Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins will meet for the third time in a month as the Shanghai Masters reaches the business end of proceedings in China.
After a manic few days of snooker that has already accounted for the majority of the field, only four players remain in the hunt to pocket the £150,000 top prize on Saturday.
Friday will first see the semi-finals take place with two of the sport’s legends doing battle on centre stage again.
O’Sullivan has got the better of their recent encounters with three victories over the Scot this season already, so understandably boasts the favourites tag.
The first two, in Hong Kong and at the English Open when the “Rocket” ultimately emerged with his 29th ranking event title to tie with Higgins in second place on the all-time winners’ list, both ended in deciders.
However, Higgins will be pumped up for some redemption after the 6-0 drubbing he suffered in last week’s Champion of Champions in Coventry.
Rivals for their entire career ever since they both turned professional in 1992, it’s appropriate that the pair has this ongoing duel to see who can claim the most ranking crowns and if either of them can eventually challenge Stephen Hendry’s once seemingly unbeatable tally of 36.
A triumph for either this weekend would have that player reach 30 and the seven-time world champion’s target won’t seem all that far off.
O’Sullivan and Higgins might be well into their 40s now but they hardly show any signs of letting up and continue to pose a constant threat to the younger talents in the game.
Even though the former has emerged from their last few fixtures with the bragging rights, it remains difficult to predict a match between them – albeit O’Sullivan probably has produced the better snooker in general so far in this tournament.
Before their contest, the first semi-final will be played between close pals Judd Trump and Jack Lisowski.
Trump has incredibly reached the last four stage courtesy of four successive 5-0 thrashings, which without doing any research must be some sort of record for this stage of an important event.
The latest came against the in-form Luca Brecel, compiling breaks of 114, 92, 87, and 66 as the 28 year-old thoroughly dismantled the challenge of the Belgian.
Lisowski, meanwhile, will make his maiden appearance in the last four of a ranking event after wins over Mark Allen and Kurt Maflin on Thursday.
There had been question marks at the outset of the campaign as to whether Lisowski would even survive this term without dropping off the circuit but the “Dude” has finally discovered the form that so many onlookers have been waiting for years to see flourish.
The 26 year-old’s tactical game still requires plenty of improvement but his ability to rattle off sizeable contributions in quick succession is very comparable to his opponent’s style of play.
Whether it’s for that reason or maybe because they are friends off the table, Lisowski interestingly possesses a superior head-to-head record with four victories from their seven meetings – including at last month’s English Open in Barnsley.
This will be the first time they will clash over the best of eleven frames, though, and that could play a vital role as Trump can use his experience of playing with the single table set-up in front of a packed arena to his advantage.
Either way, it promises to be a thrilling climax to what has already been an entertaining few days in Shanghai.
Live coverage continues on Eurosport and Quest.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)
Categories: Snooker News