MARTIN GOULD’s difficult start to 2015 seems to be behind him as he targets a place in the semi-finals of the 888.com World Grand Prix in Llandudno on Friday.
Gould defeated reigning world champion Mark Selby 4-2 in the previous round and will face Peter Ebdon in the last eight.
The Londoner has been getting back to the green baize after missing the Indian and China Open qualifiers and the Championship League due to illness.
His problems started when he developed an ear infection, which led to further complications and he was forced to down his cue for several weeks.
But Gould has been looking the picture of health in North Wales this week, dispatching Alan McManus and then Selby to march into the quarter-finals.
Gould is very highly rated by his fellow players but has been inconsistent at times, hence his world ranking his yo-yoed up and down. He is currently 24th in the latest list but has been in the top 16 and will surely return in the near future.
A quick, aggressive player, he has won the Shootout, Power Snooker and the Championship League in the past as well as a PTC event. He was runner-up in this season’s Bulgarian Open.
Gould, 33, now has a chance to win his biggest title yet but it will be a clash of styles against the obdurate Ebdon, whose battling qualities have seen him stave off serious decline.
The 2002 world champion has beaten Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire already this week and remains very difficult to beat.
Ebdon was toughened up by endless matches at the Championship League and with all that matchplay under his belt, is playing well again. He was disappointed to miss a school play featuring two of his children in Dubai but if anything it spurred him on not to waste the opportunity for another productive week.
The winner of this quarter-final will play Judd Trump or Mark Williams, who is playing in his fifth tournament of March with two more still to come.
It’s been a great month for Williams: runner-up in Gdynia, winner of the World Seniors and a semi-finalist at the Indian Open.
The Welshman beat Trump in both the Welsh and Indian Opens recently but stamina only lasts so long. Williams is 40 tomorrow. Can he keep this excellent run going?
In the bottom half of the draw, Stuart Bingham faces Mark Davis, who won the frame of the week to beat Neil Robertson – an 82 minute decider full of high quality snooker with plenty of twists and turns until Davis potted a long final black for victory.
There has been moaning about best of sevens – ridiculous considering this tournament didn’t even exist a year ago – but this frame proved that it is the quality of the actual snooker, not the length of matches, which determines how entertaining they are.
Ronnie O’Sullivan will renew his rivalry with Graeme Dott in the last quarter-final. Dott is one of those players who has, in the past, got under O’Sullivan’s skin but the five times world champion still has a superior record over him and remains favourite for the £100,000 first prize.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.