Semi-Finals in York

A fantastic Friday in York saw an incredible three quarter-final ties go down to a decider at the Barbican Centre.

Liang Wenbo Riga
Liang would jump into the top 16, thus receiving a Masters invitation, if he reaches the final – photo courtesy of Monique Limbos.

Only four players remain left in the hunt for glory in the sport’s second biggest ranking event and the two semi-finals could not be any more different.

The bottom half pits Triple Crown members and world no.1s Mark Selby and Neil Robertson against each other in a mouthwatering clash between two of the game’s modern greats.

Before that, on Saturday afternoon there’s a surprise last four encounter involving China’s Liang Wenbo and David Grace, ranked 81st the in the world rankings.

All four, though, are there on merit having already emerged through five rounds just to get to this stage.

While Selby and Robertson’s passage was to be expected, and Liang’s progress perhaps constitutes justification for potential yet unfulfilled, the appearance of Grace at the business end was completely unforeseen.

Despite not producing heavy scoring, the 30 year-old had battled his way through the rounds, none more so than in the last eight when he fought from 5-1 down to deny Martin Gould in a thrilling decider.

For Gould it represents another missed opportunity where he has seemingly grasped defeat from the jaws of victory, but take nothing away from Grace’s effort to edge his way back into the contest.

He’ll once again be the underdog at the penultimate hurdle against Liang, but who is to say that he can’t continue a fairytale run that has at the very least guaranteed him ¬£30,000 and potentially could lead to his tour survival this season.

That said, Liang amounts to a considerable threat following his own monumental endeavours in manoeuvring his way through the rounds.

After comeback triumphs over Judd Trump and Tom Ford, the former Shanghai Masters runner-up had to hold his nerve from in front on this occasion as Marco Fu came from three down with four to play to force an eleventh frame.

Liang has boasted incredible fortitude this week, though, and controlled the decisive game to advance.

In defeat to the 28 year-old, Ford labeled Liang as boring in his press conference, a statement made all the more ridiculous when the Chinese compiled a hat-trick of centuries to open up his contest with Fu – maybe himself proving a point to the critic.

Liang’s anything but boring, indeed he is arguably one of the most charismatic characters on the circuit with his aggressive style of play and body language around the table.

Meanwhile, this evening the heavyweights clash in what could be a complete barnstormer.

Robertson was already involved in one yesterday as he withstood three tons from John Higgins to eventually scramble past the winning post 6-5.

After a couple of close finishes in the early stages, Selby mostly had it all his own way in his 6-1 drubbing of Matthew Selt.

This semi-final is almost impossible to call as it is a match-up between two of this era’s most prolific winners.

Their head-to-head reflects this as well with Mark Selby holding a narrow 5-4 advantage in their previous ranking event meetings.

It wouldn’t be too surprising if the pair finished¬†with just a solitary frame separating them today either.

Click here to view the full draw.

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