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World Snooker Championship Quarter-Final Preview

After the lacklustre first-round preview here that yielded only nine correct predictions, redemption of sorts has been achieved following round two’s action in the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.

World Snooker Championship quarter-final
Can Carter back up his victory over the Rocket? Photo credit: World Snooker

The second round provided seven out of eight accurate tips, with Ronnie O’Sullivan the only wrong punt after his shock 13-9 defeat at the hands of Ali Carter on Saturday.

Carter is among six competitors remaining who are gunning for a maiden world crown at the Crucible Theatre but, despite the wave of upsets that occurred in the last 32, all of the contenders left in the hunt are proven ranking event winners and members of the elite top 16.

In fact, the quarter-final octet comprises two former multiple world champions, four former runners-up, and both of the Masters finalists from this year – not too shabby, is it?

Carter, twice a bridesmaid back in 2008 and again in 2012, meets Mark Williams next with a semi-final berth at stake after the Welshman comfortably overcame Robert Milkins.

Williams is chasing a third world title but his first in an incredible 15 years after undergoing a major resurgence in his form over the last twelve or so months.

The 43 year-old missed last year’s World Championship after failing to qualify having dropped outside the world’s top 16 but the signs of more fruitful times to come were already evident following his run to the final of the China Open in April of 2017.

Williams has subsequently gone on to capture three trophies in a lucrative 2017/18 campaign, including two ranking titles that have brought his overall tally up to 20 in his illustrious career.

It wasn’t too long ago when Williams was persistently chiming out a chorus of negativity surrounding his chances of collecting silverware again but that has all changed after his recent turnaround and, with a renewed sense of confidence, he has openly admitted that he has as good a chance as ever this year of bagging a World Championship triumph.

Against Carter, Williams faces a man who will boast a boosted ego, if that’s possible, after his excellent and thoroughly deserved ousting of the favourite.

Carter will have been buoyed by his measured display that frustrated O’Sullivan but it’s unlikely that Williams will care as much if the play at any point becomes scrappy or stagnated.

Indeed, that would arguably play into the German Masters champion’s hands and, with a superior head-to-head record against the “Captain”, Williams will feel that he is capable of making a return to the single table set-up at the Crucible for the first time in seven years.

Also in the bottom half of the draw lies Ding Junhui, who was instilled as the bookies’ favourite after the demise of both O’Sullivan and Mark Selby earlier in the tournament.

Selby, of course, was the man who stood in Ding’s way of a maiden World Championship title in each of the last two editions of the “Marathon of the Mind” but, with the world number one accounted for, the door has been left ajar for the 31 year-old.

Ding will have the weight of a nation on his shoulders as long as he’s still in there fighting but the Chinese cueist appeared to handle the pressure well in his second round destruction of Anthony McGill.

That said, while Ding was at times brilliant, his opponent was awful for the majority of the affair and it is certainly likely that Barry Hawkins will provide a much sterner test in the last eight.

Ding lost to Hawkins at the same stage five years ago in the year that the latter proceeded to reach the final, beginning an amazing streak of six World Championship events and counting in which he has reached the quarter-finals or better on each occasion.

Hawkins actually has a marginally better head-to-head record against Ding and it’ll be interesting to see how China’s best can cope with what will surely be a much tighter battle compared to his opening two bouts that resulted in the loss of only seven frames in total.

Still, Ding, who is set to become a father for the first time later this year, has a relaxed presence about him that suggests that he might finally be ready to put to rest the demons of World Championships gone by and finally etch his name onto the famous trophy.

The four players in the top half of the draw will obviously have plenty to say about that possible eventuality materialising and there are two hugely intriguing quarter-final ties to look forward to in that section as well.

Many people believe that the final this year will be a shoot out between Ding and four-time champion John Higgins, who has looked solid so far, albeit wasn’t made to work at all in his somewhat embarrassing second-round thrashing of Jack Lisowski.

Higgins meets Judd Trump in a repeat of their memorable final showdown from seven years ago when the latter burst onto the scene soon after claiming his maiden ranking title with a unique brand of “naughty snooker”.

Inexperience ultimately came between Trump and the title on that occasion but, if you could tell the majority of fans and pundits from that year now that Trump has only lifted one Triple Crown title in the following seven years, they’d surely scarcely believe it.

Trump has arguably benefited this year from flying in a little under the radar and even his near collapse against Chris Wakelin perhaps didn’t cause as quite as big a stir as it might have in previous years with so many other star casualties simultaneously occurring on the opening few days.

The former world number one was much improved against Ricky Walden and there is a sense that the Bristol potter is playing his way into the tournament, but all will be revealed in his performance against Higgins, who will probably be his usual consistent and brilliant self.

It’s fair to say that if Trump can somehow manage to evade the Scot, the 28 year-old will start thinking that it might be his year and how often have we seen players escape with an undeserved victory in the first round of events only to go on and raise the trophy aloft come finals night?

Finally, Mark Allen and Kyren Wilson clash in a repeat of their Masters decider at the Alexandra Palace in January, which went the way of the Northern Irishman as Allen finally added a maiden Triple Crown trophy to his cabinet.

After a disappointing spell of results in ranking events, it was touch and go for a while whether or not Allen was going to qualify automatically for the Crucible this year but he managed to squeeze in at the last possible moment after a priceless victory in Beijing during the China Open.

The 32 year-old has definitely taken advantage, reaching this far in the tournament for the first time in seven years and he’ll next be hoping to match his best run of a semi-final from almost a decade ago.

Allen seems to have this uncanny knack of turning any match he plays against any opponent, no matter if he’s the world number one or number one hundred, into an unnecessary scrap but, in fairness to him, he did pull away strongly from Joe Perry in the third session of their last 16 clash.

Wilson, meanwhile, hasn’t really come under any pressure during his two fixtures up until this point but it’s unlikely that he’ll have it all his own way during this challenge.

The Kettering cueist is in search of a debut appearance in the last four after making it three years on the spin of reaching the quarter-finals and he actually beat Allen en route to this stage of proceedings in the 2016 World Championship.

Their previous encounters won’t provide too many answers as to what is likely to transpire on this occasion, though, as their eight matches have been shared evenly with four victories apiece.

Wilson will be intent on gaining revenge for what was a painful and emotional Masters defeat but Allen, bidding to be the first player to achieve the Masters and World Championship double since 2003, will be a tough nut to crack.

Whatever happens across Tuesday and Wednesday, hopefully we can be granted with a few more dramatic conclusions following what was a second round of mostly one-sided affairs.

Considering all four encounters are practically a toss of a coin, we could be in for at least one or two nail-biting finishes at least.

Semi-Final Prediction: Mark Allen vs Judd Trump; Ding Junhui vs Mark Williams

Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport.

Click here to view the draw.


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