2023 Crucible – Day 12 yields an unexpected SF line-up

There will be no member of the “Class of 92” in the semi-finals at the Crucible this year as both Ronnie and John Higgins were beaten yesterday. You can read more about Luca Brecel victory over Ronnie here.

The top half of the draw produced a completely unexpected semi-final as Si Jiahui will face Luca Brecel. This is not what I wished as a Ronnie fan, but having two players under-30, both from outside UK/Ireland, competing at this level on the biggest stage is good for snooker as a sport with ambitions to be global. I appreciate that as a snooker fan.

Here is WST report on Si Jiahui’s QF win over Anthony McGill

Rising Star Si Stuns McGill

Si Jiahui became the first Crucible debutant to reach the semi-finals since 1995, beating Anthony McGill 13-12 in an exciting late night finish at the Cazoo World Championship.

At the age of just 20, Si becomes the youngest player to make it to the last four in Sheffield since Ronnie O’Sullivan in 1996, and the first debutant since Andy Hicks a year earlier. The new Chinese sensation becomes the third player from his country to make it to the famed one table set-up, after Ding Junhui and Marco Fu.

Having won three qualifying matches to make it to the televised stages, Si then knocked out Shaun Murphy 10-9 and Robert Milkins 13-7 before getting the better of an enthralling battle against McGill. He is sure to jump at least 44 places from his current ranking of 80th.

Murphy predicted last week that Si would become the first World Champion from China, and the precocious youngster is just two wins away from fulfilling that prophesy. His next challenge is against Luca Brecel, the best of 33 frames over the next three days. Si, who comes from Zhu Ji in the Zhejiang province of central China, is through to the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time.

Scotland’s McGill took a scrappy opening frame tonight to lead 9-8. In the next, Si led 44-25 when he missed a red to a baulk corner, playing with the rest, and McGill punished him with an excellent 35 clearance to double his lead. The next two were shared to leave the score at 11-9. Frame 21 lasted 46 minutes and went Si’s way, then the 22nd came down to a safety battle on the colours, and a loose shot on the green from McGill handed his opponent the chance to clear for 11-11.

Si edged ahead with a superb run of 87, only for McGill to bounce back with a 130 total clearance to set up the decider. The key moment came when McGill, trailing 29-7, attempted an awkward red to a top corner, playing left-handed. But he misjudged the chance, hit the wrong red, and handed his opponent an opportunity, from which Si made a vital 41. McGill battled for the snookers he needed but his efforts were in vain.

I genuinely felt pressure during the last frame and I had to keep my nerve under control,” said Si, who won the World Snooker Federation Open last year. “All the spectators were watching. I was offered a lot of opportunities during the match by my opponent, and I thought with that many chances I wanted to win. I felt the desire, which was different from previous matches. I could have lost to Murphy and felt great because I was supposed to lose anyway.

I’ve learned something from this experience and I will be playing under a better mindset from now on. I used to tremble because of nerves in deciding frames but I’m able to get through it more consistently, mentally stronger.

I’ll keep going for my shots because I’m still not as good as others at safety. I’ll go for potting when there are options, try to attack. I will keep trying my best, but I don’t want fans to expect too much. I am surprised to get this far because I didn’t think I was at the level of players who can make it to the semi-finals. I need to improve. So please don’t think of me as great player like Ding!

McGill said: “Si deserved to win because he controlled the decider. The red I played left-handed, I tried to convince myself that I could get through to it. Overall I played badly throughout the match, my game just wasn’t there.

I know that there is a big hurdle for Chinese players when it comes to see Ding for what he is: a great, great player, who had to cope with enormous pressure and unrealistic expectations, someone who changed snooker’s landscape both in his country and worldwide but who probably will remain an underachiever on the biggest scene of the sport.

The bottom half of the draw yielded a clash of two established heavyweights in Mark Selby and Mark Allen. Mark Allen has been the player of the season but has so far underachieved at the Crucible. He only reached the one table situation once before, in 2009. I always said that Mark’s problem at the Crucible was stamina. He was badly overweight and physically not fit. I strongly believe that working on his fitness and losing weight is what allowed him to have the season he had, and get to this stage in this event. Mark Selby has been there and done it… four times already. This is a titanic match.

Here is the report by WST on Mark Selby’s win over John Higgins

‘Animal’ Selby Into Eighth Crucible Semi

Mark Selby moved a step closer to a fifth Cazoo World Championship title as he came from 4-1 down to beat John Higgins 13-7 and earn a semi-final clash with Mark Allen.

Higgins described Selby as “an animal on the table” at the end of a battle between two players with four Crucible crowns apiece.

Victory for Selby levels his head-to-head record with Higgins on snooker’s grandest stage. The pair have now beaten each other three times each at the Theatre of Dreams. Their storied rivalry has included two world finals; Higgins won the title match in 2007 and Selby was victorious in 2017.

Selby will now progress to face a semi-final showdown against player of the season so far Mark Allen. The Pistol earned his place in the last four with a hard fought 13-10 win over Jak Jones.

Defeat ends a disappointing season for Higgins, who failed to go beyond the quarter-finals in any ranking event. It’s the first time that has happened to the Scot since 2012.

Selby came into the evening with a 9-5 advantage following this afternoon’s second session, which was cut two frames short due to over running. When play got back underway a break of 64 saw the Leicester cueman extend his cushion to five frames. Glasgow’s Higgins replied by taking a 37-minute 15th, after crafting a contribution of 65 to make it 10-6.

The 17th frame went the way of Selby, who re-established his five frame lead thanks to a run of 67. Higgins had a chance in the next but fell out of ideal position and missed a black on 38, Selby ruthlessly punished with 91 to move a frame from victory at 12-6.

Higgins defiantly fired in a century run of 102, but Selby quickly stamped up any hopes of a fightback with a break of 67 to wrap up the win and seal a place in the World Championship semi-finals for the eighth time in his career.

It is a massive accolade from someone like John (to be praised). I have so much respect for John as a player and a person. From start to finish I felt I played as good as I can. My safety was as good as it can be, it needed to be. When I got my chances I scored more times than not. It’s a tough combination,” said 39-year-old Selby.

Mark (Allen) has been the form player this year. He is number one on the money list for a reason. He won three tournaments, lost in the final of another and now here he is in the semi-finals of the World Championship. It doesn’t get any easier and will be a tough game. Mark will fancy the job but I’m going to look forward to it.

I always put a lot of pressure on myself because I know what I’m capable of if I turn up. Nobody puts more pressure on me than I do. I don’t read too much into what people think. I know I have a tough game against Mark.

Higgins said: “I played a terrible first frame today. I should definitely have gone 5-4 in front. From then it was downhill for me and Mark got stronger. He just totally took me apart. His safety was incredible. I was in bad positions all day. He is an animal on the table, he really is.

He just continually keeps you on the back foot. When you do come to the table with a chance your mind is a little bit frazzled sometimes. He is a master of the game of snooker. He is an incredible player.

It’s alright doing it against the other players, when you are against the big boys and they are putting it to you, it is about how you come back. I never came back. It is a disappointing end to the tournament for me.”

Both semi-finals are hard to predict. Si has never played at such level and fatigue, an “external” expectations might become negative factors. Luca on form can be unplayable but consistency has been a major issue throughout his career so far. He’s a bit of a maverick. As already mentioned, Allen has been the best player this season but Selby is the one with a vast experience of this setup, he’s done it all before, he’s won the event four times.

One thought on “2023 Crucible – Day 12 yields an unexpected SF line-up

  1. The semi-finals are hard to predict, but really there are two clear favourites, based on big differences in experience. It’s hard to imagine Si Jiahui lasting another session, let alone another 4! Luca Brecel has won tournaments, so is used to playing tough matches day after day. Mark Selby is playing in his 7th semi-final.

    Si Jiahui’s win was remarkable, although he was a bit lucky at times. Anthony McGill was pretty awful, and kept missing opportunities to gain control of the match. Si is representing not just himself, but also Chinese snooker, with the inquiry taking place in the background.

    But yes, it’s a very positive thing for snooker to have semi-finalists from Belgium and China. Although the tournament finishes on a Monday, it means there will be increased worldwide interest on this most important weekend on the calendar.

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