Following his winning exploits this season during the Players Tour Championship and the 6-Red World Championship, Mark Selby headed to Shanghai as the pre-tournament favourite of many, including myself, and as he rolled into the semi-finals today with a comprehensive victory over Mark King, he remains on course for what would be just the second ranking event title of his career to date.
There are three other men still in with a shout of stopping him however…
Jamie Burnett 5-4 Mark Davis
0-102(102), 0-84(84), 1-83(82), 71-41, 45-58(57), 69(65)-33, 74-1, 90(90)-0, 57-40
Graeme Dott 2-5 Jamie Cope
79(75)-31, 5-94, 60(53)-22, 2-64, 0-92(88), 36-81, 41-70
Allister Carter 5-4 Matthew Stevens
8-65, 76(76)-3, 29-60, 53-63, 1-87(87), 104(103)-17, 71-61, 72-20, 63-57
Mark Selby 5-1 Mark King
75-65, 43-45, 77-68(62), 66-25, 106(106)-14, 105(105)-0
- As I left my house for work this morning after the first three frames of the Mark Davis/Jamie Burnett match I could see just one winner as Mark appeared to be in scintillating form, notching breaks of 102, 84 and 82 as he didn’t look like missing a ball that mattered. I was greatly surprised therefore when I returned home to find that Jamie had managed to turn the match around and in doing so, reach the semi-finals of a ranking event for the first time in his 18-year-career.
- There the Scot will face not his compatriot Graeme Dott, but instead his conqueror, Jamie Cope who is through to the semi-finals for the first time since the 2007 China Open where he ironically lost out to Dott in the final. Having improved his consistency without quite featuring at the business end of tournaments during the past couple of years it is good to see Cope run deep in a tournament again and put himself up into the provisional top 16 of the rankings once again. In fact Jamie has spent a lot of time inside the top 16 provisionally during the past few seasons but for one reason or another has never been quite able to break through when it mattered following the World Championship.
- In the bottom half meanwhile, it appeared for a while as though the revival of Matthew Stevens would continue today as he moved within one frame of victory against Ali Carter at 4-1 after the interval. It was not to be however as Ali pulled one frame back with a break of 103 before winning two extremely tight frames including the decider to secure his place in the semi-finals. Taking the past couple of seasons into account as a whole, has there been a more consistent player than Ali? Those of you following my rankings will have noticed that he is sneaking up on John Higgins who currently lies second in the provisional list and with Neil Robertson out early also, is putting himself right into contention for the number one spot come October, something that would be an incredible achievement for him.
- Hoping to put a dent in those ambitions however will be Mark Selby, himself on the rise and threatening to bump Ronnie O’Sullivan down out of the top 8 for the first time since 1994/5. His form early in the tournament appears not to have been his best so far and judging by his comments on his Twitter page, it would appear as though he like everyone else in the tournament is struggling with the conditions of the tables. If his breaks of 106 and 105 to finish off a 5-1 victory over Mark King today are anything to go by however, he isn’t in too bad shape and will enter his match with Ali as he favourite in my book.
- So Predictions? Cope v Burnett is a fascinating one as on paper Cope might appear to be the favourite, but he has lost to Jamie before, notably at the UK Championship qualifiers back in 2008. If he continues to play well and importantly performs well in the safety department, he could cause an upset. That said however, in his first semi-final he could become nervous and Jamie has beaten some top names so far already this week to make it to the semi-finals. He should win I think.
- Meanwhile Selby v Carter also promises much as whilst Selby is the man in form, Carter has of the two shown himself to be arguably more adept over a shorter format and should not be underestimated. I would make Selby a narrow favourite but there is not a lot in this one…