Yesterday was the first day of the Champion of Champions at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
Here is the tournament preview by Neal Foulds, Alan McManus, Stephen Hendry, and Jill Douglas:
Shaun Murphy, the defending Champion, won the group rather easily.
Shaun Murphy made a strong start to the defence of his ManBetX Champion of Champions title as he won two matches on Monday to reach the semi-finals.
Murphy won the title for the first time a year ago, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan in the final at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena. And victories over Jimmy Robertson (4-2) and Ding Junhui (6-3) have put him into the last four, with his next match to come on Friday.
Englishman Murphy eased into a 2-0 lead in the group final with breaks of 79 and 80, before Ding hit back to take three fragmented frames to lead 3-2. Murphy then stepped up a gear with 118, 88 and 110 to lead 5-3.
Ding looked set to pull one back until he missed the green off its spot on 58 in frame nine. Murphy’s attempted clearance faltered on 65 when he overcut a tricky final black to a top corner, but he soon got another chance and rolled the black into a centre pocket to seal the result.
“It’s always a tough match against Ding because he’s one of the best players in the game,” said 36-year-old Murphy. “I knew I’d need to up my game compared to how I played in my first match.
“I started well tonight then missed a few and went 3-2 down. It has been a rough start to the season for me so I was desperate for a victory. I was pleased with how I finished it off. I played some good safety which forced a few mistakes out of Ding, and when I got chances I was quite clinical.
“There are only winners in this event and every player deserves his place in it. I’ve done my bit now and got to the semis, I’m looking forward to watching everyone else sweat it out.”
I didn’t see much of the action yesterday, only the first match and the end of the last, having traveled from Brussels to Athens in between.
For what I’ve seen through Shaun Murphy is starting to play well again but Jimmy Robertson, maybe a bit overwhelmed by the circumstances, didn’t play as well as he did in Lommel. He had a really good chance to force a decider and if he had … who knows?
Ding made uncharacteristic mistakes against Shaun and looked every bit as miserable and unhappy as he had in Daqing. Maybe he should step back and assess what he really wants to do with his life, but then maybe, he’s not given much choice.
After the last match, the pundits gave this preview on today’s action:
Interesting that they unanimously suggested that John Higgins should pick and choose more, with Alan and Stephen basically stating the same thing Ronnie had put on twitter: playing in everything, including uninspiring qualifiers, and being on the road all the time is doing nothing for John’s form or motivation.
Finally, the Rasson table, which had got loads of stick on Twitter, by people who never played on one, seems actually to play very well. Its aesthetic is maybe questionable, but that’s unimportant to the players.