As we reach the semi finals stage, and a longer format with interval – best of 11 – we have an interesting and slightly unexpected line-up.
Neil Robertson will face Ali Carter in the afternoon, as a result of yesterday’s afternoon session (report WST)
Masters runner-up Ali Carter admitted it was tough to find the motivation to get back on the snooker saddle this week in Austria, but having fought through the fatigue he’s into the semi-finals.
Carter saw off Scott Donaldson 5-1 to reach the last four of the BetVictor European Masters, and on Saturday he’ll face Neil Robertson who made three centuries as he beat Thepchaiya Un-Nooh by the same scoreline.
Just five days ago, Carter missed the chance to win his first Triple Crown title as he lost 10-8 in a fiercely contested Masters final against Stuart Bingham. Shrugging off that disappointment, he travelled to Dornbirn and has won three matches this week to reach the semis.
Today Carter went 3-0 up with breaks of 65, 73 and 72. Donaldson made a 58 clearance to pinch the fourth frame then Carter enjoyed a stroke of good fortune in the fifth when he fluked a red, escaping from a snooker. The Essex cueman took advantage to go 4-1 up then clinched the result in the next with a 57 clearance.
“It was a convincing win. I was pleased by the way I finished it off,” said world number 17 Carter. “I have exceeded my expectations by getting to the semi-finals here.
“I was so tired last week after the Masters. It was very difficult to pick myself up. But it’s my job. Sometimes you don’t want to get up in the morning and go to work, but you have to. Now I’m pleased I have come here because I’m in the semis and hopefully I can keep it going.
“To play Neil will be like another Masters match, now we’re down to one table. He obviously played very well today. It will be tough but it’s a great match to be involved in.”
Robertson chasing 17th ranking title
Before this week, Australia’s Robertson had not been beyond the last 16 of a ranking event this season, but he is now just two wins away from a 17th career ranking title.
Robertson took the first two frames with breaks of 104 and 107 then added a scrappy third for 3-0. Thailand’s Un-Nooh pulled one back with a 66 but there was no stopping world number five Robertson as he fired runs of 87 and 115 to reach his 37th ranking event semi-final.
“It was perfect, one of my best performances of the season,” said the 2010 World Champion. “I played Thepchaiya at the Scottish Open last month and he beat me 4-0 in 40 minutes, it was unbelievable. Everyone on tour knows what he is capable of, I just hope he can do that more on the TV tables and get into the top 16.
“I have a good record at the business end of tournament. I’m just going out there and playing, and if it’s good enough I’ll keep the run going.”
This is the first event in the new BetVictor European Series, with a massive bonus of £150,000 for the player who wins the most money across the four events. Robertson indicated that if he is in a strong position after next week’s BetVictor German Masters, he’ll be temped to enter the BetVictor Shoot Out for the first time since 2011.
“I’ll decide after Germany,” he said. “The Shoot Out is a great event, the matches are really a toss of a coin but and I enjoy watching it on TV. It was good to see Thepchaiya winning it last year – if every tournament had that format he’d be world number one.”
And the other semi final, in the evening, will see Gary Wilson play Zhou Yuelong. Here is the report by WST.
Zhou Yuelong celebrated Chinese New Year and his birthday by beating Barry Hawkins 5-2 to reached the semi-finals of the BetVictor European Masters in Austria.
Zhou, who turns 22 today, is through to the last four of a ranking event for the second time in his career and will now meet Gary Wilson, who impressed in a 5-3 victory over Marco Fu.
Hawkins scored a superb 5-4 win over Mark Selby yesterday but could not replicate that performance and was outplayed by world number 32 Zhou.
Londoner Hawkins had chances in the first two frames but didn’t take them and his opponent went 2-0 up. Zhou then fired breaks of 76 and 78 for 4-0. Hawkins pulled two frames back only for Zhou to finish the match in style with a 113.
“The second frame was important because Barry should have made it 1-1, so once it was 2-0 I could relax,” said Zhou, who is based in Sheffield. “When he came back to 4-2 I kept my focus and waited for my chance, and when it came I wanted to clear the table.
“This week I have had my coach Wu Wen Zhong with me. I have been working with him for 12 years but only recently he has come to the UK for the first time and now he is here in Austria. He is a big help and gives me confidence.”
Asked whether he would celebrate the win, his birthday and the Chinese Year of the Rat, Zhou replied simply: “No, I’ll just go to sleep.”
Potting For Fun Helps Wilson
Wilson was a semi-finalist at the World Championship last year and has matched that run this week. Victory over Zhou tomorrow would give him his second ranking final, the other coming at the 2015 China Open when he lost to Selby.
Hong Kong’s Fu took the opening frame then Wilson levelled with a break of 95. The Englishman nicked a tight third frame on the pink then made a 104 to lead 3-1.
A high scoring contest saw Fu pull one back with an 82 before Wilson made a 105 for 4-2. Fu made a 64 as he took frame seven but Wilson sealed the result in the eighth with his third century, 105.
“It was a funny game, Marco was playing really quickly,” said world number 18 Wilson. “I asked him about it at the end and he said he was tired because he is still having trouble with his eyes (Fu has retinal degeneration). I wasn’t feeling great myself so I tried to play fluently and have a really quick game. It probably worked in my favour because it was a scoring session. I was just running around and potting what was there.
“I’m just happy to be in a semi-final and anything is a bonus now, I’ll just try to keep potting balls. I have been to this stage of tournaments many times, obviously I want to win one but I’ll just keep playing matches and not think about anything like that.”
The result ended Fu’s hopes of qualifying for the Coral World Grand Prix as he needed to reach the final this week to secure a place in Cheltenham.
2pm Neil Robertson v Ali Carter
8pm Gary Wilson v Zhou Yuelong
The Zhou v Hawkins match is the only one I watched yesterday. Zhou looked very nervous at the start, and missed a few, but Barry was terrible and didn’t take advantage. At 4-0 down, I suppose that Barry just relaxed and he played two decent frames. Zhou didn’t panic and, when offered the chance, finished in style. The only aspect in his game that really needs improving is the “rest shot”. He’s even worse at it than Matthew Stevens and that takes some doing! It’s bizarre, because Zhou isn’t tall, he’s actually quite short, and he probably needs the rest more often than most.
Also, the part in bold (added by me) confirms what I suspected regarding the reasons behind Marco’s game change of pace.
A very Happy New Year to all my Chinese friends and readers!
May the Year of the Rat bring you, and those dear to you, health, peace of mind and happiness, as well as success in all your endeavours.