Misfiring Maguire needs to step up to keep title bid alive

Trailing 5-3 overnight in his quarter-final with Neil Robertson and having made some rather interesting comments following his last 16 match with Mark King, Stephen Maguire needs to find his very best form tomorrow if he is to avoid a last eight exit for a second consecutive season…

I did not see too much of his match with Mark King, twice in fact I was watching the match on the other side of the curtain, but by all accounts it was not a particularly high quality match and both struggled to find their form.

One such account was that of Stephen himself which can be found over at World Snooker and I have to say that if I were a fan, some of his quotes wouldn’t fill me with too much optimism. For example:

“I never felt under any pressure at any time during the match, because there was nothing to get under pressure about. The snooker was that bad I honestly was not interested whether I won or lost, I just wanted out of there. I wasn’t enjoying the game and it’s hard to go out into the arena if you feel like that, because if you feel like that, the snooker is going to be bad anyway.”

“I just got off to a bad start, and really struggled from then on. I lost interest early, which affected my concentration.”

“I felt like giving it him [the 75 minute frame], I thought if he wanted it that bad he could have it.”

He seems to be a nice guy away from the table and ranked at number two in the world is of course a hugely talented player, but the one question that I have always had over him is his attitude and his quotes here would make me worry again. I like the fact that not for the first time this season, he is brutally honest with his assessment of his performance and it’s quite clear that he is fully aware that his temperament can sometimes hold him back, but unfortunately he just can’t seem to get on top of it.

On his Welsh Open defeat to Swail he admitted that he was ‘very flat’ and on his UK disappointment against Shaun Murphy he admitted:

“I was pathetic,”

“After the first two frames I didn’t want to be in the arena. It was the wrong attitude and it’s something I need to work on. If I don’t play well I get embarrased. I don’t enjoy the long frames. I feel like I want to give the crowd their money back because we’re there to put on a show.

“I was mad at myself and had to tell myself to calm down. At least I didn’t bash the table or bang my cue, that was a first for me and it’s a forward step.

“Shaun wasn’t much better than me and he was there for the taking, but the damage was done in the first session. Apart from a couple of centuries, we both needed three or four chances in every frame. It’s hard to swallow how I played.”

Going into tomorrow I just get the feeling that this could be a significant day and perhaps a significant week in Stephen’s career as having clearly targeted this tournament almost from the start of the season, to fall short at this stage would be a bitter pill to swallow. At 28 he should be right at the peak of his powers and as he has said himself, probably needs to win the world title during the next few years if he is ever going to at all. I do wonder if having gone public with this goal, whether he has placed too much pressure onto himself.

That said, I am not ruling him out at all because he is still well in the match and as Shaun Murphy has shown tonight, it could all easily turn round. Stephen also has an excellent record against Neil having defeated him in Sheffield, at the Masters and also at the UK Championship during the last 12 months.

If he can come back and give himself a confidence boosting win then he would be right in there where he wants to be, at the business end of the biggest tournament of the year. If he were to lose however, it would give him a lot to think about over the summer…