Crucible 2016: Last 16 and QF rounds

It’s Semi Finals time here in Sheffield, and we are down to one table.

It turns out to be quite an extraordinary World Championship this one, full of surprises and great stories, as the favourites continued to tumble.

In the last 16, Alan McManus ousted Ali Carter, Kyren Wilson beat Mark Allen convincingly, Ding sent Judd Trump home  on a 13-10 score, and, of course, Barry Hawkins beat Ronnie in an epic match.

If you ever want to see bad attitude at the table, watch the last session of the Carter-McManus last 16. I know that Carter had a very tough time and he is an emotional guy, but he was totally out of order at times. If Ronnie had done half of it, the media would have crucified him, and it would have been all over the papers, but Ali isn’t Ronnie … so they kept it rather quiet considering. That said, the next day, Ali himself acknowledged that he hadn’t handled the situation properly, and credits to him for doing so. We should all remember that players are not robots, and emotions run quite high sometimes, especially here in the Crucible cauldron.

Judd also managed to attract attention for the wrong reasons. Having hinted before the Championship that he was “going to win”, he was outplayed by Ding Junhui, quite convincingly, and got into a row with Dominic Dale on twitter during the match. Dominic had tweeted that Judd’s poor cue ball control was being his downfall in this match and Judd took exception of it, branding Dom “clueless”. Sorry Judd, but, IMO, Dominic was absolutely right.

Barry Hawkins is a badly underrated player and he’s extremely strong tactically and mentally since he’s worked with Terry Griffiths. He proved it in the way he beat Ronnie and , again yesterday, coming from 9-1 down to peg back Marco Fu 12-11. Marco who, amazingly,  is coached by Wayne Griffiths, Terry’s son, managed one of the best dishes you’ll ever see to win the match 13-11. Wayne wins the battle of the coaches this time!

The hero of the last days however is Alan McManus, who, at 45, is back in the SF for the first time in 23 years! Having beaten Ali in the last 16, he sent John Higgins home with a 13-11 win in the QF. John Higgins later admitted that he felt the pressure and cracked, whilst Alan didn’t. John of course had seen the draw open for him and must feel that he missed a golden opportunity to to make it 5. But Alan it is and I can tell you that the atmosphere in the arena was incredible yesterday evening, the crowd was largely behind Alan, even among those who were sat at the other table.

Alan is a very knowledgeable person, intelligent and curious of all things, an excellent pundit, a very decent photographer … and what a player! He also writes very well and I recommand everyone to read his blog

So now we have two qualifiers battling it out in the SF, Ding Junhui v Alan McManus, and two seasoned pros,  Mark Selby v Marco Fu.

It’s the first time since 1978 that two qualifiers meet in the SF round at the Crucible, and the qualifying system was very different then.

It will also be interesting to see if Mark Selby’s decision to withdraw from the Players Championship Final and the China Open will prove to be the right one for him: it might well be, he looks fresher than anyone else remaining in the draw.

All detailed results are on