And then there were four…

It is semi-final time and boy do we have an interesting line-up as two former champions meet two attacking young potters…

Allen v Higgins

What a tournament it has been already for both of these players. World number 16 Mark Allen has not only played some dazzling snooker at times to progress to his first Crucible semi-final, but in holding his nerve to defeat both Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ryan Day in close matches, has shown great composure to go with it. He really seems to be maturing this year and against John Higgins will be desperate to keep his run going and become the youngest world champion since Shaun Murphy back in 2005.

Higgins though will not make it easy for him as having come back from behind to defeat both Jamie Cope and Mark Selby 13-12 in his last two matches, you can see that he is full of confidence and using all that experience to great effect. It reminds me a lot of Ken Doherty’s epic run to the final in 2003 and who knows, perhaps John could follow in his footsteps and still be there on Monday night.

My only concern for Higgins would be the possibility of him ‘burning out’ and fatigue playing a part – either physical or mental. I would not expect it to, as he has said himself with the semi-finals being over three days you do have some time to recover, but there have been question marks raised (notably by Peter Ebdon), as to his physical fitness before so you never know.

It’s a hard match to predict and given how my semi-final predictions have unfolded this year, I’ll no doubt get it wrong! On balance though I have a feeling that Mark will start the stronger before being reeled in and maybe just edged at the finish. I would not rule Mark out, but I fear he might struggle to cope with John’s excellent safety game. Then again if he is potting everything in sight, perhaps it won’t matter!

Murphy v Robertson

If the first semi-final is hard to predict then this one is near impossible!

In Shaun Murphy you have a player who is both a World and UK Champion, as well as being one of the most determined and single minded players currently in the game. Against Andrew Higginson he struggled to find his best form but he found away to win before destroying Marco Fu with a session to spare and seeing off Stephen Hendry in fine style yesterday. In particular against Hendry, during the first four frames of the second session he looked to be cueing like an absolute dream and on that form I have no doubt he will win the title – but can reproduce that for the rest of the tournament?

Neil Robertson meanwhile looks as focused as I have ever seen him this year. Right from the off against Steve Davis he showed no mercy and in seeing off Stephen Maguire, played some excellent attacking snooker. Like he himself said, the key for him seems to be that he has returned to playing his natural game, rather than listening to the so-called experts and playing more safety.

Overall I would have to make Murphy favourite but I thought similar in 2007 when we got to the semi-final stage and Mark Selby proved me wrong then. Could Neil do the same?