The last day of the last 16 at Alexandra Palace proved to be yet another tale of the unexpected.
In the afternoon match, Judd Trump defeated Kyren Wilson by 6-2. This match was expected to be close, it wasn’t. Kyren had beaten Judd in all four of their encounters in 2018, including a 6-5 win, from 5-2 down at the Masters last year. There was nothing of that yesterday. Judd played very well, and, quite significantly didn’t take any liberties. Kyren didn’t play anywhere near his best until he found himself 5-0 down. Still leading 5-2, Judd briefly appeared anxious and uneasy, judging by his body language. However, he then left the arena fort a comfort break and came back calm and collected to seal the match.
Judd Trump stormed to a 6-2 win over rival Kyren Wilson to book his place in the last eight of the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London.
Trump gains revenge for a gut-wrenching semi-final defeat at last year’s Masters. On that occasion Wilson fought back from 5-2 down to claim a dramatic 6-5 victory and reach the final, where he eventually lost to Mark Allen.
That was the beginning of a four-game win streak over Trump for Wilson in major competition, culminating in a 6-1 victory at last November’s Champion of Champions. The following weeks saw both players exchange tense words in the media, which added extra spice to this occasion. However, Trump will be pleased to have emphatically brought a halt to Wilson’s run this afternoon.
Trump, who has nine ranking titles to his name, will face either Mark Selby or Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals. The 29-year-old from Bristol is yet to reach a Masters final, but will be bidding for a fourth appearance in the semis.
There was a real intensity about Trump’s play from the off this afternoon. The Juddernaut came flying out of the traps with a sublime break of 128. He then doubled his lead to make it 2-0, before a crucial third frame.
Wilson had amassed a 57-0 advantage, but missed a frame ball green. Trump stepped up to the plate and punished him by delivering a hammer blow clearance of 58 to move three up. He followed that up with a contribution of 81 to seal a clean sweep 4-0 advantage at the mid-session.
After losing another frame when they returned, Kettering’s Wilson rallied to claw his way back into the tie at 5-2. However, Trump slammed the door shut on another Masters fightback with a break of 72 to clinch the 6-2 win.
“It’s nice to win. I’ve lost the last few times against him and this is one I was really up for. I practised hard over Christmas and this was one I wasn’t going to lose. Neither of us want to lose to the other because of the rivalry,” said 2011 UK Champion Trump. “It was a good atmosphere. When you get rivalries like that and you’ve got a bit of competition in the audience as well, some calling out and stuff — it’s all good fun. I love coming here, I love the atmosphere and it normally brings out the best in me.
“I’ve never got to the final here. I’ve been close a couple of times. The draw is always tough, you’ve got a difficult game in every single match you play. I’ll be going away and practising tomorrow to try and get ready for the next game. I’ll just do my best to go out and lift that trophy.”
Wilson said: “For me it’s just been about preparing for the Masters. I came here to win the Masters. I don’t know if he’s come here to win the Masters. I feel like it’s been quite centred on our rivalry. Fair play to him if he plays well and goes on to win the tournament.
“I’ve won the last couple against him quite comfortably, so it’s swings and roundabouts. We’re going to come up against each other for many years to come. He’s won this time, but I’ll be doing everything in my power to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
No love lost then…
The evening match was every bit as surprising. Stephen Maguire came here as a man in form. Mark Selby on the other hand had won only one match in triple crown events since winning the 2017 World Championship. He had lost heavily in the first round to Joe Perry in Sheffield last April, and bowed out to an amateur in the first round of the UK Championship only a month ago. But yesterday told a different story. Mark seems to be back at his best, and Stephen, not unusually, became a bit reckless when pressed; he didn’t have much run of the balls either. The result was a rather emphatic 6-2 for the “Jester” and a century fest. I’m not sure that Maguire saw the funny side…
Selby certainly has pedigree in snooker’s biggest tournaments having won the World Championship and Masters three times apiece as well as the UK Championship twice. But in 2018 he lost in the opening round of all three of those events, including a shock defeat against James Cahill in last month’s UK Championship.
So world number one Selby was relieved to get back to winning ways as he blitzed Maguire with three centuries and two more breaks over 90. That set up a mouth-watering quarter-final clash with Judd Trump at Alexandra Palace on Friday afternoon.
Scotland’s Maguire won a scrappy opening frame tonight but Selby soon got into his stride as runs of 115, 95 and 125 put him 3-1 ahead. World number 15 Maguire took frame five on the colours but he couldn’t live with his opponent’s heavy scoring as Leicester’s Selby fired further breaks of 133 and 96 as he dominated the last three frames.
“That was probably my best form,” said Selby. “Stephen’s been playing well of late, so I knew it was going to be a tough game and I needed to get off to a good start. In the first frame I was a little bit nervous and I think it showed. After that I seemed to just relax and play my normal game.
“Stephen in my eyes is still a top 16 player, top eight when he’s on top of his game and should still be challenging for tournaments. I think he’s massively underachieved for his ability. I think he’s a great lad and I rate him really highly.
“In the last few big competitions over the last year or 18 months I’ve struggled and not really produced. Sometimes you start thinking to yourself, is it ever going to come back? It’s nice to do it on a big occasion and in a big tournament like this.
“I’ve put too much pressure on myself in the past, especially in the three majors. It’s shown in the way I’ve performed sometimes. So it was nice to perform like that today and get the win.”
Maguire said: “He was good, every time he got in the balls he cleared up. It’s a tough school. I was hoping to pick up some momentum after winning the first frame after the interval. I got in first a few times, but I couldn’t get any momentum going.
“I have to get used to that again, it takes some getting used to. It’s a proper tournament — one table, big crowd. The cut-off for the Crucible is the most important thing now for me. I’ll shake this defeat off and look to Germany at the end of this month. I want to be competing. I don’t want to be just showing up and lingering around the top 16. I want to be playing in venues like this.
So, today sees the start of the QF round. I haven’t got it exactly right in my first round predictions, but, there you go:
Ronnie v Ryan Day
Ronnie appeared tired in his first, and admitted suffering from insomnia when interviewed in the studio. He wasn’t 100% sharp at the table, but still produce a very decent standard. Ryan Day is a very heavy scorer on his day, and he did score against John Higgins, but still needed a deciding frame to beat him. If they play the way they did in the last 16, I expect Ronnie to win rather comfortably. If, however, Ronnie is still tired, and, if Ryan gets off to a good start, keeping his opponent in his seat, then Ryan could also win quite comfortably. We have seen such scenario before …
Luca Brecel v Ding Junhui
Luca played very well in the last 16, much better than Ding did. Ding won his first round easily – if we only look at the scoreline – but the truth is that Jack Lisowski had chances in most frames, and good ones too, but didn’t take them. If both play like they did in the first round, Luca should win. However, Ding is a much more experienced player, and at his best a devastating break builder. Luca wasn’t expected to win against Mark Allen, now he will have more expectations on him. Therefore I’m not sure how much the first round matches are a good indication of what will happen tonight. Very difficult to call, but it should be entertaining.
Judd Trump v Mark Selby
Surely the tie of the round. To me the key questions for this match are these: will Mark Selby be able to play at the level he did yesterday? If put under pressure by Mark Selby, will Judd Trump be able to keep the discipline he showed against Kyren Wilson. If the answer to those two questions is yes, then we are in for a tremendous match that can only go very, very close. If not, we could just as well have a one-sided affair, either way.
Neil Robertson v Barry Hawkins
Barry Hawkins is probably the less “fancied” player remaining in the line-up. In many ways, it’s weird because Barry has an excellent record in majors, he’s mighty solid. But, he’s never actually won any triple crown event, he reached finals, but never lifted the trophies. Neil Robertson played well against Mark Williams, but only after a slow start. Also “Willo” was rather poor overall. So, I’m not sure how good Neil’s form actually is. Barry could well cause him problems.