Semi-Final Preview

We have reached the semi-final stage of the 2013 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

Four players have each won 36 frames to get this far but there is still a seismic task at hand as they have only barely passed the halfway mark.

35 more frames are needed to become the king of the Crucible – needed over a five-day grueling schedule that tests the very best in mental and physical stamina.

But this is what the World Championship is supposed to be about, it is the most ultimate test of them all and to emerge victorious you have to overcome these mammoth obstacles.

The two last four encounters could not be much different in terms of the competitors involved in each.

In the top half of the draw, defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and former finalist Judd Trump go head-to-head in a mouthwatering clash of two titans.

O’Sullivan is undoubtedly one of the greatest players ever to have picked up a cue, arguably the most talented, but faces a stern test in a young man that has been tipped for years to be the pretender to the throne.

Trump has proved in the last two years that he will be a force to be reckoned with for quite some time.

The 23 year-old has won three big ranking events, including the 2011 UK Championship, and rose to the summit of the world rankings list towards the end of 2012.

He has a positive record against O’Sullivan and will feel no immediate need to fear him.

Yet, fear the ‘Rocket’ he should, because ,despite what Trump’s brother has informed him of the Chigwell cueist’s current form, O’Sullivan is at times producing some devastatingly good snooker in this event.

Once again, O’Sullivan has gone full circle in his stance on his career, proclaiming yesterday after thrashing Stuart Bingham that he would soon retire and that this would be his last appearance at the Crucible.

We have heard it before on countless occasions so it really must be taken with a pinch of salt but who knows what will happen in the future.

What we can be assured of is that the 37 year-old has an outstanding chance to defend his title in a season in which he played only one competitive match prior to Sheffield.

Threats of retirement or not, the four-time champion is as competitive as they come and thoroughly hates losing.

If he was to emerge successful, it would speak volumes about both the man’s ability on the snooker table and the current attitude held among his fellow competitors.

Trump could put an end to all this if he brings his A-game to what will from now on resort back to the iconic one-table setting.

Should the pair of them alight centre stage with glorious snooker, we could be in for an absolute humdinger.

The second semi-final is not so star-studded, instead boasting a duo who have equally worked very hard to accompany the game’s elite.

Englishmen Ricky Walden and Barry Hawkins would have been few’s prediction for last four spots two weeks ago, but few can deny that the pair rightfully deserve their places.

Indeed, the route for Kent’s Hawkins has been particularly challenging with world no.1 Mark Selby and Chinese superstar Ding Junhui two of his victims so far.

Walden played some very attractive snooker in overcoming debutant Michael White 13-6, compiling a brace of centuries and knocking in eight further breaks above 50 in the process.

It is a remarkable opportunity for the players, each in their 30s, to embark on an amazing run to a World Championship final for the first time.

Neither would begin that final as favourite – far from it in fact – but to just be there would be special, and of course once you are in it you can always come out the other side actually winning it.

It is hard to say who is the more likely. Walden won the Wuxi Classic and Hawkins the Australian Open this season so are used to big occasions but not many come bigger than the Crucible centre stage.

There is a massive difference between playing in the tight two-table set-up and the surprisingly open-spaced single table plan.

Whoever can deal with this the best will probably end up winning the contest.

A word finally on yesterday’s quarter-final conclusion between Trump and Shaun Murphy.

That final session was up there with the very best that we’ve seen at this famous venue with the deciding frame especially going to live long in the memory.

It was exciting, engrossing, enthralling and dramatic, while the oohs and ahhs from the crowd had this year’s championship finally feeling alive.

If that energy can be taken forward into the rest of the tournament we will hopefully be in for a classic conclusion to the 2013 World Snooker Championship.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here.

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