The as ever bizarre ITV schedule is such that we had two quarter-finals yesterday afternoon and a semi-final in the evening. Today, only one match is scheduled, in the evening, the semi-final between Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy.
Murphy Fired Up For Trump Showdown
Shaun Murphy defeated Anthony McGill 5-4 in a thrilling quarter-final at the Duelbits World Grand Prix in Cheltenham and afterwards fired a warning shot at semi-final opponent Judd Trump.
The last time Murphy and Trump met was at the UK Championship in November, when the Magician prevailed 6-5 in a pulsating last 16 tie. Following today’s quarter-final win, 2005 World Champion Murphy stated that he wouldn’t be intimidated by recently crowned Masters champion Trump. He said: “I think he’s won a lot of matches this week on reputation. I think people have collapsed against him. I won’t be collapsing. He will have to beat me.”
Murphy is aiming to end a title drought which extends back to before the coronavirus pandemic struck, when he defeated Kyren Wilson 9-1 in the final of the 2020 Welsh Open.
Former Crucible semi-finalist McGill’s last piece of silverware came all the way back at the 2017 Shoot Out. However, he has shown signs of a return to top form this week. The Glaswegian revealed earlier in the event that he has started working with 2002 World Champion Peter Ebdon and wins over Gary Wilson and Sam Craigie will have been cause for encouragement.
The first part of this afternoon’s match was dominated by Murphy. After sharing the first two frames, he claimed the third on the pink. The nine-time ranking event winner then crafted a contribution of 95 to head into the mid-session with a 3-1 cushion.
When play resumed McGill showed his class, with breaks of 102 and 99 to restore parity at 3-3. Murphy once again hit the front with a break of 61, but McGill refused to fade away and a break of 108 took the match into a deciding frame. It was Murphy who took it with 81 to set up his showdown with Trump.
“I’m elated. Any time you play Anthony you know you are going to be put through the mill. He is very good in all areas of the game, a very nice guy and a real professional. He always prepares properly and plays the right shots. This week he has been going through players like a hot knife through butter. I knew that I needed to have my A game and that is probably the best I’ve played all week,” said 40-year-old Murphy.
“Lifting trophies is what we do it for. It isn’t for the accolades or the money, it is to take the trophy home. We were all young kids starting out on the junior tour, who wanted the medal at the end of the day. We are all still the same. Nobody wants to come here and finish second, third or fourth. It means nothing to anybody. There are four of us left, someone is going to win it and that might be me.
“I am in a very lucky position, because I’ve won a lot of professional events over my career, all of the majors. I am in that position of not being in under pressure to win in a particular week. I know I’m going to win soon. I know my game is good. Whether it is this week or not, I’m not sure.”
World number four Trump earned his place in the semis with a 5-3 win over Xiao Guodong.
The Ace in the Pack landed his second Masters title last Sunday at Alexandra Palace, when he defeated Mark Williams 10-8 in an epic final. He appears to be carrying that momentum over to this week.
Tomorrow’s meeting with Murphy will be the 53rd ranking semi-final of Trump’s career. He leads the head-to-head with Murphy 11-9, but has lost three of their last four matches.
Trump made breaks of 68, 59, 65 and 117 on his way to today’s win. The Bristolian will enjoy a strong local backing tomorrow evening in Cheltenham, when he takes on Murphy over the best of 11 frames for a place in the final.
I came a bit as a surprise to me that the report focusses mainly on Shaun who played on table 2 but I’m happy with that. I’m also happy with the result. For some reason I always find Anthony McGill hard to watch. I know he is a good person, he does a lot for disabled children at the Minnesota Fats snooker club in Glasgow, I know he has been helping Ukrainian refugees in the most concrete way … but I’m unable to enjoy his game. I think that Judd vs Shaun will be a better game to watch.
Pistol Reaches Cheltenham Final
Number one seed Mark Allen stormed to his fourth title match of the campaign, after thrashing Thailand’s Noppon Saengkham 6-1 in the semi-finals of the Duelbits World Grand Prix in Cheltenham.
Allen is already the runaway leader on the one-year list, having picked up silverware at the Northern Ireland Open and the UK Championship this season. The eight-time ranking event winner was also runner-up at British Open earlier in the campaign. Today’s win sees Allen make the 17th ranking final of his career so far.
The Northern Irishman now faces either close friend Shaun Murphy or Masters champion Judd Trump in Sunday’s final, which will be contested over the best of 19 frames for a top prize of £100,000. If Allen were to win it would see him pick up three ranking titles in a single season for the first time in his career.
Defeat sees a magical week end for Saengkham. He beat Mark Selby, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams to reach the semis of a ranking event for the fourth time in his career. However, he is still to reach his first final.
Allen stamped his authority on this evening’s encounter right from the outset. Breaks of 73 and 66 gave him the opening frames, to establish an early 2-0 advantage. A contribution of 58 saw Saengkham get a frame on the board. However, Allen then fired in 78 to head to the mid-session 3-1 in front.
There was no let up when play resumed, with Allen hammering home a superb break of 127 to extend his advantage. Saengkham had several chances in the sixth, but spurned them with Allen eventually clinching the frame on the pink to move one from victory at 5-1. He got himself over the line at the first time of asking by taking a 33-minute seventh, to emerge a 6-1 victor.
“I punished Noppon for some errors that he hasn’t been making so far this week, so all in all I’m very happy,” said 36-year-old Allen. “I had in the back of my mind that I played him in the semis of the British Open and I beat him 6-1 there. I had those sort of thoughts in my head, that if I could get off to a fast start he might be thinking about that. Maybe that is what happened out there.
“Judd Trump is the man of the moment, the Masters champion and it is a match I always look forward to. The crowd is always really good in matches against him. We’ve grown up playing junior snooker together and know each other’s games inside out. I would need to play better than I have done so far this week though.
“Nothing against Judd. I would love to see Shaun in the final just for the bragging rights. It would be so painful to lose that final knowing I’m going to get slaughtered on social media for months and years after. It would be good to lose to such a close friend if that was the case. It will be a tough match whoever comes through.”
Noppon didn’t start well, he was first in, twice, missed a routine black, left everything, and that set the tone for the rest of the match.
Mark Allen was impressive, as he has been all season. This is the first time in many years that I really fancy him to do well at the Crucible. In previous years, I always thought that he wasn’t fit enough for the test of stamina that is the World Championship. That has changed this season. He will be the man to beat in Sheffield IMO.