Two tables become one in the World Championship on Wednesday when the two semi-finals get started on what is always one of the more eagerly looked forward to days of the tournament, even if it is sadly behind closed doors this year.
We might be at the semi-final stage of the tournament but in terms of frames to be won for the man who lifts the trophy on Sunday evening, we are only really at halfway so the hard work starts now as the tournament truly begins in earnest here.
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 the day when all four quarter finals concluded on Tuesday and a day where we lost the top three seeds in the tournament one after the other. Neil Robertson was the first one to depart the scene when he lost 13-7 to Mark Selby before the defending champion Judd Trump was given his marching orders, losing 13-9 to a very impressive Kyren Wilson. Mark Williams was the third of the illustrious trio to lose out. He went down to Ronnie O’Sullivan in a cracking match 13-10. That was also the score that Anthony McGill overcame the challenge of Kurt Maflin by.
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Kyren Wilson vs Anthony McGill (Wednesday 1pm, Thursday 10am & 7pm and Friday 2.30pm)
The opening semi-final of the tournament sees two players who were not expected to get this far battling it out when Kyren Wilson takes on a man who will be competing at the one-table setup for the first time in Anthony McGill.
To be fair to Wilson this is only the second time he has been to this stage of the tournament, so while he carries a bit more experience into the contest it isn’t by a whole lot. Wilson is clearly the better player of the two here but he will never have been in the situation where he is expected to make the final of the World Championship before and it will be interesting to see how he copes with that because it is a whole new thing, as we’ve seen already this week.
Those who followed our pre-tournament tips will be hoping that the pressure is a heavy weight on the shoulders of Wilson as we are holding a ticket for McGill to win this thing at 125/1, which effectively means that we are on him at 62.5/1 to win this match and bring the place money in. He started very well against Kurt Maflin when his opponent was weighed down by the pressure of expectation. Hopefully the same happens here. I’m sure at some point I’ll get involved in this semi-final but there is no need to from the beginning, particularly with McGill holding a 5-1 lead in their previous 15 red battles.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Mark Selby (Wednesday 7pm, Thursday 2.30pm, Friday 10am & 7pm)
The second semi-final has all the hallmarks of a Crucible classic about it as no fewer than eight world titles will face off against each other when Ronnie O’Sullivan takes on Mark Selby for a place in another World Championship final.
It goes without saying that these two have experienced this stage of the tournament plenty of times in the past, indeed they met in the final here in 2014 when Selby overcame the challenge of O’Sullivan 18-14 despite being miles behind at one stage. Generally though matches between these two are very tight and often go all the way so it would be a huge surprise if we see a one-sided match here like the one Selby had against Robertson in the previous round.
There is a chance of that though because as O’Sullivan alluded to in his post-match interview after his win over Mark Williams, his long game isn’t firing on all cylinders. Of course some of what he said was to tempt Selby into an open pot-a-thon but Selby is not daft enough to fall for that. He has just ground out a win from distance against Robertson and he’ll be hiding Ronnie in the long grass at all times and feasting on the chances that come his way from that. Unlike Ronnie, I don’t see Selby as a certainty in this match but I do see him as the most likely winner and at 7/4 I’m happy to back him to come through here.
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