 am

The One Table Situation

It’s time for the famous ‘one table situation’ cliches to kick in as we move to the business end of things at The Crucible with five more days of snooker’s showpiece still to go. Just four of the original 144 remain (Anorak Stat Check: 143 if you remember that Patrick Wallace withdrew) and we have as strong a semi-final line up as I can remember.

I’m going to leave the big preamble and no doubt at some point I’ll refer back to Barry Hearn’s press conference yesterday and what it will mean for the amateur game in the UK and beyond, suffice to say that I’m delighted that he’s decided to give the amateur and grass roots game some long awaited and much needed TLC from 2018 onwards.

Now though to the two matches, the big question is, can anyone stop the defending champion?

Mark Selby v Ding Junhui

Since 12 months ago when these two contested a close final they have met twice more, in two finals over in China sharing the spoils. Ding won 10-6 in Shanghai and ended up in tears and lost in Daqing to a rampant Jester 10-1 and also ended up in tears. But what’s happened since then may explain Ding’s emotional state on both occasions, sadly his mum passed away from cancer at a very young age and I’m sure both matches were played out with that at the forefront of Ding’s mind so I’d discount the hammering in Daqing and instead concentrate on how they are both playing here. I’m sure it would mean everything to Ding to win this and it would be nice if he could blot out the pressures coming from China and just concentrate on what it means to him and those closest to him if he were to achieve his lifelong dream. He has conquered one goal in beating Ronnie but there is still plenty of work to do against a player who seems to be getting better and better as the years go on and is now as close to dominating the sport as anyone has been since Hendry. Selby is in fantastic form and his win over Marco was a virtuoso display from a master at his craft. I’m torn here by wanting Selby to lift a third title and climb into the next echelon of champions who have won it more than twice and my desire to see Ding win it for his mum. But if this place teaches you anything it’s that the better player usually wins over the longer distance and the better player is undoubtedly Selby this week.

Predicted: Selby 17-12.

John Higgins v Barry Hawkins

Such is the nature of snooker these days that these two have only ever met once over anything longer than best of 7, that was here in 2010 when Higgins beat Barry 10-6 in Round One before his famous second round defeat by Steve Davis. Higgins has for the first time since he last won this, brought his best game to The Crucible and like Selby looks to be destined for the final. Barry typically talked down his chances after beating Maguire but his mindset for this match may just help him if he’s going in knowing he is a big underdog. One thing that struck me about the comments after Higgins’ last match was how disappointed Kyren Wilson was in his own performance, he lamented at the number of close frames he lost and the number of chances he let slip so that perhaps tells us that despite thinking Higgins is in top form he is giving opponents rays of hope. Hawkins by his own admission will have to improve in leaps and bounds here to win but there is the possibility that his poor performance is now behind him and Higgins is still yet to bowl in a dodgy session. I think if Barry is to win this he’s going to have to rely on John having a woeful run of frames at some point and him being able to mop up the scraps he’s left. I’d like Barry to win but somehow I just can’t see it happening.

Predicted: Higgins 17-12.

Recommended Bet: Double on Selby to make more than 2 centuries and Higgins (-2.5 frames) pays over 5/2 at Bet 365 – if you fancy this but don’t have an account with them click the banner below to take advantage of a new customer offer. A mad double on the two predicted scores pays 168/1 with the sponsor.

Barry Hawkins Press Conference

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:30 am

Barry Hawkins faces John Higgins in the semi-finals and here is what he had to say after beating Stephen Maguire last night, it’s fair to say that he doesn’t sound all that confident.

April 26, 2017

Ding Junhui and Ronnie O’Sullivan TV/Press Conference

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:26 pm

Ding Junhui is through to the semi-finals again after an emotional victory over Ronnie O’Sullivan, who managed to clinch the highest break of 146 earlier today. Ding now faces the man who pipped him to the title last year Mark Selby in the semi-finals. Both semis start tomorrow. 

Mark Selby and John Higgins Press Conferences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 3:15 pm

Sometimes you run out of superlatives, this was definitely the case this morning as defending champion Mark Selby produced some mind-blowing snooker to hammer Marco Fu 13-3 with a session to spare. Below he tells us how he’s feeling and we also hear from John Higgins who completed a routine win over Kyren Wilson to book his place in the bottom half semi-final.

April 25, 2017

Marco Fu and Neil Robertson Press Conferences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:40 am

A late night last night saw Marco Fu overcome Neil Robertson. Robbo gave a very honest interview afterwards and gave an indication of things to come from him next season.

April 24, 2017

World Championship Quarter Final Preview

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:54 pm

It’s Quarter Final time at The Crucible as we head into the second week of this great championship with only 8 of the 32 starters remaining.

It’s been an eventful opening week, the first part of which I spent in the snooker bubble of Crucible Square where I met the usual crew of anoraks and snooker fanatics as well as catching up with some familiar faces behind the scenes.

It’s a strange place Sheffield at this time of year and if you aren’t careful you can begin to believe that the rest of the world doesn’t exist while the snooker is on. As usual after spending the first five days there I headed back to the safety and security of my arsedent to watch the rest of the championship. I’d like to thank World Snooker for letting me access the inner sanctum of The Crucible again, it’s a great experience for a snooker fan like me and I know how lucky I am to be able to do this. 

All things said, as things stand I don’t think it’s been a particularly stand out championship so far but with the eight names that are left I think that will probably change this week. Each match up is worthy of being a ranking final in its own right and we’re surely on a direct path to classic semi-finals and final, with all manner of permutations still a possibility.

So without further a do I’ll take a look at each of the four great matches awaiting us from Tuesday onwards.

As ever, click on the match to take you to the head to head record.

Mark Selby v Marco Fu

You know when your car is about to conk out but just keeps going? It chugs, it stalls, but it just about moves? Or for dog lovers, when that old hound has run its last lap but hangs on in there because its owner can’t bear to be without it? Well, to me that’s Marco Fu in this championship. He’s lost almost as many frames as it’s possible to lose to still be here but he still is. Now, in the words of Ol’ Blue Eyes he faces the final curtain in the shape of the defending champion who is not even playing that well but still coasting through. If you take a look at the stats from his last match against Guodong and blot out the score you’d be forgiven for thinking that he lost. But Selby is basically doing a Selby here and like a great opera singer, warming up for the main event with a few practice notes. He’s got his eye on the one table situation and Marco won’t be troubling him here, the car is buggered and the poor old dog is ready for the knackers yard.

Prediction: Selby 13-7.

Recommended Bet: Selby (-3.5 frames) at 6/5. 

Ronnie O’Sullivan v Ding Junhui

A renewed Rocket has been displaying the sort of tenacity that we associate with him walking off with trophies in his opening two matches and has dug deep when he had to. Clearly motivated by Shaun Murphy’s motivational slagging off in the last round he played like someone with a point to prove and kept Murphy at arms length the whole match. Ding on the other hand fell over the line against Liang having started the match well. In terms of the head to heads, these are very one-sided. If you discount two old Premier League match ups (which I do), you need to go back to 2006 for Ding’s last and only victory over Ronnie in anything half important, Ronnie has since then beaten Ding everywhere from Sheffield, through China, via London, Coventry and Newport. I’ll be honest, before I saw the last round I really fancied Ding to win this one but after witnessing Ronnie’s manner around the table I think he’ll once again assert his authority over China’s finest and possibly in some style.

Prediction: O’Sullivan 13-10.

Recommended Bet: O’Sullivan (-2.5 frames) at 10/11. 

Kyren Wilson v John Higgins

Well I got into a right load of lumber over on Twitter the other night for daring to have the audacity to say that I don’t really enjoy watching Higgins too much, OK it was in the context of a tongue in cheek slur on Steve Davis so that wasn’t helping but the way some people reacted you’d think I’d broken into their house, rogered the family cat before murdering their nan. Even if I don’t enjoy watching him that much only a blind person would argue that he isn’t a class act on the baize and his win over Mark Allen put his cap firmly in the ring as a potential champion come next Monday. Kyren is rediscovering his form at last after a pretty turgid few months and he’s not without a chance here if he reproduces the form he showed against Bingham, but something tells me that he’ll also need John to have at least one bad session for that to be enough for him to win, something he doesn’t really look like doing. 

Prediction: Higgins 13-9.

Recommended Bet: Higgins (-3.5 frames) at 10/11.

Barry Hawkins v Stephen Maguire

A pretty even head to head record between these two as you might expect with them being quite evenly matched. Maguire seems to be happy being a non-seeded player this year and is doing the reverse of when he’s been seeded of late and playing like a seed (if you catch my drift). He’s lost just 5 frames so far at The Crucible so any talk of Ponds Forge fatigue can pretty much be consigned to the dustbin, he’s even managed the best part of a week back in Glasgow to rest and recuperate. Barry is continuing his strong form at The Crucible which is now seeing him on most people’s shortlist, including mine, of possible new champions from the start and I was impressed how he pulled away from Graeme Dott and finished the job off clinically in the final session. They are both cueing superbly so I expect this one to be a high quality affair littered with big breaks. I’ve backed them both in the outrights so this is my interest semi-finalist, gun to head I’d go for Mags, but I hope the bullets are blanks.

Prediction: Maguire 13-12.

Recommended Bet: Over 2 centuries in the match at 5/6. Over 22 frames in the match at 11/8.

RECOMMENDED ACCA: Selby (-3.5), O’Sullivan (-2.5), Higgins (-2.5) and Maguire (+2.5) pays over 12/1. 

Mark Selby, Xiao Guodong, Barry Hawkins and Graeme Dott Press Conferences

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 5:00 pm

Two more quarter finalists were decided this afternoon as  Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins made light work of their opponents in a short Crucible session. Here is their reactions afterwards.

Crucible Quarter Final Wrap Up

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:18 am

It’s the day when we get to see who will make up the last eight at the Crucible with Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ding Junhui, Kyren Wilson, John Higgins and Stephen Maguire awaiting the final three players to make it into the last eight.

Maguire finished a session early yesterday against Rory McLeod who failed to recreate his heroics against Judd which means that Mags gets to have today off while the three further Last 16 matches reach a conclusion.

Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins lead Xiao Guodong and Graeme Dott respectively by ten frames to six and they both conclude this afternoon while Neil Robertson and Marco Fu are locked at 8-8 and look set to ramp up the Crucible drama this evening. As usual there is no play this morning so the afternoon session begins at 1pm.

Below you can see the reactions of both Mags and Rory to their early finish as well as an interview with Kyren after he recreates Shaun Murphy’s shot that everyone is going on about.

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