WE LOOK FORWARD to Saturday’s semi-finals at the Dafabet Masters at Alexandra Palace in London…
NEIL ROBERTSON v RONNIE O’SULLIVAN (1pm)
Robertson played the best snooker of the tournament so far during his eye-catching 6-1 defeat of Ali Carter on Thursday night. The challenge now, though, is to repeat this against a player who has in his locker an intimidation factor.
Robertson was immaculate in every department against Carter: long potting, break building, tactics and safety play. His big match temperament was also on display and he clearly revelled in the way he was playing.
Understandably, Carter had enjoyed the majority of support but it seemed Robertson had prepared mentally for this scenario and it should put him in good stead against O’Sullivan, another crowd favourite.
However, it is now harder than ever to get under O’Sullivan’s skin. His mental focus is rock solid and nothing seems to bother him. It is this serenity that Robertson must puncture if he is to reach the final.
O’Sullivan leads their personal head-to-head 9-4. Robertson’s last win over him in the UK came four and a half years ago.
It’s obvious but bears repeating: O’Sullivan is really tough to beat in big matches. This is particularly true at the Masters where this is his 11th semi-final. He has won all of his previous 10.
So this could be a great match. They are both playing well enough to suggest it will be.
MARK ALLEN v SHAUN MURPHY (7pm)
Such has been the quality of snooker on show this week that we were due a poor match and we finally got one in the shape of Allen’s 6-4 quarter-final victory over Joe Perry, in which both players struggled badly.
It would hardly have put Allen in a confident mood ahead of only his second Masters semi-final except that a win is a win.
One of his problems seemed to be cue ball control: keeping hold of the white. When fluency went after long bouts of scrapping about, he was also missing pots. But he knows it should be an open contest against Murphy, who certainly did flow against Stephen Maguire.
Murphy is through to his fourth consecutive Masters semi-final having finished runner-up in 2012.
We hear much more these days about the ‘triple crown’ of World, UK and Masters titles than we used to. It gradually became A Thing and Murphy, a proud student of snooker history, would dearly love to join one of snooker’s most exclusive clubs. As he told John Parrott in a very good BBC interview, he has seen his contemporaries, Neil Robertson and Mark Selby, achieve this feat despite the fact he won the world title long before them.
On form, Murphy starts favourite and on previous meetings, with an 8-2 lead over Allen, he also deserves support.
Allen knows he is very unlikely to win another top level match with the sort of performance he put in on Friday. An all round improvement is needed if he is to progress to the final.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.