Judd Trump is already in the final of the International Championship and on Saturday he will find out who he will face when the defending champion Mark Allen takes on Shaun Murphy in the second of the semi-finals out in China.
Both men have had a poor first half of 2019 so they will each be eager to make the most of this semi-final and get themselves into the final for a shot at a first pot of the year and the £175,000 first prize.
The defending champion Mark Allen hasn’t been pushed in this tournament to date. One of the reasons for that has been the immensely strong way he has scored throughout the tournament. He looks very good from distance and in the balls he looks like the player that tore this event a new one last year. If he can keep his scoring boots on for another couple of matches he could yet defend his title even allowing for how tough it will be.
The other thing that has impressed me about Allen this week has been his safety play. He has had the pace of the table worked out from the beginning and has been finding the baulk cushion regularly. That is going to make him hard to beat with the longer format probably suiting him, as when he gets into a rhythm he can reel off a number of frames in a row.
After the year Shaun Murphy has had so far he will be delighted not just to make the semi-final this week but also by the way he has played. He has seen off three very competent opponents in Yan Bingtao, Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott and has generally outscored them which will be a big boost to his confidence. I wouldn’t say he has been completely flawless but Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that.
I still have massive reservations about the safety and tactical game of Murphy. It is nowhere near up to the level of the really top players and it has held him back for too long. He is going to have to tighten up immensely to live with Allen in this form. It could be that he has to come out all guns blazing and look to score his way to victory, but that is a strategy that is loaded with risk it has to be said.
These two men have met on 19 previous occasions and it is Shaun Murphy who has the upper hand in them. He has 12 wins to the seven of Mark Allen and in terms of frames he leads 83-71 which suggests that Murphy wins tight matches and Allen wins the more one-sided ones. It is Allen who has won the last three meetings between the two including their last one which was the Scottish Open final last year. They have met six previous semi-finals with Murphy coming out on top in four of them so history is with the Magician in this one.
Although history is on the side of Shaun Murphy, I’m with Mark Allen here. I think he’s played the better snooker of the two this week and I think he’s the better player of the two anyway. Murphy has done well to make it this far but I think his run is over now. I fancy Allen to get on top and there is every chance he could run away with this.
Normally I would take Allen to win this match but I’m effectively already on him at 9/1 to win it having backed him outright and that is more than enough interest for me when it comes to this one. I’m tempted to take the under 14.5 frames as I do think Allen will win this more than a shade comfortably but in the end the outright punt will do me.