World Grand Prix Quarter-Final Preview

Friday sees the last eight in the inaugural World Grand Prix battle it out for the semi-final spots in Llandudno in Wales.

The crowds have been big in Llandudno this week - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
The crowds have been big in Llandudno this week – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

The field of 32, invited to contest the tournament thanks to money earned since last year’s World Championship, has been whittled down following the opening two rounds earlier in the week.

After Thursday’s brief respite due to the Europa League coverage on host broadcaster ITV, the players return all hoping to move one step closer to landing the £100,000 winner’s cheque and, of course, the coveted trophy.

My two pre-event tips for glory were Englishmen Judd Trump and Stuart Bingham and the pair remain in the hunt for success on Sunday.

Indeed, the duo are in opposite sides of the draw so could end up meeting each other in the final showpiece.

There’s a long way to go before that, though, and first Trump must overcome the resurgent Mark Williams while Bingham faces countryman Mark Davis.

Trump and Williams have met in both of the last two ranking events – the Welsh and Indian Opens – with the latter coming out on top on both occasions.

This will be the third time then in almost as many weeks that they will have played over the short best-of-seven frames format with Williams perhaps having the upper hand following 4-1 and 4-3 victories.

The Welshman stated on Wednesday that he didn’t feel he was a real contender for the title, which is obviously nonsense considering he is an 18-time ranking event winner.

The 39 year-old hasn’t quite been able to translate good performances into tournament triumphs, though, aside from his World Seniors win which he joked was “the easiest money I ever made”.

A quartet of last four appearances and a solitary final defeat in the last five months have helped Williams return to the elite top 16 but, a winner by nature, he will undoubtedly be a little disappointed that some of those performances haven’t equated to trophies.

Trump has been solid throughout the campaign but is still searching for a title to add to his Australian Open success and, much like Williams, has fallen short at the last couple of hurdles a few times already.

Bingham, meanwhile, has arguably benefited from being in a slightly easier quarter of the draw and the unexpected bonus of Davis knocking out Australian Neil Robertson in the second round.

After 24 years as a professional, Davis is still seeking that tournament defining victory that would merit all his hard graft throughout his career.

Bingham and Davis are pretty evenly matched, especially over just seven frames, so it would not be surprising to see any kind of scoreline there.

The obvious bookmaker’s favourite is Ronnie O’Sullivan, with the Champion of Champions and UK Championship winner set to do battle with Graeme Dott today.

The World Grand Prix is a tournament perfectly suited to O’Sullivan’s make-up – it’s in Britain, it’s at a good venue and, while a new initiative, it carries a certain amount of prestige given the quality of his opposition and the fact that it’s on terrestrial television.

The ‘Rocket’ has come out with a few statements in recent weeks which could lead one to question whether his mindset has returned just a little bit to the Ronnie of old, but the 39 year-old is bound to get into the zone the further he gets into the weekend.

Dott, who O’Sullivan has had two memorable Crucible clashes with, has been made to work hard for his brace of wins so far having been taken all the way by compatriot John Higgins and China’s Liang Wenbo.

We all know how tenacious Dott can be so when he is in the fighting spirit, as he evidently is so far, so he’ll be a tough nut to crack.

Finally, Peter Ebdon and Martin Gould play out the remaining quarter-final bout in another all-English clash.

Ebdon has had a tendency over the last number of seasons to come from literally nowhere to challenge in a big event.

While his form has in fact been quite consistent during this campaign, a run much further would legislate as a pretty great display from the former world champion.

The 44 year-old has already dispatched of Shaun Murphy and Stephen Maguire so one might argue that Gould represents an easier target, but the Pinner potter has been in good form himself having seen off Alan McManus and world no.1 Mark Selby.

The quarter-finals get under way at 1pm GMT with coverage live on ITV4 and Eurosport.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here. 

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