Australian Goldfields Open 2011: Doherty into Semis, Bingham Wins Grudge Match

It has been a long time coming for Ken Doherty but the Irishman today recorded an excellent win against Mark Selby to reach his first ranking event semi-final in over five years. Meanwhile Stuart Bingham won his ‘grudge match’ with Mark Allen…

Coming into his match with Mark Selby today few would have expected Ken Doherty to come out on top but the 1997 world champion continued his excellent week with a 5-3 win to reach tomorrow’s semi-finals.

Of course Ken remains a class player who I would argue was underrated by many when he was at his peak, never mind now, but by his own admission he has not been as consistent as he used to be recently and with the way that Mark has started the new campaign he was a justifiable favourite for the match.

This week though has shown that favourites do not always win and Ken completed an excellent win with what he has described as the best clearance of his career to win the final frame from 57 points behind with 59 remaining. I seem to remember a fabulous clearance from him to defeat Graeme Dott at the Crucible many moons ago so today’s must have been special to top that!

What the week has also done for Ken is to give his ranking situation a major boost as while he remains down in 31st on my projected seedings list and far from safe inside the top 32, he has brought himself right back into contention to move up into the mid-20’s and recovered the points lost from his strong performances early in the 2009/10 campaign.

Next up for the Irishman will be a tie with Mark Williams in a repeat of their 2003 World Championship final following a terrific comeback from the world number 1. Trailing 2-0 in the early stages, Mark hit back with breaks of 118 and 140 to level before the match eventually ran into a decider.

Having already lost an enthralling clash with Stephen Lee this year despite making four century breaks, Mark could have been forgiven for being a little worried but there was none of that as he sealed victory in style with a tournament high run of 142.

Always a safe bet to perform well overseas, Mark will take some stopping from here and will again enter tomorrow’s match as the favourite. Hard luck though for Dominic who despite defeat can be proud of his performances this week and with little to come off from the 2009/10 season by way of ranking points could yet shed himself of the status of being the only player to have won multiple ranking event titles without having cracked the top 16.

The other semi-final meanwhile will be contested between Shaun Murphy and Stuart Bingham after they came through against Matt Selt and Mark Allen respectively.

It was always going to be a tough ask for Matt to keep his run going against a player clearly in good form and acclimatised to the conditions out there in Australia at the moment but like Dominic he can rightly be pleased with his achievements this week. Having previously failed to progress beyond the last 32 of a televised ranking event, to defeat two world champions, particularly John Higgins will have been a great experience for him and will doubtless increase his confidence for the future. In terms of ranking points too his run also effectively covers his last 32 appearances from the start of the 2009/10 season and leaves him well placed to retain his top 48 status.

For Shaun though his eyes will now be on the prize, though he will not have it easy against Stuart Bingham who after a number of near-misses is deservedly through to the first ranking event semi-final of his career. While the talk of a ‘grudge match’ and the off-table antics with Mark Allen have understandably grabbed the headlines, I would prefer to focus on what Stuart has done on the table which with breaks of 118, 112, 96 and 66 speaks for itself.

During the last year or so Stuart has shown a marked improvement in terms of his consistency and has now put himself up into contention for a top 16 place at the next cut-off point as a result. Whether he makes it or not I am sure that he will make it sooner rather than later and have been particularly impressed by the response shown to what was a nightmare end to last season when he lost to Ding Junhui at the Crucible. There are many players who might have taken a good six months to get over a result like that but Stuart has shown great character to bounce back immediately.

Who is to say that he can’t go all the way?

Friday Results

Shaun Murphy 5-3 Matt Selt
Stuart Bingham 5-3 Mark Allen
Ken Doherty 5-3 Mark Selby
Mark Williams 5-4 Dominic Dale