The China Open has reached the semi-final stage and what a final four we have in prospect.
It doesn’t get much higher in quality that Neil Robertson versus Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby against Shaun Murphy.
Two World Championships, three UK Championships and four Masters between them and it is easy to see how this could be a barnstormer of a last four in the penultimate event of the season.
The quartet have all produced top-notch snooker this week but equally each of them have knuckled down to grind out results when that was needed.
Especially Maguire, who in truth has probably failed to find top gear at any point but has still easily come through his rounds.
This is probably testament to the fact he is a ranking event winner again following his triumph at the Welsh Open in February.
Although still tempered, a familiar trait that he shouldn’t ever seek to lose, the Scotsman has appeared more patient than normal with his game and is content to win at any cost – even if that means not playing well.
His opponent in the evening semi-final is Australia Neil Robertson, who has arguably played the best of anyone this week in Beijing.
The ‘Thunder from Down Under’ has lost only three frames so far in the tournament from the same amount of matches.
The 31 year-old didn’t play as well against Marcus Campbell in the quarter-finals as he did in his two previous encounters but still recorded a relatively comfortable 5-2 victory.
Robertson has been somewhat of an oddity of late. He is playing well and reaching the business end of most tournaments but he just can’t seem to get his hands on any major silverware.
This is peculiar because there was a stretch in his career where if he reached a final it was a guarantee that he was going to emerge victorious.
But it has now been two and a half years since his last ranking event title, the 2010 World Open, and he will be desperate to prove to himself that he can finish the job off in tournaments ahead of the big one in a few weeks time.
Funnily enough, this has been a problem of Shaun Murphy in the past too, who plays new world no.1 Mark Selby in the first of the last four clashes.
Murphy is a World and UK champion so nobody can question his pedigree and appetite – nor Robbo for that matter – but the 30 year-old has been found wanting at the latter of stages of events quite often in his career.
For some reason Murphy seems able to play fantastic snooker for a couple of rounds and then it just falls apart at the complete wrong moment.
His record of four ranking event titles is more than respectable but he will undoubtedly feel it is not enough.
Murphy survived a scare in his last eight encounter with young pretender Jack Lisowski, coming from two down with three to play to prevail 5-4 and break the 21 year-old’s heart.
At 4-2 up, Lisowski began to crack under the pressure but credit to Murphy where it is due and he sensed his opponent’s fallacy enough to pounce on it, a sign of a proven and ruthless winner.
He will have his work cut out today against an in-form Selby, who returns to the top of the ranking standings following the latest jostle for position with Judd Trump.
Selby beat Mark Williams 5-1 to get this far and he has now firmly put the painful memory of missing the final black for a 147 break out of his mind.
The ‘Jester from Leicester’ thoroughly deserves his place at the summit and will be going to the Crucible seeking to claim the Triple Crown of majors in snooker.
Not much else can be said about Selby at the moment other than he wins with style and he wins ugly. Put simply, he’s winning a lot of matches. Murphy beware.
Either way, what a fantastic foursome to conclude the last Asian event of this campaign.
The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.