News

UK Championship: Semi-Final Preview

Three former champions remain in the hunt for UK Championship glory with the semi-finals set to take place on Saturday in York.

Stephe Maguire Ronnie O'Sullivan Masters (ML)

Maguire and O’Sullivan haven’t played each other in almost four years. Photo credit: Monique Limbos

Despite the fact that so many of the marquee names went out early, the last four standing still represents a very strong line-up at the Barbican Centre and both encounters offer plenty of intrigue and potential for excitement.

Ronnie O’Sullivan continued his quest for a record-equalling sixth UK Championship crown by overpowering Martin Gould in the quarter-finals on Friday.

The 42 year-old, who was involved in a dramatic tussle that went the distance with lowly ranked Sunny Akani on Thursday night, wasn’t really troubled despite withstanding a late fight back from his opponent to eventually prevail with a 6-3 scoreline.

O’Sullivan will face Stephen Maguire, who recorded a 6-3 success of his own against Joe Perry in similar fashion, in what will be a repeat of the final ten years ago.

Around that time, O’Sullivan was talking up the Scot as a talent that could dominate the game but that never quite materialised and the 2004 UK Championship, where the pair also clashed, represents Maguire’s sole major glory to date.

Including during that event 13 years ago, Maguire boasts only four victories from 19 meetings with the “Rocket”.

O’Sullivan will be a huge favourite for this tie, not only because of their previous head-to-heads but also as a result of the former world number one’s overall form of late, which has seen him collect two ranking titles amid a run to the final of the Champion of Champions.

Maguire, a five-time ranking event winner but with the last one occurring in 2013, has the game to beat anyone when he is firing but is often prone to throwing in a clanger of a performance when he gets towards the business end of proceedings.

He rode his luck a touch against Perry, pinching a few frames he shouldn’t have en route to a commanding 5-0 advantage, and it’s unlikely he’ll be given so many second chances against O’Sullivan.

Maguire has more than just a place in Sunday’s showdown to play for, with one more win enough to see him gain the final Masters invitation ahead of a nervous Liang Wenbo.

The second semi-final features Shaun Murphy and Ryan Day, two champions from this season already.

It’s nine years since Murphy etched his name on the UK silverware but he appears as well-placed as ever to add to his Triple Crown tally this week.

The 35 year-old arguably hasn’t received enough plaudits for his form during this campaign, with his Champion of Champions victory over O’Sullivan in Coventry coming after a couple of runs to the finals of ranking events in the summer.

Day, meanwhile, has reached the last four of a BBC major for the first time in his career at the age of 37.

The Welshman has emerged from three deciding frame thrillers in a row this week, the latest tight tussle coming against surprise package Mark Joyce on Friday night.

By winning the Riga Masters at the outset of this term, Day finally joined the exclusive ranking event winners’ club, and he’ll definitely make a long-awaited return to the prestigious Masters having guaranteed his position in the top 16 in the world rankings.

With his experience, Murphy will naturally be expected to advance further but Day has already shown this week that he’s unwilling to go down without a fight and, like Maguire, has the ability to outplay anyone on any given day.

The Barbican Centre will transform into a single-table arena from here on and the atmosphere is sure to be electric as the surviving competitors battle it out for the £170,000 top prize.

Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)

Creator of SnookerHQ and a journalism graduate, David has been actively reporting on snooker since 2011. He has been published in national publications and has appeared on BBC World News and on talkSPORT radio as an analyst.