We are down to the one-table setup at the Crucible Theatre on Thursday, the day that both of the semi-finals of the tournament get underway with the remaining four men knowing they are just two wins away from being crowned world champion once again.
The initial aim of all four players will be to make it through to the final on Sunday but to get there they have to come through a four-session encounter over the best of 33 frames across three days and that will not be easy for any of the players involved, all of which have won this title before and know what to expect.
Day 12 Recap
It always had the hallmarks to be a dramatic day of snooker on Wednesday with all four quarter finals drawing to a close and that is exactly how it played out. Ronnie O’Sullivan was the first man through when he eased past Stephen Maguire 13-5 before Mark Williams joined his fellow ‘Class of 92’ star when he came from behind to see off Yan Bingtao 13-11. Judd Trump won the last eight frames against Stuart Bingham to come from 5-8 behind to win 13-8 and then the drama on the evening came between John Higgins and Jack Lisowski with Higgins coming from 12-11 behind to win a deciding frame in what was a true Crucible cracker.
Mark Williams vs Judd Trump (Thursday 1pm, Friday 10am, Friday 7pm & Saturday 2.30pm)
The first semi-final sees two of the last four winners of this title going at it over the four sessions of play when two of the best left handers ever to play the game meet as Mark Williams takes on Judd Trump in a great looking contest.
Williams has probably been the player of the tournament but for one session in his quarter final where Yan Bingtao threw the kitchen sink at him. He repelled that burst from the Chinese player to make it into his first semi-final since he won the title back in 2018. Trump has been a lot less convincing in making it to this semi-final but there were signs in the final session of his quarter final with Stuart Bingham that he might be slowly moving through the gears. You sense he’ll need to play much better to win this match but over such a distance and across three days he will surely play well at some point, it is just whether it is for long enough. I’m already on Williams at a shade over 16/1 for this match having backed him outright and while I might re-evaluate where we are as we go in this semi-final, I’ll let that interest ride to begin with.
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John Higgins vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (Thursday 7pm, Friday 2.30pm, Saturday 10am & Saturday 7pm)
The second semi-final is the snooker version of ‘El Clasico’ as two of the all-time greats with 10 world titles between them collide when John Higgins takes on his nemesis Ronnie O’Sullivan in a clash which should be very special if both play to their best form.
You would imagine O’Sullivan will do that because he has done it throughout the event so far but there are copious examples of players playing the two table setup well and then having little left in the top form tank when we get to this stage. You would imagine the experience O’Sullivan has and the carefree attitude he has got will ensure he can find his top form though. Higgins has had to battle hard to make it through to this stage but you only need to look at the season he has had and what he found with his back firmly against the wall in the quarter final to know that his top form is just below the surface and waiting to come to the party. He’ll know he has to play well to win this match and he will also know that he has won five of their last six meetings, the last two of which have been emphatic 6-1 victories. There is still a sense that O’Sullivan struggles against the true elite in the game. He kind of silenced some of that in beating Neil Robertson in the World Grand Prix final but has subsequently lost a few big matches to him since. I fancy O’Sullivan will win this but semi-finals of this tournament tend to be tight these days. Six of the last 10 have finished 17-16 or 17-15 and I fancy Higgins will allow enough of his form to flourish for this to add to that collection so the even money on over 29.5 frames, where 17-13 or closer either way gets the job done for us, will do for me.
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