World Grand Prix 2017 – Semi Finals round-up and Final Preview

We had two very different semi finals, one was totally one-sided, as Liang Wenbo never looked at the races against a very solid Barry Hawkins, one very hard-fought as Ryan Day came back from 4-2 down and needing 4 snookers in frame 8 to beat Marco Fu by 6-4.

Barry Hawkins 6-1 Liang Wenbo (Worldsnooker report)

Friday 10 Feb 2017 09:59PM

Barry Hawkins crushed Liang Wenbo 6-1 to reach the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix final in Preston.

The Hawk is already accustomed to lifting ranking silverware at the historic Guild Hall venue. He won the Players Championship Grand Final in 2014, where he thrashed Gerard Greene 4-0.  That week he won a first prize of £100,000, which matches the total he would receive for victory this week. The win guarantees Hawkins a place in the top 16 on this season’s money list and therefore a place in the Players Championship.

The 37-year-old has been one of the tour’s most consistent players in 2016/17, but has endured a series of near misses  in his quest for silverware. He led Mark King 5-1 in the Northern Ireland Open final, only to lose out 9-8. He was dumped out of the UK Championship by one of the performances of the season against Fergal O’Brien, who made five centuries in a 6-5 win. The Hawk also let a 5-1 lead slip in his recent Masters semi-final with Joe Perry, which he lost 6-5.

Liang was unable to recover from yesterday evening’s late night thriller against Perry which he won 4-3. The Firecracker has struggled previously against Hawkins and that continued tonight, with Liang losing for the fourth time out of the five meetings that they have had.

The Hawk flew out of the traps, going 2-0 up in under 25 minutes. However, English Open Champion Liang responded with 68 to halve the deficit.

From that point onwards Hawkins barely allowed his opponent a sniff, displaying savage scoring power. Runs of 106, 92, 57 and 120 in consecutive frames saw him burst over the line and book his spot in Sunday’s final, where he will face either Marco Fu or Ryan Day.

I was really pleased with that performance,” said Hawkins.I don’t know if it is the best I’ve ever played but it’s up there. I’ve been getting close lately. Everyone knows I’ve lost a couple of sore ones, but if I play well I’ve got a chance. I’ve just got to enjoy the occasion really.

“When I first looked at my draw here I thought this was going to be a tough one,” said the two-time ranking event winner. “I’m absolutely delighted to beat someone like Judd, then Neil and Liang, who has been in great form this season.”

“I don’t know whether it is a coincidence I won my last ranking title here, but I do feel comfortable here and I really like the venue.”

Ryan Day 6-4 Marco Fu (Worldsnooker report)

Saturday 11 Feb 2017 11:59PM

Ryan Day produced a magnificent comeback to defeat Marco Fu 6-4 and reach the Ladbrokes World Grand Prix final in Preston.

Since Anthony Hamilton’s win at last week’s German Masters, many people now deem Day to be the greatest player yet to have lifted a ranking title. The Welshman, who has been on the tour for 18 years, has reached the quarter-final stage or beyond 20 times, but is yet to convert a title. He’ll have a chance to shrug off that tag tomorrow as he faces Barry Hawkins for the title.

The Hong Kong potter was competing in his second semi-final of 2017 having reached the last four of the Masters in January. He’s shown imperious form throughout the season and won his third ranking title in December at the Scottish Open. However, Fu was unable to hold off the Welshman this evening.

The early exchanges were characterised by relentless break building power. It was Fu who started off the tie at a blistering pace, making a break of 125 to take the opener. The world number 24 then responded with 72 to level the scores. Fu made 84 to move 2-1 ahead, before Day restored parity at the interval.

When the players returned Fu once again opened proceedings with a century, stringing together a run of 123. The three-time ranking event winner looked set to reach another final when he went 4-2 up. Day then moved within one, before an extraordinary eighth frame.

Fu got in first and appeared to have wrapped up the frame, leading 76-12. Day needed four snookers and looked as if he was going to stay in his chair, after a brief moment’s thought he returned to the table. With the green, brown and blue close together there was a big target for the Welshman to set about finding the snookers. He got them and cleared the table with a break of 30 to deliver a dagger blow to his opponent. Day then won a nervy final two frames to reach the final and secure a minimum of £50,000, the biggest payday of his career.

Day remarked: “I was within a fraction of asking the referee to rack the balls up in that eighth frame. I thought I would give it one more crack with the balls set favourably up.

“We are all here to lift the trophy. There was 32 players at the start of the week and now it’s down to two. It’s going to be a bit of a fight tomorrow and may the best man win,” said Day. “I’ve been playing well all week and there’s no reason why I can’t win tomorrow. In Barry Hawkins I have one of the form players as an opponent. But I’m going to prepare properly and give it my best shot.”

Fu was in reflective mood afterwards and remains positive about his form going ahead into a busy period leading up to the World Championship.

Fu said: “I’m disappointed to lose the match but also relieved it’s over. The way I was playing I didn’t deserve to be in the final. I’m really pleased for Ryan and I hope he can win his first ranking title tomorrow.

“I think I’m playing well but it’s just small things here and there stopping me getting results, but I’m happy with my form.”

Note that the £50,000 mentioned should be £40,000 according to the official points tariff published on WPBSA site. Probably a typo.

So today we have Barry Hawkins v Ryan Day for the title. Personally I fancy Hawkins to win it. Why? Because he is an event winner already, in this very arena as well,  and knows how to handle such occasions, because he’s extra-solid under pressure usually, because his all-round game is one of the best and because he will be rested. Ryan Day played outstanding yesterday evening, his safety game was out of this world towards the end of the match. But it was a late night and it may take its toll. Also, Ryan has been in three finals already and never won one. Worse, he was in front in the last two he played and lost: Dominic Dale won 7 frames on the trot to beat him in Shanghai in 2007. On may play on Ryan’s mind. But of course, this was nearly 10 years ago, and today is another match, another place and another opportunity.