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We are down to the final eight in Sheffield as the business end of the championship approaches. What we have left are five seeded players and three who came through the qualifiers, can a qualifier win this great championship for the first time since Shaun Murphy in 2005? Alan McManus, Ding Junhui and Kyren Wilson will be hoping so.
It is a shame that much of the first week has been ruined by the table used for the top half of the draw, it’s not often that I agree 100% with players going on about big bounces and kicks but even to an amateur eye like mine, table one has been totally ridiculous all week and has ruined the chances of a number of players.
It’s not too much to ask to have perfect tables for this and unfortunately, the Star tables, for whatever reason do not play with the consistency of the old Riley ones. Whether it’s the cloth, the balls or the tables themselves, you’d think World Snooker would be asking some very tough questions of their suppliers, no matter what it means to the financial bottom line as someone is clearly not delivering the right quality product.
There have been some highlights so far, Carter and Bingham gave us the annual Day 1 thriller, despite the table they were trying their best to play on, Judd’s first rounder against Wenbo as well as his later match with Ding helped things along, while the late night decider which saw Ronnie on his way home provided that extra spice. We’ve seen very strong performances from Sam Baird, Michael Holt and Kyren Wilson and also some of the old guard coming to the fore, just look at the last eight and once again it proves, if any further proof were needed, that snooker is very much a middle-aged man’s game these days predominantly. There is no substitute for experience.
So here is a look at the last eight who now battle it away to reach the ‘one table situation’, will it be a new champion or a familiar face at the end adding their name again to the famous old trophy? Time will tell….
CLICK ON THE MATCH FOR THE HEAD TO HEAD.
Alan McManus v John Higgins
Och aye the noo naa, it’s only an all Scottish Quarter Final. It’s over 20 years since these two old muckers first locked horns and they’ve been meeting regularly ever since. A look at the head to head sees John with a slender advantage, but it’s Angles that has won their last two encounters, including a first rounder here two seasons back. John however sounds in determined mood and it could be argued that the draw is falling into place for him to equal Ronnie’s five world titles. He’s a different player to the one who has been bereft of confidence for the past few seasons here and looks very much like his old self, which is bad news for the others, he is also now installed as the favourite to win the title. Alan has had a great run and I hope it continues, but the heart can’t overrule the head on this one and I’d expect John to win with a bit in hand although he does look a little tired, the bookies agree so there isn’t really any value out there.
Prediction: Higgins 13-6
Ding Junhui v Mark Williams
Both look in fine fettle moving into this mouth-watering Quarter Final, Ding looks to be finding life a little easier than usual as a qualifier and looks a little more at home in a venue he has struggled with a lot in the past, many now think it’s his year. Williams on the other hand continues to play down his chances, claiming he has no chance of winning it and that the winner isn’t even in his half (though he said this when Ronnie was still in it). He is a law unto himself but I don’t think everyone is fooled by this and within lies a steely competitor who I am sure thinks he is still capable of adding to his world crown tally and he won’t get a better chance than this to do so. I think he’s in great form and if this comes down to a battle of temperament at the end I would always stake my last penny on Williams. He is the proven winner here and he’s playing as well if not better than Ding, I think the bookies have got this one wrong.
Prediction: Williams 13-9
Recommended Bet: 4 points on Williams at 9/4
Marco Fu v Barry Hawkins
Wasn’t this supposed to be Ronnie against Murphy? But against all odds we have Marco and Barry lining up to do battle after The Hawk’s heroics against Ronnie. Marco is as ever, the quiet man in all this, he’s made his way here with mixed performances, brilliant against Ebdon and a bit patchy against McGill, but he’s capable of scrapping when he has to. Barry is attempting to make it four consecutive years getting to the one table situation, which will have the anoraks reaching for the almanac to find out when this was last done (I’m guessing Hendry). Of course he is yet to win it but against Ronnie he showed that he has both the game and the bottle to go that extra step. I’d be surprised if he lost here, Marco has played well, but Barry at times, has been sublime and has to take so much confidence from his last match.
Prediction: Hawkins 13-8
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Hawkins (-2.5 frames) at 5/4
Kyren Wilson v Mark Selby
Selby is coming through in typical style and doing just enough to win, which we now come to expect from him. He had a scare against Sam Baird and any repeat of that performance will obviously see him in a real dogfight again here. Kyren has been so impressive and approached his match against Mark Allen in ruthless style and perhaps more tellingly, in the style of a future champion, winning the match effectively in the first session. Who is to say he won’t do the same here? Selby to me doesn’t look to be playing as well as he was when he won it two years ago and the wind is in The Warrior’s sails, this is one of those matches where logic is thrown out of the window in return for a ‘funny feeling’, that is what I have about Kyren here, perhaps this is his time.
Prediction: Wilson 13-10
Recommended Bet: 3 points on Wilson at 9/4
Recommended Bet: 2 point double on Williams and Wilson pays almost 10/1. 2 points on Williams to win the Championship at 16/1. 2 points on Kyren Wilson to win the Championship at 12/1.