The 2019 English Open – Day 5 – QF

I saw very little from yesterday’s action as I traveled for most of the day. So here are the reports by Worldsnooker:

Afternoon session

Mark Selby came from 3-0 down to beat Mei Xiwen 5-3 and reach his third consecutive ranking event semi-final at the English Open.

David Gilbert also booked his spot in the last four at K2 Crawley with a 5-4 victory over Ricky Walden.

Selby hasn’t won a tournament since the 2018 China Championship, and hasn’t lifted a trophy on UK soil since the 2017 World Championship. But the three-time Crucible king looks to be returning to form, and having lost in the semi-finals of two ranking events already this season, he’ll be looking to go further this time. He faces Mark Allen or Lee Walker on Saturday.

China’s Mei was playing in his first ranking event quarter-final today and he looked comfortable in the early stages, firing breaks of 108, 48 and 56 to take the first three frames.

Selby’s top break at that stage was just 1, but he dominated the fourth frame to get a foothold, then stepped up a gear after the interval, winning four frames in a row with top runs of 69, 70 and 132.

“I started off poorly but I’m happy with how I turned the game around,” said world number five Selby after reaching his 44th ranking event semi-final. “The fourth frame was a big turning point. Once I won that I felt settled and I played better after the interval. From 3-1, that was about as good as I’ve played this week. I scored well and it was the most comfortable I’ve felt.

“It was important I finished it off, because even though I’d gone from 3-0 down to 4-3 up, if he nicks the next one suddenly it’s down to a decider. Thankfully it didn’t get to that stage. Over the years longer games have favoured me, but semi-finals are always tough and I’m going to have my work cut out to win.”

Gilbert boosted his hopes of winning a first ranking title by coming through a high quality battle against Walden.

Breaks of 85 and 63 put Tamworth’s Gilbert 2-0 up, then Walden reeled off three in a row with 91, 125 and 46. Gilbert hit back with 69 for 3-3, then the next two were shared to leave the match in the balance.

Walden had first chance in the decider, but after potting the first red he went for a tough pink to a centre pocket and missed his target. Gilbert punished him with a superb 75.

“I don’t blame Ricky for going for that pink, he had played positively all through the match,” said Gilbert, who was runner-up at the Yushan World Open and German Masters last season. “Luckily for me he missed it and I made a good break.

“People go on about me losing in two finals and the semis of the World Championship last season, but I’d take that kind of season for the next ten years. Of course I want to win events, but I’m not Ronnie O’Sullivan – I’m realistic. I’ll keep turning up with my cue with the right attitude and try to improve.”

Regarding what happened in the Selby v Mei match, I believe that the facts that 1. there was an interval and 2. Selby won the last frame before it, were key to what happened next. Mei is not used to play on the television table, with just one table focusing all the audience attention. He had never reached the QF stage before. He probably started the match as the underdog, even in his own mind, not having too many expectations but determined to give it all. And then … he runs 3-0 up against a 3 times World Champion, but loses the last frame before the MSI. He must have had plenty to think about during those 15/20 minutes. Maybe – only maybe – we could have had a different outcome if he hadn’t got time to dwell on what just happened in the first four frames.

Other than that, I’m glad to see Ricky Walden playing well again. He’s a cracking player when on form and it’s a shame that back injuries ruined his career for many years.

Evening session

Mark Allen eased to a 5-1 win over Lee Walker at the English Open to earn a semi-final against Mark Selby.

Neither Allen nor Selby have won a tournament so far in 2019 so both will be determined to come out on top when they clash at 1pm on Saturday in Crawley, with the winner to go through to Sunday’s final. Northern Ireland’s Allen won three titles in 2018, including the Masters, but hasn’t found the same level of form since.

He won the first four frames tonight with top breaks of 54, 51 and 80. Walker took the fifth on the colours but his hopes of a fight-back were dashed when he under-cut a black to a top corner at 17-32 in frame six. Allen’s run of 40 sealed the result.

World number seven Allen admitted his biggest challenge tonight was staying patient, as he is the eighth fastest player on the pro tour while Walker is the second slowest.

“Lee is good at dictating the place of play,” said Allen. “I always felt as if I was one miss away from a very long scrappy frame. For a while in the second frame it became a war of attrition. It challenges you mentally, but I didn’t let it get to me. It wasn’t free flowing in the way I like it to be, but I knew I just had to wait for my chances.

“I’m looking forward to playing Mark tomorrow. He’s one of the top century makers of all time and he knows how to win any type of frame. He has a point to prove because recently he hasn’t been winning titles like he usually does.”

Tom Ford reached his fourth ranking event semi-final with a 5-0 thrashing of Tian Pengfei. Leicester’s Ford made a 147 in beating Shaun Murphy on Thursday, and though he didn’t reach the same heights tonight, he had more than enough firepower to dismiss the challenge of China’s Tian.

Breaks of 62, 52 and 128 helped world number 25 Ford set up a match with David Gilbert on Saturday evening.

“It took me a couple of frames to get into the match tonight,” admitted 36-year-old Ford. “Luckily for me, Tian struggled as well. It was hard to find a rhythm. Tomorrow it’s down to one table and I’ll need to settle down quickly. David has played in the semis at the Crucible so he knows what it’s like.

“I feel good in myself, and I feel good mentally. It’s not as if I don’t know how to win tournaments because I won two Players Tour Championship events a few years ago.

“I grew up with David, we played each other a lot at junior level, so we know each others games.”

The last frame of the Allen v Walker match is the only action I saw yesterday. Mark Allen at a point was shown as having 84% pot success, Lee Walker had something like 77/78%. That’s indeed all the indications of a scrappy match. I also caugth some of the ES pundits discussion during the MSI, with Ronnie insisting that Mark hadn’t played at his best level by any means. Clearly this is not the Pistol type of game, and Mark Selby today might well inflict him some more of the same. Before anyone jumps at me for being a “Ronnie fan girl, Selby hater, thinking he’s slow and boring” … that NOT what I mean. What I mean is that Mark Selby is a player who can be fluent when he wants to, but can turn into “the torturer” when he needs to. He’s an intelligent player, who is able, and willing, to adapt his game depending on his opponent style and how the match unfolds. If he feels that he needs to disrupt his opponent fluency to win, that’s what he will do. It will be an interesting match.

I make David Gilbert favourite in the other match. Tom Ford hasn’t a great record on the television table, especially in the latter stages of major tournaments. That said, Tom revealed that he’s been working with a sport psychologist this season, and, judging by his results so far, it really does help him. So this match too will be interesting. Tom at his best is a very dangerous player, the question is whether he will be able to bring his best game out under added pressure today.

2 thoughts on “The 2019 English Open – Day 5 – QF

  1. The first match, Gilbert-Walden was open, free-flowing, but Walden missed a couple of balls too many towards the end. He will be disappointed, because he probably could have won.

    Then Selby looked awful against Mei, who began in the same methodical way he had against Ronnie. However, as the match progressed, he got slower and eventually got stuck. In the crucial 5th frame, Mei successfully got a snooker, but tried to pot a risky free-ball (he should have just moved the black off the cushion). After the interval he’d just hit the wall, and Selby was better. But Selby isn’t going to win this tournament unless he plays much better throughout.

    The evening matches weren’t competitive. It’s difficult for players who are not used to deep runs in tournaments to recover from an exhausting Thursday (where they play two matches).

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