The unusual ITV schedule provided us with a QF match in the afternoon yesterday, and the first SF in the evening. You’ll find the WST reports below.
Today there is just one match, the second SF played this evening.
Shaun Murphy defeated close friend Mark Allen 6-2 to reach the semi-finals of the Coral Players Championship in Southport.
The Magician will now face Yan Bingtao for a place in the final. It will be a repeat of the pair’s marathon semi-final meeting at the recent Welsh Open. On that occasion Murphy prevailed, battling from 5-4 down to win 6-5 with the clock past midnight.
Today’s victory sees Murphy extend his head-to-head advantage with Allen to 13-5, he’s now also won their last three meetings. Tomorrow’s meeting with Yan will be the 43rd ranking semi-final of 37-year-old Murphy’s career.
Murphy is already assured of his place in the eight-man series finale at the Coral Tour Championship, sitting in second position in the one-year list. However, Allen is not yet certain of qualification. The Pistol currently occupies 7th place in the live rankings with just the Gibraltar Open now left to go.
Breaks of 53 and 93 helped Murphy into a 3-1 lead as they went into the mid-session this afternoon.
After the interval Allen composed a fine break of 69 to pull within a frame at 3-2. From there, Murphy took control of proceedings. Three frames in a row, including runs of 69 and 55, saw the 2005 World Champion over the line.
“I felt happy with my game and where it is at. I was really looking forward to the match, especially with how Mark played in the first round, I was up for it today,” said Murphy. “Mark and I have a lot of respect for each other. A lot of frames had tactical play in them. That doesn’t really suit either of us but when you know each other can score so heavily that is the way it is going to go.
“I hope the semi-final isn’t the same as it was a few weeks ago. It was just carnage for us both and I think we both had a heart attack towards the end. It was after midnight, he had a birthday halfway through the game and we dredged each other down. Hopefully we can put on a good show for the crowd.”
There is not much to add to that report. Mark Allen didn’t look ill anymore but he probably wasn’t 100% yet either. Shaun has been very solid all season and the outcome never looked in doubt.
Judd Trump pulled off a deciding frame clearance, which he described as the “best of his career”, to beat Stephen Maguire 6-5 and reach the Coral Players Championship final in Southport.
With the scores locked at 5-5, it was Maguire who had the first opportunity to clinch a place in the final. The Scot broke down on 49, before Trump deposited a risky red to the middle and embarked on a sensational break.
The key shot came when Trump delicately developed the last red, leaving it over the middle with the colours at his mercy. The World Champion and world number one made no mistake, completing his run of 70 to seal a stunning win.
Trump had looked to be on course for a more routine victory in the early stages. After taking an intriguing first frame on a re-spotted black, breaks of 69 and 132 had moved the 30-year-old into a 3-0 advantage. However, a brilliant run of 56 saw 2004 UK Champion Maguire steal the fourth frame and wrest the momentum, making it 3-1.
Maguire then claimed a further four on the bounce, with contributions of 73, 67 and 70, to move one from victory at 5-3. It wasn’t to be for five-time ranking event winner Maguire, as Trump clinched the next two frames to set up the grandstand finish where he dramatically stole the win.
Defeat for Maguire acts as a massive blow to his chances of earning a place at the Coral Tour Championship. Only the top eight players in the one-year list will make it to the elite Llandudno event. Maguire currently trails compatriot John Higgins by £6,500 in 9th position. He will require a strong showing at the upcoming Gibraltar Open to book his spot.
Victory leaves Trump just one match away from a fifth ranking title of the season. That would see him equal the record for events won in a single campaign, which is held jointly by Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby and Ronnie O’Sullivan. Bristolian Trump has already notched up victories at the International Championship, World Open, Northern Ireland Open and German Masters.
Trump said: “For a deciding frame that was probably the best clearance I’ve ever made. It is definitely in the top five or top ten in any frame. It was under the utmost pressure, with what had happened before.
“I actually felt more relaxed in the decider than I had in the rest of the game, apart from the first couple of frames. Stephen put me under pressure and at 5-3 down I was gone, it was done and dusted. I managed to find something from somewhere and probably the belief of being world number one and World Champion was what helped me to make that clearance.
“It is very tough mentally and it is something that I haven’t particularly worked on, but as I’ve grown older I’ve managed to get that self belief to be able to really dig in under pressure and give myself a chance. In the past I would maybe give up a bit easier, today I really fought for it and made a brilliant break at the end.”
This is a match that Stephen Maguire should have won really. He was on the verge of victory, in the balls, leading 5-3; just two reds remained on the table, and Judd in his chair looked well an d truly gone… Stephen wasn’t in prime position to take the penultimate red, he had shown a lot of patience through the match, but he probably saw the winning line; he took it, missed it and left Judd an opportunity, both to pot that red and to develop the last one as well. Credits to Judd at this stage of the match for taking the chance, it wasn’t an easy one under the circumstances. It turned the match around. Judd is now in his fifth final of the season. He hasn’t lost in a final since the 2017 Shanghai Masters, when Ronnie beat him by 10-3. This one is his 9th final since… it doesn’t bode well for Shaun or Yan but, whoever wins tonight, he shouldn’t think about it.