It’s down to the one table set up at the Crucible as we enter the semi-final stages of the championship with Ronnie O’Sullivan (1.60) now a form favourite to lift his fourth world title after knocking out a man who many saw as his main rival Neil Robertson.
For all the new players and young talent coming through in the game the final four has something of a familiar feel to it and could be a final four from 6 or 7 seasons ago. Stephen Maguire (4.00) is arguably one of the Crucible’s biggest underachievers with just the one semi-final to his name, Ali Carter (6.50) was runner-up to Ronnie here in 2008 and a semi-finalist in 2010, while Matthew Stevens (11.00) plays in this stage for the 6th time having twice finished runner-up.
First up this afternoon we have the start of the match featuring Maguire (1.45) and Carter (2.65). Maguire has been solid throughout and has never looked in danger of losing any of his first three matches. Ali on the other hand had to come back from 3 down with 4 to play to beat Judd Trump before having to withstand a late fightback by underdog Jamie Jones and fight his way over the line. One question is, given Carter’s well documented health problems this season, how much have his matches so far taken out of him? Maguire has had the best part of two days off whereas Ali was still battling last night.
Maguire was in cracking form coming into this event while Carter seems to have benefitted from a fairly quiet season. I can see Maguire continuing his winning run here and possibly winning this with a few frames to spare.
Then we come to O’Sullivan’s (1.22) tie with Stevens (4.00). Ronnie has actually lost 5 out of the 8 semi-finals he has played at the Crucible over the years but the three he has won have seen him go on and lift the trophy. Matthew’s Crucible semi-final record is played 5 won 2 and lost 3, but for him the two he has managed to win have seen him go on to lose tense finals to Mark Williams in 2000 (18-16) and Shaun Murphy in 2005 (18-16).
The momentum is now very clearly with O’Sullivan and he looks sharp, focused and happy. His long game is as good as it was when he last won here after a couple of seasons struggling with it and I think he’ll have too much for Matthew here and continue his pattern of getting to World Finals and winning them. I think he will go on to win the championship with a little bit in hand.
Best Bets: Ronnie O’Sullivan -4.5 frames (1.65) Stephen Maguire -2.5 frames (1.72) Ronnie O’Sullivan to win the Championship (1.60)