2020 Players Championship – Day 3

Here are the reports by WST on yesterday’s action in Southport

Afternoon session (L16)

Mark Allen is through to the quarter-finals of the Coral Players Championship after a 6-3 defeat of Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in Southport.

Victory for Northern Ireland’s Allen is all the more impressive given he has been suffering with an ear infection and conjunctivitis.

It’s an important win for Allen, who is battling to secure his place at the upcoming Coral Tour Championship in Llandudno. Only the top eight players in this season’s one-year list will earn a place in Llandudno, Allen currently occupies 7th position in the live standings.

Despite being visibly unwell at the table, the Pistol extraordinarily fired in breaks of 129, 132 and 123 on his way to establishing a 4-2 advantage.

Un-Nooh then pulled one back, before Allen moved a frame from victory at 5-3. He sealed the win with a steely clearance of 48, which saw him steal the ninth frame on the black to win 6-3.

Allen said: “If it had been any other tournament I’d have had to pull out. It was complete guesswork out there. I’ve got a bit of an ear infection, conjunctivitis and a cold. It is really affecting my balance more than anything. I had to use the table to balance or I would have just fallen over.

“I just guessed really well today. I was feeding off muscle memory and years of practise. I had no feeling out there. I am going straight back to bed to try and rest.”

Fortunately for Allen he now has the day off tomorrow to recuperate. His next opponent will be close friend Shaun Murphy, who won a thrilling clash with David Gilbert 6-5.

Murphy has enjoyed a superb season so far to move into second position on the one-year list. The Magician has notched up ranking event wins at the China Championship and the Welsh Open.

Triple Crown winner Murphy had led 4-1, before being subjected to an impressive fightback from world number 11 Gilbert who forced a decider at 5-5. In the end Murphy held his nerve, making a break of 49 whilst controlling the final frame to book his last eight showdown with Allen.

I watched the Murphy v Gilbert match and, in a way, it was a strange one. After winning a close first frame, Murphy completely dominated the early stages. He went 3-0 and 4-1 ahead. Gilbert looked out of the match. Then, I guess, he relaxed and began to score heavily. But tension returned in the decider and it showed. There is nothing wrong with Gilbert technique, it’s actually one of the best on show, but he continues to struggle to get over the line in big matches. Sightright has given him more confidence, but , maybe, seeing a mental coach would help him to acquire that little something that still holds him back under pressure. Of course winning a tournament would do that as well …

Evening session (QF)

World Champion Judd Trump defeated John Higgins 6-3 in a hard fought contest to book his place in the semi-finals of the Coral Players Championship in Southport.

It’s a fourth consecutive win for Trump over 30-time ranking event winner Higgins, in a run which includes last year’s Crucible final. The Ace in the Pack, who has 15 ranking titles to his name, now trails Higgins 13-11 in their head-to-head record.

Defeat for Higgins leaves his chances of progression to the series finale at the Coral Tour Championship in doubt. Only the top eight on the one-year list will make it to the elite event in Llandudno, with Higgins sitting right on the cut off point in eighth position. He may need a strong showing at the upcoming Gibraltar Open to secure his place.

Trump will now face either Mark Selby or Stephen Maguire for a place in the final. The world number one tops the one-year list after a sparkling season which has seen him notch up four ranking titles this season, including the recent German Masters.

Trump controlled the opening stages this evening. The Bristolian composed runs of 74 and 85 on his way to establishing a 3-1 lead at the mid-session interval.

When they returned, Scotland’s four-time World Champion Higgins began to claw his way back into the tie. He produced a superb contribution of 123, before adding the sixth frame to draw level at 3-3.

Trump edged back in front and then delivered a hammer blow by edging the tactical contest in a mammoth 38-minute eighth frame. That moved him one from victory and he saw himself over the line to secure the 6-3 win.

“It was a scrappy game, but I was in control at 3-1,” said 30-year-old Trump. “He made it 3-3 and after that the balls went scrappy and we were both fighting for our lives to get the semi-finals. I was able to find a few good pots towards the end and that got me over the line.

“It is always pretty special to beat him in any tournament. To keep that momentum playing him is very important. You don’t want to lose at any point or you lose the fear factor. This is a big tournament, so being able to beat him and keep that fear factor is important.”

This was a really hard fought match, and one John Higgins could have won if it wasn’t for the mistakes that crept in his game towards the end. I’m not sure that it’s “fear” that did it – I don’t think that John fears anyone – but he’s not confident in his game in general and not as reliable as he used to be. Judd played some superb spectacular shots in this match but they weren’t the decisive factor. It was his ability to fight that did it. If there is one lesson in this match for all pros who have to play Judd in his current form it’s this: he’s very hard to beat, but if you want to get any chance, don’t try to beat him at his “potting” game, try to impose yours, make it scrappy, break his fluency, and take any chance that comes your way.


One thought on “2020 Players Championship – Day 3

  1. Trump was playing well enough that John Higgins would never have beaten him. If it had been closer, Trump simply would have increased his level.

    Gilbert’s results have been generally terrible in the second half of the season. He must be lacking in confidence, when it comes to closing out a match. If Murphy is a little bit vulnerable, then the bottom half of the draw is more open than it looks. Mark Allen is evidently unwell, which will ultimately take its toll.

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