The first day of the semi finals at the Crucible is always both exciting and a bit flat. Exciting because the arena changes, there is just the one table, the studio moves into the arena – which has it’s downsides BTW, as the acoustic isolation is not always perfect – and the players get a grand entrance through the stairs. But it’s also a bit flat too, because, backstage it feels empty, with just four players left the buzz of the first rounds is gone, the media room is calm too. Those are long matches. There is little tension still as it’s only the first session of four and players begin to feel the tiredness.
Yesterday both sessions were rather close. David Gilbert built a 5-3 lead on John Higgins, from 2-0 down, and he had an attempt at a maximum as well. He definitely looked the better player once the early nerves were done.
David Gilbert came from 2-0 down to lead John Higgins 5-3 after the first session of their Betfred World Championship semi-final.
First to 17 frames goes through to the final to face Judd Trump or Gary Wilson.
It is something of a David versus Goliath clash, as Gilbert has never won a professional tournament and had only won one match at the Crucible before this year. Higgins, by contrast, is playing in his tenth Sheffield semi-final, and aiming for his fifth title having lifted the trophy in 1998, 2007, 2009 and 2011. The Scot has 30 ranking titles to his name.
But Gilbert has looked composed so far in the biggest match of his career.
To get to the last four, Tamworth’s 37-year-old Gilbert has beaten Joe Perry 10-7, Mark Williams 13-9 and Kyren Wilson 13-8. Wishaw’s 43-year-old Higgins has seen off Mark Davis 10-7, Stuart Bingham 13-11 and Neil Robertson 13-10.
Higgins won a scrappy opening frame and took the second by clearing from blue to black. World number 16 Gilbert won the third and that settled him into the match as he added a break of 94 to level at 2-2.
A run of 66 put Higgins in charge of the fifth, though Gilbert had a chance to clear but missed the final green to a baulk corner and his opponent regained the lead.
In the sixth, Gilbert potted 14 reds with blacks, then converted a clever cross-double on the 15th red to a centre pocket, but didn’t get position on the black. His hopes of a 147 died with a failed attempt at a table-length double on he black as the break finished on 113.
Runs of 30 and 40 put Gilbert ahead for the first time at 4-3. In the last of the session, the Englishman made 51, then Higgins had an opportunity to clear but missed a tricky red to a top corner on 38. Gilbert added 33 to secure his overnight advantage.
They resume on Friday at 10am for eight more frames.
The evening session finished at 4-4 between Judd Trump and Gary Wilson. Gary, who had his partner watching from the crucible for the first time – looked a bit more nervous than in previous matches, whilst Judd took a few risky shots which isn’t necessarily a good idea against a potter like Gary. Neither looked totally at ease.
Judd Trump and Gary Wilson emerged from the first session of their Betfred World Championship semi-final all square at 4-4.
Masters champion Trump is aiming to secure a maiden world title this week, having been tipped as a contender to pick up the Crucible crown since his classic 2011 final with John Higgins. On that occasion Trump came up short in an 18-15 defeat. The Ace in the Pack hasn’t featured in a World Championship final since then and will be aiming to put that right by beating Wilson over the next three days.
World number 32 Wilson is competing in the one-table setup for the first time, having enjoyed a fairytale run so far. He booked his place at the Theatre of Dreams by coming through qualifying and is the fifth lowest ranked player ever to reach the World Championship semi-finals.
The former taxi driver from Wallsend won the longest frame in Crucible history to defeat Luca Brecel 10-9 in the opening round. He followed that up with a superb 13-10 victory against three-time World Champion Mark Selby and a 13-9 win over Ali Carter.
Trump had the first scoring opportunity of the game, but his run ended on 46. Wilson stepped in and compiled a break of 61, but broke down and allowed Trump to clear the colours and move 1-0 up.
Wilson then restored parity, before a sublime break of 140 saw him take to the front at 2-1. However, 10-time ranking event winner Trump responded swiftly with a break of 54 on his way to claiming the fourth frame and levelling at 2-2.
The pair continued to trade frames. With the score at 3-3 Trump missed a straightforward red to the middle and allowed Wilson to step in and move 4-3 ahead.
Trump then ensured that the first session ended level, composing a break of 54 on his way to making it 4-4. They will return tomorrow afternoon at 2:30pm to play the second session of the best of 33 encounter.