The Players Championship is down to its final four contenders and it promises to be a cracking conclusion at the Venue Cymru in Llandudno this weekend.
Pre-tournament favourite Ronnie O’Sullivan faces the defending champion Judd Trump later on Friday while the second semi-final takes place on Saturday evening between Mark Williams and Shaun Murphy.
Even if it wasn’t first on the billing, the encounter between O’Sullivan and Trump would immediately stand out as a potentially barnstorming affair worthy of the business end of any tournament.
After the stellar season that O’Sullivan has enjoyed, with four ranking titles already to his credit, the world number two will obviously be the player most tipped but Trump has had his fair share of success against the “Rocket” down through the years.
In fact, O’Sullivan has just one more victory over the the younger Englishman in all competitions from 21 previous meetings with one another.
O’Sullivan thumped his fellow former world number one 10-3 in the final of the Shanghai Masters in November and also edged Trump in a decider at the Hong Kong Masters earlier in the campaign.
But the latter has frustrated O’Sullivan on occasions, none more so than in Llandudno itself as the 28 year-old took the five-time world champion’s scalp en route to his Players Championship glory twelve months ago and also emerged victorious in the final of the World Grand Prix at the same venue three years ago.
In terms of scoring, when they are both at their very best it’s difficult to separate the duo but, when it comes to the other facets of the game, O’Sullivan holds the aces against Trump and that could well be the difference in today’s outcome.
Trump has had a solid season overall and boasts a trophy after defending the European Masters crown but he is still beset by a lack of consistency and an inability to grind out results when his A-game eludes him.
O’Sullivan, on the other hand, has by and large been imperious during this term whether he has produced his top form or not and, indeed, has rarely played to such a consistent standard throughout his entire illustrious career.
The UK champion is two victories away from a record-equalling fifth ranking event title of a single season but he’ll be all too aware of the dangers that Trump can offer.
Far more than 100 centuries have been compiled between both of them combined this season so the scene is set for a cracking encounter of swashbuckling snooker.
In tomorrow’s last four fixture, Williams and Murphy will face each other for the second spot in Sunday’s final, where a £125,000 champion’s cheque will be up for grabs.
Williams ended fellow Welshman Ryan Day’s incredible run of 12 straight wins with a 6-3 quarter-final victory on Thursday while Murphy, who missed two events in March through injury, just came through a gruelling four-hour jostle with Anthony McGill in a decider.
Like O’Sullivan and Trump, Williams and Murphy have been forces to be reckoned with at various points of this season.
Williams has won three tournaments, including bringing his career ranking event tally up to 20, while Murphy’s disappointment in losing in a hat-trick of ranking finals has been countered by his brilliant triumph in the Champion of Champions – at the expense of none other than O’Sullivan.
This will be the first time that the pair has crossed paths this season and Williams will be hoping to lean on the support of the crowd as well as his superior head-to-head record to progress on home soil.
It would perhaps be fitting if the tournament, which boasts the top 16 money earners from the season, concludes with the top two on that list and there wouldn’t be many who would argue with a bout between legends O’Sullivan and Williams.
But Trump and Murphy will have plenty to say about it first and, whatever happens, it’s a fascinating looking line-up and an enthralling couple of semi-finals in store.
Coverage of the Players Championship semi-finals will be on ITV4.
Click here to view the draw. (Times: CET)