Magic Monday

From DC Sport:

What a night of snooker! What a quarter-final line-up in prospect!

Sheffield conjured up one of the special evening’s at a World Championship tonight as first Ronnie O’Sullivan battled to a 13-10 victory over Shaun Murphy before Ding Junhui fought back from the brink of defeat to beat Stuart Bingham 13-12.

The opening two sessions between O’Sullivan and Murphy mixed some high quality snooker with the inexplicably ordinary and tonight’s final session offered no different, but every bit as exciting.

The Rocket extended his overnight lead to 10-7 after a protracted opening frame that took more than half an hour to complete, one in which both players had several chances.

However, great champions are able to mix the scrappy with the sublime and the three-time former world champion wasted no time at all in amassing a superb century break in the subsequent frame to go within two of victory.

Murphy, champion at The Crucible in 2005, won a tightly contested 19th frame but Ronnie was at his most genius best again in the next and a second century of 119 gave him a four frame advantage once more – this time needing only one frame for an amazing 13th quarter-final in 19 appearances.

It looked for all money that O’Sullivan was going to clinch the match in both of the next two frames but a mixture of some routine misses from the Essex cueist and a string of scorching pots from his opponent meant that proceedings became decidedly edgy at 12-10.

Those nerves appeared set to go into overdrive as Murphy got in first in the following frame but broke down by missing an easy pot at 56 and O’Sullivan casually wrapped up the match with an emphatic 71 clearance.

By this time, as the dividing wall between the two tables was being raised for the entire auditorium to enjoy the other encounter, Ding Junhui had clawed his way back from 12-9 behind to force a decider with ‘Ballrun’ Stuart Bingham.

What came next was classic late night drama on the green baize as both players enjoyed chances before a intense tactical battle decided matters.

Neither player had ever made it to the last 8 of the World Championship before so both had little experience in dealing with the unique cauldron-like pressure that is associated with the atmosphere in Sheffield, yet China’s Ding was always going to be favourite given all the other major titles he has claimed in his short, but illustrious, career.

And so it proved as after Bingham ran out of position on 30, Ding responded with a break of 55 and, with a large chunk of luck along the way, eventually got over the winning line in a dramatic ending.

What the comeback proved once and for all is that the 24 year-old has surely put any of those distant memories of his 2007 Masters final collapse to O’Sullivan when he was still only a teenager behind him and has now grown into a mature snooker force that will be difficult to dislodge throughout the remainder of the week.

Without doubt, Ding would be a hugely popular champion. We all know the popularity he holds in his home country – over 100 million people are said to tune in when he plays – but it is noticeable from the cheers as he enters the arena that he is growing in popularity elsewhere.

With no disrespect to Stuart Bingham, Ding’s victory ensures that the quarter-finals boasts arguably the greatest line-up of all time and leads one to think that it could be a week to remember.

Up and coming youngster Judd Trump against the grit and granite that is Graeme Dott – who has appeared in three finals in the last seven years.

Ding against Mark Selby, who scored a record six centuries in his demolition of Stephen Hendry in a match that could go down as the 7-time world champion’s last at The Crucible.

Mark Allen, who has won two deciding frame thrillers to get to this stage, versus the provisional world number one in Mark Williams.

And John Higgins against Ronnie O’Sullivan. The two best players of the last ten years, and more.

Pick a winner out of that bunch!

Quarter-Final Prediction (winners in BOLD)

Judd Trump vs Graeme Dott

Ding Junhui vs Mark Selby

Mark Allen vs Mark Williams

Ronnie O’Sullivan vs John Higgins

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World Rankings Top 16

World Rankings after the British Open – won by Mark Williams.

1. Mark Selby
2. Judd Trump
3. Ronnie O’Sullivan
4. Neil Robertson
5. Kyren Wilson
6. Shaun Murphy
7. John Higgins
8. Mark Williams
9. Stephen Maguire
10. Ding Junhui
11. Mark Allen
12. Barry Hawkins
13. Stuart Bingham
14. Jack Lisowski
15. Yan Bingtao
16. Anthony McGill

Fin Ruane Snooker Academy