Semi-Final Saturday in Sheffield

It’s the final Saturday of the Betfred World Snooker Championship and by the end of the day we’ll know our two finalists of 2015.

Murphy's broken away from the traditional black and white with some fabulous attire this week - photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.
Murphy’s broken away from the traditional black and white with some fabulous attire this week – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

It’s been a rollercoaster fortnight that has absolutely flown by, and now we are rapidly nearing are final two.

Barring a miraculous comeback from Barry Hawkins, one of those names who will be gunning for glory come Monday evening is surely the 2005 champion Shaun Murphy.

Aside from a minor stumble after he had already built up an almost insurmountable advantage, the Englishman was awesome in establishing a 16-8 overnight lead over countryman Barry Hawkins.

Murphy compiled four centuries along with six other half-tons to thoroughly dismantle any challenge from his opponent, racing into a 14-3 lead.

2013 runner-up Hawkins fought gallantly and offered a small hint of the most unlikeliest of revivals when he reeled off four frames in succession to present a modicum of respectability in the scoreline.

The 36 year-old really needed to subsequently take the last three frames of Friday’s penultimate session to give himself any degree of hope but in the end could only muster one – at least avoiding the dreaded defeat with a session to spare which Ronnie O’Sullivan had inflicted on him at this stage twelve months ago.

Murphy, though, looks every bit the player who could go on and emulate Alex Higgins by capturing his second world title a decade after his maiden triumph.

The Masters champion appears so composed, so focused, so at peace with his game at the moment, that it looks as though it is going to take something very special to halt his quest to become the Crucible king once again.

Who he will face in Sunday and Monday’s showpiece is still anyone’s guess.

Stuart Bingham holds a narrow two-frame cushion over Judd Trump and is 9-7 up with a pair of sessions yet to be contested.

Their second duel on Friday was always nip and tuck, with Bingham pulling three frames clear on a trio of occasions only to be pegged back each time.

That he wasn’t able to stretch his advantage further could have ramifications on today’s outcome, as one suspects Trump will have the slightly better mentality with the winning line in sight.

That said, most would have thought that to be the case when Bingham faced O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals but that didn’t stop the 38 year-old from knocking in a flurry of big breaks to send the five-time champion packing.

It’s set up to be a grandstand finish, but whether or not that will have any implications on either competitor’s chances come the final remains to be seen.

Murphy must hold a significant advantage knowing that his encounter ought to be completed mid-afternoon, giving him almost a full day to recuperate, while his future opponent battles long into the night on the eve of the eagerly awaited climax.

That discussion can be had in more detail tomorrow. For now, it’s time to savour semi-final Saturday in Sheffield.

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