And Then There Were Four…

Two days to go at the 2013 Haikou World Open and we are down to the semi-finals, as four former ranking event winners will battle it out for the trophy this weekend. It has been a strange tournament, with flashing lights, rain, overzealous photographers and flies all interfering with play, but despite all of that, it promises to be an exciting climax to the event…

  • Click here to view the tournament draw
  • Click here to view the latest projected seedings

Following his dramatic last 16 defeat to Mark Davis at the UK Championship, four-time world champion John Higgins has experienced something of a dip, losing early at the Masters and Welsh Open tournaments, though he was able to win the first group of this year’s Championship League.

Today however, the Scot produced some of his strongest snooker for some time, recording breaks of 141, 113, 73 and 56 on his way to a 5-0 whitewash against home favourite Ding Junhui. By all accounts John was in excellent form and having yesterday defeated recent Welsh Open finalist Stuart Bingham, also without the loss of a frame, could be coming into form at just the right time with the World Championship on the horizon next month.

More immediately however, comes a semi-final contest with defending champion Mark Allen, who by his own admission has not played at his best this week, but nevertheless remains in the running to retain the title this week. His latest victory came against Ricky Walden today, having yesterday seen off fellow On Q player Robert Milkins to progress.

In the other half of the draw meanwhile, Neil Robertson gained a measure of revenge for recent defeats to Mark Selby, winning 5-3 to move into the semi-finals. For a player as strong as he is and as highly regarded by fans and bloggers alike, it is strange to think that he has not won a full-ranking event title since the 2010 World Open in Glasgow, but perhaps this could be the week that he puts that right.

Judd’s tip today, as tweeted by ITV4’s Neal Foulds

Next in his path will be Welshman Matthew Stevens, who following yesterday’s victory against Shaun Murphy, a win made all the more impressive by the fact that he was using Mark Williams’ cue, today defeated world number one Judd Trump to reach the last four.

While Stevens had his own cue back, Judd had troubles of his own, as evident from the above photo tweeted by Neal Foulds, showing that for whatever reason his tip appeared to have warped out of shape. Take nothing away from Stevens though, his results this week have provided him with a timely haul of ranking points as he looks to secure an improved seeding for the World Championship next month.

So who will win? Higgins and Robertson will be the favourites to reach the final, though I would be hard pushed to bet on that with any certainty, even if I were a gambling man!

I am looking forward to watching some of ITV4’s coverage of the event this week, with analysts Clive Everton and Neal Foulds having gained near universal acclaim from viewers commenting on Twitter for example, no mean feat given how critical many can be when it comes to television commentators.