The quarter finals of the World Championship get underway inside the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on Monday on a day where all four matches in the round start off on their journey ahead of finishing over the course of play on Tuesday.
This is where the tournament really begins to intensify. The eight remaining players have all won matches on the tables so far and they are all one win away from the iconic one table setup for the semi-finals. That is only going to add to the drama and the tension.
I’m sure everyone knows the format by now but for those who are unsure of it, it is long course snooker all the way over this 17 day marathon. The first round is the best-of-19 frames which goes up to the best-of-25 for the second round and the quarter finals. The semi-finals at the best-of-33 frames and then the four session final will see a champion crowned on the third Saturday and Sunday over the best-of-35 frames.
It was all set up to be a day of twists and turns and no shortage of drama and we got plenty of that. We also saw one of the most insane runs of the ball we’ve seen in a while as well as Neil Robertson enjoyed plenty of fortune as he overcame Barry Hawkins 13-9. At one point, despite resuming 5-11 down, Martin Gould had Kyren Wilson on the rocks when he came back to 8-11 and Wilson needed three snookers to avoid seeing his lead reduced to 11-9. He got them though and ended up going through 13-9. Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui continued to deliver plenty of fireworks but it was the five-time winner of this event O’Sullivan who came through 13-10 while the other match treated us to some late night drama as Anthony McGill overcame Jamie Clarke in a deciding frame.
Judd Trump vs Kyren Wilson (Monday 10am, 7pm & Tuesday 2.30pm)
The draw has gone to the seeding in the top quarter which means that the first quarter final to begin on table one sees Judd Trump continuing the defence of his title when he takes on the man many have tried to build a rivalry between in the form of Kyren Wilson.
I don’t think it is being unfair to suggest that Trump hasn’t been at his best in this tournament but he has come through a couple of good battles and that might serve him well here because you would think that the best chance Wilson would have of winning this match is to get him into a tussle. Wilson was given the fright of his life in the final session of the second round and if you based his chances on that alone you would give him little chance here. It shouldn’t be forgotten just how good he was in the first two sessions of that one though and that form gives him every chance here.
One of the reasons why there is a rivalry being created out of these two is that in the matches that matter Wilson actually leads their previous meetings 7-5. Their last two matches and a lot of the truly big matches have gone the distance and I reckon there will be plenty of frames in this one as well. The frames line is over 21.5 frames and when you consider the opportunity ahead of both with a qualifier waiting in the semi-final, I’ve got to think this will be extremely competitive and close throughout. I’m happy to take the over on that frames line.
Mark Selby vs Neil Robertson (Monday 10am, 7pm & Tuesday 10am)
The first of the two quarter finals on table two sees two former winners of this fine tournament battling out for a place in the last four when Mark Selby takes on Neil Robertson in a match which immediately looks like being a titanic tussle.
There is no hiding the fact that Selby hasn’t been anywhere close to his best in this tournament but at the same time we’ve seen him win events before when not at his best and also get better the longer he remains in a tournament. He’ll be hoping both those statements ring true here. Robertson hasn’t been his fluent best either but he has played better than Selby so far and will be hoping to make that form count for plenty over the two days and three sessions of this encounter.
I’m expecting this to be a close match throughout but before we know that will be the case I need to see that Selby has improved enough. The over 22.5 frames line will only go up by one if the match is as tight as I expect heading into the final session so I would rather be on that knowing Selby is playing well rather than one less to find out he isn’t. That’s how I’ll look to play this quarter final so I’ll sit it out to begin with.
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Kurt Maflin vs Anthony McGill (Monday 2.30pm, Tuesday 10am & 7pm)
We’ve known for a while that two qualifiers will be in action against each other in the second quarter final on table one and we now know that it is the man who beat John Higgins in Kurt Maflin against another Scottish star in Anthony McGill.
The obvious concern here for McGill is that he has played the full 44 frames to get this far including a midnight finish in the second round on Sunday evening but on the flip side of that he has won and he has been to this stage before so he knows what it is all about. McGill wasn’t much cop against Clarke it must be said but there is no doubt in my mind that was because he was the favourite carrying the burden of expectation. Even then he deserves credit for winning from 8-2 behind. Maflin now has that pressure of expectation on his shoulders. He’ll go for his shots here and if he is just slightly off he could be there for the taking, although based on what we’ve seen so far he is a worthy favourite, if a little uneasy one.
I wouldn’t want to get involved in this one from the start anyway given the magnitude of the match for both men. One of them is going to pocket £100,000 for winning this match so it is huge. Thankfully I don’t need to get involved from the off as I’m already on McGill at 20/1 having taken him before the event to win this quarter, which is now basically to win this match. I’m happy to let that ride rather than bet again.
Mark Williams vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (Monday 2.30pm, Tuesday 2.30pm & 7pm)
The pick of the quarter finals is the second one to get underway on table two when two men with eight world titles between them battle it out for the first to make it through to the one table setup and another Crucible semi-final when Mark Williams takes on Ronnie O’Sullivan in a mouth-watering encounter.
Williams has showed some class to come through his two matches but in the early stages of both he wasn’t at his best. Whether he’ll get the opportunity to build his way into this contest remains to be seen, but you would think he will need to be at it from the start. O’Sullivan has been very good in the tournament so far and although he made a few safety errors against Ding Junhui in his second match, you get the feeling there isn’t a whole lot wrong with his game and that he won’t put in his best performance of the three in this contest. I don’t believe a word of all that ‘I don’t care’ nonsense he’s been pedalling recently. He wants this title as much as he ever has so he’ll be looking to be at his best here.
These two men both tell us that they don’t care about the game and playing for fun and all that but that is utter baloney. They’ll be desperate to win this match. I think Ronnie is in for a test of both his patience and his long game. Williams makes out that he’s happy and laidback but he isn’t stupid. He knows the path to success here is to keep it at distance and feast on the chances that come from errors. Whether he can do that long enough to win I’m not sure but I don’t see him going down without a fight and the 4.5 frame handicap is just one too many for me. I’ll take the Welshman on that line.
WON – Back J.Trump vs K.Wilson – Over 21.5 frames for a 3/10 stake at 1.91 with William Hill
WON – Back M.Williams (+4.5 frames) to beat R.O’Sullivan for a 3/10 stake at 2.00 with William Hill
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