Neil Robertson was the last man to book his place in the semi-finals of the Champion of Champions on Friday.
Following a small run of bad form, in which the Australian lost in the early rounds of both the Shanghai Masters and International Championship, Robertson looked to be approaching somewhere near his best in victories over Ali Carter and Ricky Walden in Coventry.
Much of the pre-fourth day hype surrounded the return to competitive action on home soil of Carter subsequent to his most recent battle with cancer.
As expected, the ‘Captain’ received a heartwarming standing ovation from the packed crowd inside the Ricoh Arena and it was clear that everybody was happy to welcome him back.
The 35 year-old had already expressed that he had no qualms over victory or defeat upon his initial return but if anyone was expecting a modicum of compassion from his opponent in the opening round they were to be sorely mistaken.
Wuxi Classic champion Robertson compiled consecutive century breaks as well as a 50 en route to a professional 4-0 drubbing over the Englishman.
Later in the day Robertson met Walden for a last four spot after the latter also recorded a whitewash scoreline over Mark Allen in a disappointing repeat of Chengdu’s final last Sunday.
Clearly full of confidence following his recent success, Walden actually boasted a 3-2 advantage only for Robertson to reel off four on the trot for a 6-3 victory.
The Melbourne man is up against Judd Trump on Saturday in a repeat of the Australian Open final earlier this year in which the 25 year-old prevailed to deny Robertson a trophy on his own turf for the second successive season.
The pair have enjoyed many high-profile encounters in the last three and a half years with the head-to-head marginally in favour of Trump – particularly given that two of those bigger ties came in ranking event finals.
In the first semi-final clash, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui will battle it out for a place in the final, where the overall champion collects a tidy sum of £100,000.
China’s Ding doesn’t have the best of records against O’Sullivan – indeed, he’s only beaten him in one meaningful match and that was in the final of the Northern Ireland trophy eight years ago.
That said, Mark Williams managed to put an end to his hex of never having beaten the ‘Rocket’ in a dozen years last week so anything’s possible.
One feels, though, that Ding just isn’t quite playing well enough at the moment to challenge the 38 year-old and, given how easily O’Sullivan has managed to get inside Ding’s head in the past, there’s likely to be only one outcome.
Both matches are live on ITV4.