Higgins and Robertson complete semis

They may have done it in contrasting styles but both Neil Robertson and John Higgins have come through their quarter-final ties and will meet Shaun Murphy and Mark Allen in the next round respectively…

Higgins does it again!

After his epic 13-12 victory over Jamie Cope in his last 16 match, double world champion John Higgins has done it again, recovering from 12-11 down to topple Mark Selby in a deciding frame.

Resuming at 8-8 following their topsy turvy morning session it was Mark Selby who got off to the stronger start, moving 10-8 ahead and notching up his fifth century break of the match along the way. Higgins though as he has done all week was not to be disheartened and soon brought himself level again at 10-10.

The next few frames were to follow a familiar pattern with Mark edging ahead at 11-10 and 12-11, but he was just beginning to show signs of weakness as his scoring began to dry up and in particular a reckless plant in the 24th frame turned out to be costly as John knocked in a couple of 40+ breaks to force a decider.

As it turned out, frame 25 was to get off to a couple of false starts as bizarrely there was a need for not just one, but two re-racks. It was third time lucky for John as far as the break-off shot was concerned however as this time he hit it perfectly, leaving Mark snookered behind the yellow and faced with a nightmare shot. Mark jokingly asked for a re-rack but it was never going to happen and as it turned out, his first shot of the frame proved to be his last as he made a mess of it and left Higgins in.

While John never seemed to be in ideal position, he just kept on potting the balls and in the end it was a terrific break of 75 that eventually got him over the line. Just as in his last match he was produced the goods just when he needed it most and will now go on to meet world number 16 Mark Allen in the semis – what chance another deciding frame thriller?

John’s run is just starting to remind me of Ken Doherty’s epic path to the final in 2003 when of course along the way he defeated Higgins before eventually falling to Mark Williams. One weakness that has in the past been levelled against John is regarding his fitness and I just hope that he does not burn out, not so much physically but mentally. I would not expect it but it will be interesting to see if he can keep winning these close matches.

For Mark it is a disappointing way to end what has been a disappointing season, losing to Higgins for the third time in five years here. I’m not sure what happened to him but he just seemed to lose it as the final session went on and as the breaks began to falter and the safety play became a bit loose, John took full advantage. Down to at least 7th in the rankings, it will be interesting to see how he responds next year.

Robertson’s Revenge

Having been embarrassed by Stephen Maguire last season at the last 16 stage, Neil Robertson more than made up for that this evening and became the first Australian to reach the semi-finals of the World Championship since Eddie Charlton back in 1982.

Unlike for Higgins though resuming at 8-6 up it was an altogether more comfortable affair as he started to find his form and Stephen Maguire strangely offered little in response, slipping to a 13-8 defeat.

I have to admit though that I wasn’t overly surprised by Maguire’s exit, as I suggested in my article on the world number two yesterday. He’s not played consistently well all season really and reading his quotes following his last 16 match with Mark King I got the feeling that he would not be able to win with that attitude and so it has proved. His quotes to World Snooker tonight are similarly pessimistic:

“When I won my second round match I said if I didn’t improve I’d be going home, and I got worse. I’ve got no excuses. I played well in my first match, got dragged down in my second and that carried on into my third, the same as last year against Joe Perry. The exact same thing. That’s why I’m sitting here. I was pure rubbish.”

“It was embarassing at times, when you’re getting beat and you know you can’t find anything deep down. He’s not a slow player but we were both missing so they were long frames. I’m so disappointed in myself to get to the quarter-finals and never stand up to the challenge. I just gave him an easy path to the semis so I’m raging with myself. I’m only good for 2 or 3 matches a season, somehow I’m number 2 in the world but I don’t know why because I’m playing like number 102. It’s something I have to work on, I get easily bored.”

“I was fighting towards the end but the damage was done. I don’t know why I can’t play well. At 8-6 down, I still had a fighting chance but knew if he started to play well I would struggle because I didn’t have it in me to reel off 4 or 5 frames, I would have to scrap it out.”

It is a shame because he is such a talented player when his mind is on the job and as he proved during 2007/8, he is capable of performing well on a consistent basis. For whatever reason though it has not happened this season and like Selby, it will be interesting to see what he does next season.

Take nothing away from Neil though, he has played all week with a determination and focus that I have not seen from him for a while and is reaping the rewards. Even at Stage Door at the Crucible he seems to be much more serious this year and while this has not endeared him to everyone, if it helps him take him the trophy on Monday then I doubt that he will be too worried about that.