It’s semi-final day in the English Open as the first leg of the Home Nations Series nears its conclusion in Manchester.
Wednesday and Thursday had taken several scalps as the field was almost completely decimated.
However, the quartet left in the hunt for glory at Event City is among a group of highly competitive players of great quality.
None more so than England’s own Judd Trump, who has now won 13 matches in a row following his triumph in the inaugural European Masters last Sunday.
The 27 year-old looked tired and shaky at the beginning of this week as he swiftly made his way back from Bucharest, but returned to his power scoring best as he routed John Higgins 5-1 in Friday’s quarter-finals.
Trump knocked in runs of 120, 96, 66 and 62 as he comfortably conquered the Scot to set up a last four clash against countryman Barry Hawkins.
It could have been even better for the former world no.1 had he not missed a routine red on 96 when a maximum break moment was at his mercy.
Still, Trump’s confidence must currently be sky high as he attempts the rare feat of claiming consecutive ranking event crowns.
The last cueman to achieve a double was Ding Junhui back in the 2013/14 campaign, when the Chinese in fact won three on the trot before notching up a record-equaling five of that same season.
Trump’s next opponent Hawkins appeared to be in a proper battle with Ricky Walden in his last eight clash but pulled away from 2-2 at the interval with breaks of 91 and 69 for a 5-2 success.
Hawkins has suffered from indifferent form of late, seeing him begin a slide down the world rankings which is threatening his coveted spot in the top 16 – and with it a place in the lucrative Masters in January.
The £20,000 already earned should help to safeguard his membership within the elite bracket but he’ll be hoping to progress further and claim a third ranking event trophy of his own.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, Hawkins and Trump have a relatively even head-to-head record against each other.
Indeed, of their two previous meetings at the last four stage of big events, Hawkins has emerged victorious in both – at the 2014 Players Championship Grand Final and at the Masters in London earlier this year.
Meanwhile, the bottom half of the draw sees another homegrown hitter in Stuart Bingham tackle Chinese underachiever Liang Wenbo.
With all the fresh pedigree coming through from the second wave of talent from China, Liang maybe feels it’s as important for him now as ever to make the most of his career.
The 29 year-old of course went on an incredible run to the final of the UK Championship last term but this week marks only his fourth ranking event semi-final appearance of a decade-long career.
Having beaten Shaun Murphy, Fergal O’Brien and Ben Woollaston in tough tight tussles, Liang was embroiled in a lengthy tactical battle with a resurgent Anthony Hamilton but eventually triumphed 5-2 to set up a tie with the 2015 world champion.
Bingham had the easiest time of it, compiling an excellent 116 to complete a 5-0 whitewash win over giant-killer Chris Wakelin.
Bingham has gone about his business relatively quietly since Monday, with not many really hyping his chances of glory this Sunday, but Basildon’s best has actually manoeuvred his way through each of the rounds with ease since an initial decider against Robert Milkins in round one.
Liang and Bingham have met on just four occasions in matches with ranking points at stake, with the scores tied at two apiece.
The most high-profile of these encounters was their Dongguan Open final showdown in 2014, which the latter prevailed in 4-1.
The arena will be focused on just one table now as the format increases to the best of 11 frames for the semi-finals on Saturday.
It’ll be interesting to see if the crowd improves at all over the weekend as levels have continued to be sporadic all the way up until this point.
Action will unfold on Eurosport, Quest (afternoon) and selected betting websites.
Categories: Snooker News