Who said snooker is unpredictable? Tomorrow will see the two top ranked players in the world square off in the final of the 2011 Shanghai Masters with not only the title, but also the world number one spot at the next cut-off potentially on the line…
Both Mark Selby and Mark Williams made it through their semi-final contests today but their respective matches could not have proved to be much more different.
First through was provisional number one Selby who wasted little time in recording a 6-0 whitewash against Mark King, the man who lets not forget has in the past has defeated him both in the Masters and the World Championship tournaments.
Today however it was all Selby who despite not managing to record a century break, took advantage of a poor performance from an opponent who subsequently admitted that he had struggled due to tiredness brought on by a lack of sleep last night. Take nothing away from Selby however who is through to his third full ranking event final of 2011 having also won the most recent PTC in Germany. It is this level of consistency that has left him on the brink of becoming only snooker’s ninth number one player, though I suspect it will be a second career ranking title that he craves more than anything this weekend.
Hoping to deny him both will be Mark Williams who survived both a gutsy performance and some terrible playing conditions today to defeat 2010 world champion Neil Robertson to book his place in a second successive ranking event final.
The match was a topsy turvy affair in which Mark made the stronger start by leading both 3-1 and 4-2 before a couple of poor shots and a good recovery from Neil brought the Australian three successive frames to leave him one away from victory at 5-4. Having lost a few matches from winning positions during the past 12 months, notably against John Higgins and against Stuart Bingham in Bendigo, I wondered whether this might be another of those occasions.
Mark though was to quickly cast aside any doubts over his bottle with a number of gutsy shots during the following two frames, in particular an excellent length of the table brown on his way to a successful clearance in frame ten as well as a tremendous red along the cushion in the decider which could have cost him the match had he lost.
Neil will be disappointed though having made it beyond the semi-finals of a ranking event in China for the first time in his career this weekend he can be relatively happy with his tournament I feel.
Mark on the other hand will have been glad to come through, particularly as at times he appeared to be distracted by what were some strange playing conditions for both as the cue ball appeared to roll off on any shots played slowly while as has been the case all week there were a number of kicks experienced by both.
So what of the final, a repeat of that earlier this season in Berlin? Normally I would favour the Welshman of the two and did so pre-tournament when making my predictions however I have a suspicion that this might just be Selby’s time to buck the trend tomorrow. Not only is he the man on a roll at the moment having won 11 successive matches but he should also be much fresher than Williams tomorrow having finished early today while the Welshman was detained beyond midnight.
We shall see though, in a match between two such strong players it will all be about who plays the best on the day but I will tip Selby to take a 10-7 (not 9-6!) victory.