Both semi finals yesterday delivered a winner most people didn’t expect.
Rising star Wilson had never won a match in snooker’s biggest invitation event before this week, but having knocked out Barry Hawkins, Mark Williams and now Trump, he is through to the final to face either John Higgins or Mark Allen over 19 frames at Alexandra Palace on Sunday.
Wilson is already guaranteed £90,000, which would be his biggest career pay-day, eclipsing the £85,000 he won for taking the 2015 Shanghai Masters title, when he beat Trump 10-9 in the final. It could be an even more lucrative day for the 26-year-old from Kettering as the champion will take home £200,000.
Wilson had never played in the semi-finals of a Triple Crown event before today but showed tremendous composure in the closing stages as he reeled off the last four frames. Victory tomorrow would give the world number 14 his first pro title since that Shanghai triumph 28 months ago. He will be playing his third final of the season having lost to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the English Open and Ding Junhui at the Yushan World Open.
Trump, who has now lost all three of his Masters semi-finals, took a scrappy opening frame then Wilson cleared from yellow to black to snatch the second. World number three Trump took the next two with breaks of 83 and 52 to lead 3-1 at the interval.
Wilson pulled one back with an 81 but his opponent looked to be cruising towards the winning line as runs of 96 and 69 made it 5-2. But Trump potted just one ball in the next three frames as Wilson won them all with top breaks of 57 and 107.
Trump had first chance in the decider and made 23 before running out of position. After a brief safety exchange, Trump went for a risky plant to a top corner but missed his target. Wilson compiled a superb match-winning run of 72 which included several daring pots.
“Even if it was 5-2, I was just going to fight until the end,” said Wilson, who had support among the crowd from wife Sophie and parents Sonya and Rob. “It’s one of those venues where funny things can happen. Many come backs have happened over the years here. I like to think I drew some inspiration from the late Paul Hunter. I felt like it was maybe my time to do that.
“Judd’s safety game really impressed me in the first few frames. From 5-2 I started to take my chances with good breaks. I felt nervous but good going into the decider. Lady luck was on my side.
“I’m quite good under pressure with a sound technique. To win it in one visit was very pleasing. It’s been a great week for me and my family. Hopefully I can give them something else to cheer about tomorrow.
“I have been a top 16 player for a couple of years so I feel like I deserve my right to be in this tournament. I’m not just here to make up the numbers, I’m here to lift the trophy, which would mean absolutely everything to me. I promised my mum I’d get it for her dining room table!
“It’s nice that three out of the four lads in the semi-finals are of the younger generation, which is good for snooker. The Triple Crown events are the ones the players turn out for. The whole world stops to watch them.”
Trump said: “It’s disappointing. I think I was the better player, it’s tough to take. Kyren got away with missing balls in every single frame. When someone gets away with so many shots you’ve got to take a chance because you can’t rely on him giving you an easy chance, so I wanted to grab the match by the scruff of the neck.
“When it’s not your day it’s not your day. When you know the run is like that then it might be Kyren’s week.”
Where should I start about this match? Once again Judd Trump managed to lose after leading comfortably. At 5-2, he went for a ridiculous shot, missed it and it turned the match around. Yes, that shot, had it gone in, would probably have won him the match. But what were the chances for that shot to go in, really? Very low I reckon. And he did it again in the decider. By missing that shot at 5-2, he gave his opponent a life-line, one that Kyren grabbed with both hands. By taking it Judd sent a double message to his opponent: “I’m in a hurry and will go for risky shots, AND, I can do this because you aren’t good enough to beat me”. I’m not saying that those thoughts were going fully consciously through Judd’s mind, but it certainly how it could be read. Showing that you are in a hurry is showing a weakness in your temperament, wounding your opponent in their professional pride is never a good move, they are likely to draw extra motivation from it. And then, reading Judd’s quotes only tells me that he’s deluded about the whole situation. This has happened too often in the last couple of years to be down to “luck” for his opponents. He may have been the better scorer, he wasn’t the better player. His comments were disrespectful to Kyren in my opinion, and a sign that defeat hurt badly but that, alas, Judd isn’t ready to face his own responsibility in what has now become a pattern. He has all the talent in the world, more than Kyren, even more than John Higgins or Ronnie, but he does not have the right state of mind at the moment.
Don’t get me wrong: I certainly don’t “hate” Judd Trump, I’ve met him, spoken to him and he’s a nice person, without a trace of arrogance outside the snooker match context. I believe that, maybe, he has got too much expectations on him, too soon. That, maybe, he’s been drawn to create an “image” of “cool, self-confident dude” that isn’t the real Judd and it’s not helping him. He’s clearly not in a good place right now. Maybe he should seek help, like Ronnie did with Steve Peters. But the first step towards that is to accept that there is a problem. Yesterday, in the post-match review, Neal Foulds also expressed concerns.
Kyren has shown incredible mental solidity, very similar to Peter Ebdon with whom he practices. I don’t make him favourite in the final today, but I’m sure that he will fight to the last ball, and who knows?
Allen knocked out Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals and scored another victory over one of snooker’s all time greats with a fine display tonight. He has now won all four of his Masters meetings with Higgins.
In Sunday’s best-of-19 final, Northern Ireland’s Allen will take on Kyren Wilson for the £200,000 top prize and the Paul Hunter Trophy. Both will be contesting their first Masters final, both aiming to win a Triple Crown event for the first time.
Allen struggled with his game for much of last season but has shown signs of a return to form in recent months, notably in a run to the final of the International Championship. This week in London has brought the best out of the 31-year-old from Antrim and he’ll be determined to win his first title since the 2016 Players Championship.
Scotland’s Higgins won the first frame of a high quality match tonight then world number eight Allen hit back to take the next three with top breaks of 63 and 90.
Two-time Masters champion Higgins took the next with a 131, the 700th century of his glittering career. But Allen bounced back with runs of 64 and 65 in the next two to go 5-2 up. A 127 from world number five Higgins, the 27th century of the tournament, saw him pull one back, but in frame nine Allen fired in a cracking long red and made 75 to seal the match.
“It’s two good wins for me, to beat Ronnie and John Higgins,” said Allen, whose only previous Triple Crown final was the 2011 UK Championship when he lost to Judd Trump. “I don’t want to get too excited because I still need to win ten more frames. My game is in good shape and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.
“I’ve never won a Triple Crown event but playing the best players does bring the best out of me. If you don’t play well you will lose so it takes the unknown away. It’s a new day and a different game tomorrow. I’ll have to control my emotions as I have all week. My safety has been good and I know I can score well.
“The long matches have momentum swings, hopefully I’ll be in control of them. It will be a dream come true for one of us tomorrow night, and completely devastating for the other. I see this as the biggest event after the World Championship, it was one of the ones I dreamed of winning when I was younger. If I win I’ll probably go ballistic and you might see me running around here with my top off! I just have to try to stay as calm as possible. My approach to the match will be no different, I always go for my shots. I have to go out there and play well, that’s the bottom line.”
Higgins said: “My tactical game was poor. I made some elementary mistakes and didn’t keep him close to the baulk cushion. He punished me – every credit to him because he played great. I think he’ll win the final, he’s had that look about him this week.”
The final starts at 1.30pm
Mark Allen showed against John Higgins the same kind of form and self-belief that he had against Ronnie. He’s a handfull for anyone in that form. His long potting has been incredible this week, which means that he’s in first more often than not. His break building is very solid. If he can play at the same level today, he’s got to be favourite.
Whoever wins today, it’s a new name on the trophy. It should be a great final.