Four players remain in the hunt for the lucrative Players Championship title in Llandudno this week.
The field of 16 players, invited based on their high earnings from this season, has been whittled down to the semi-finalists after eight sessions of action in Wales.
Host broadcaster ITV’s horse racing coverage on Saturday afternoons has resulted in an unusual scheduling for their tournaments of late, with only one semi-final clash on the penultimate day.
It means that the opening bout of this round will take place later today on Friday, with either Judd Trump or Ali Carter hoping to become the first man into Sunday’s showdown where £125,000 will be up for grabs.
Somewhat surprisingly, the latter boasts the superior head-to-head record from the pair’s previous meetings, with Trump tasting success in only one fixture of note from their previous five encounters.
Indeed, Carter has won their last two clashes and also prevailed in their most high-profile tie back at the 2012 World Championship when the “Captain” won the last four frames to dramatically emerge victorious in a decider in Sheffield.
Whether that will have a bearing on this battle remains to be seen, but Trump will start as the favourite regardless.
This is not just because of his higher ranking but also his form of late, which has seen him reach the semi-finals or better in seven tournaments since capturing the European Masters title in October.
That the Romanian triumph stands as his only glory of the campaign will be the thorn in the side of what has otherwise been a stellar period for the 27 year-old.
Trump’s potential has been evident for a long time but he is beginning to show the signs that he could possibly begin to discover a way to dominate.
That said, the more defeats he suffers at the latter stages of competitions without being able to land a sufficient amount of silverware in the process – he has now lost in eight of his 14 career ranking event finals – the Englishman could eventually struggle to keep recovering for another immediate bite at the cherry.
Countryman Carter represents a stern test for Trump and the World Open champion got the better of their last best of 11 match in the China Championship earlier this season, when he won 6-4.
Tomorrow’s semi-final sees an all-Asian affair between Ding Junhui and Marco Fu after the former concluded the quarter-final stage with a 5-2 ousting of Anthony Hamilton.
Ding sensationally fought back from 4-0 down to overcome John Higgins 5-4 in the last 16 and continued where he left off against Hamilton by taking the opening three frames with runs of 96 and 93.
Hamilton briefly threatened a reprieve when breaks of 68 and 80 helped him back to within just a frame, but the German Masters champion crucially missed a red to middle when in with a chance to level.
Ding duly punished the 45 year-old to reach the last four of a ranking event for the first time since the International Championship in late October.
The unfortunate passing of his mother following a battle with cancer at the start of 2017 will obviously have been a factor for Ding’s quiet spell and he seems to now be coming through that difficult period, at least on the table.
Against Fu, the Chinese number one comes up against a player who has featured regularly at that latter stage of tournaments in recent times.
With a better record, not least for having won both their major finals in the 2011 Masters and the International Championship almost three years later, Ding will head into their tie confident of advancing but did lose their last duel which, like Carter and Trump, came at the China Championship.
Fu, though, has been in superb form since claiming the Scottish Open title in December and will be buoyed by his 5-2 defeat of top seed Mark Selby.
Many onlookers will be hoping for a Trump versus Ding final but it could very easily go the other way, such is the standard of player remaining in the draw.
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