Here’s our preview of Sunday’s play at the Dafabet World Championship…
This is a strange day in that no matches are scheduled to finish. It marks the midway point of the tournament and is therefore a chance to take stock. After a few shocks and surprises during a nervy first week the cream is now rising to the top.
Ronnie O’Sullivan was understandably delighted with the way he finished off against Joe Perry. He said the fact that he was pushed all the way and had to produce something special made it especially satisfying. This is a good sign for O’Sullivan supporters: not just that he won but that he really made the effort.
Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins, the world no.3 and 4 respectively, were not so impressive but have still battled through with plenty more quality to come as the final two second round matches get underway.
SHAUN MURPHY v MARCO FU
(Sunday 10am and 7pm and Monday 7pm)
O’Sullivan suggested after beating Perry that this could be the match of the round and he may well be right. Fu, maddeningly inconsistent by his own admission, looked very sharp against Martin Gould and has enjoyed such a good season that he has every chance to go a long way at the Crucible this year.
His problem is that he is up against a player who has rediscovered his own self confidence after returning to the winners’ circle. Murphy won trophies in Gdynia and then at the World Open and despite a major scare against Jamie Cope, will be bang up for this one.
Murphy loves snooker. When he isn’t playing he’s watching. His World Championship triumph in 2005 was a remarkable feat and he’d love to do it again.
He once beat Fu 13-3 at the Crucible. This one will surely be closer, as it was when they played in the Masters quarter-finals in January, where Murphy won 6-4.
Fu is a heavy scorer. My only concern for him in this match is if that inconsistency returns and he has a really bad session, which could leave him with too much to do.
PREDICTION: Murphy 13-11
NEIL ROBERTSON v MARK ALLEN
(Sunday 10am and 7pm and Monday 1pm)
Robertson was brilliant in making four centuries to beat Robbie Williams. He’s on 97 for the season now and I’m sure would like to settle this century of centuries business soon so he can concentrate on the more important business of becoming world champion for a second time.
But Allen represents a tough challenge. The fiery Northern Irishman was ill before playing Michael Holt but played a very disciplined match. He has taken on board some sage advice from coach Terry Griffiths about dealing with negative emotions at the Crucible and it stands him in good stead for what will surely be a difficult battle ahead.
Robertson came into this year’s World Championship determined to make amends for last year’s first round defeat to Robert Milkins. He has the confidence and certainly the game to go all the way on May 5.
First he must get past Allen. If he plays the same uninhibited game which did for Williams then the Aussie may prove too strong over this distance.
PREDICTION: Robertson 13-9
Photographs by Monique Limbos.