The Masters semi-finals line-up was completed on Friday after victories for Judd Trump and Neil Robertson at the Alexandra Palace in London.
Ronnie O’Sullivan and Ding Junhui had already booked their spots in the last four a day earlier and were duly joined by another pair of heavy-hitters to guarantee what appears to be a blockbuster Saturday to come.
Trump and Robertson both produced measured performances to see off the challenges of Mark Selby and Barry Hawkins respectively.
Neither was at his best but Trump, in particular, took advantage of another lacklustre display in what is becoming an all too regular occurrence from the world number one.
Selby’s pot success was nowhere near its intended target after a succession of routine misses, while Trump was patient as he waited for the right opportunities to mop up.
In previous years, Trump still might have found himself on the wrong side of a tie like this but his temperament has improved and he has openly admitted that he is putting more hours in on the practice table.
Now 29, Trump still boasts only a single Triple Crown triumph, his UK Championship success from all the way back in 2011.
This measly return is disappointing for someone of Trump’s ability, especially considering several of his main rivals have bagged all three Triple Crown trophies in a similar timeframe.
A transformation in the Englishman’s mentality was possibly instigated this time last year, when he threw away a 5-2 lead against Kyren Wilson in the 2018 Masters semi-finals.
Trump now has the chance to make up for that collapse and it’ll be interesting to see whether he can handle the pressure on this occasion.
Against Riga Masters champion Robertson, he obviously faces an opponent who has been there and done it all before.
The 2012 Masters winner missed last year’s prestigious event after briefly dropping out of the top 16 in the world rankings.
Yet, the 36 year-old, who fought back from 2-0 down to reel off six out of the last seven frames in a relatively low-scoring clash with Hawkins, is back reestablishing himself as a major contender again.
With a total of 99 centuries compiled between them this season, Trump and Robertson represent two of the heaviest scorers in the game.
In fact, there’s so much mentioned about O’Sullivan’s inevitable quest to hit the 1,000 landmark for tons made but it’s Trump who stands in prime position to be the all-time leader in this department by his career’s end.
The former world number one is roughly 400 shy of the “Rocket” but is 14 years the latter’s junior and has finished on top of the end-of-campaign centuries chart in four out of the last six seasons.
Robertson, of course, enjoyed that astounding 2013/14 term when he became the first player to construct a century of centuries in a single campaign – memorably hitting the 100th against a bemused Trump at the Crucible in a gripping World Championship quarter-final encounter.
The Melbourne man additionally became only the fourth player ever to reach 600 career century breaks a few weeks ago.
— Neil Robertson🌱 (@nr147) January 19, 2019
All logic would dictate that their Masters semi-final on Saturday evening will be a high-scoring affair.
There were four centuries compiled between them in an enthralling last eight tie at Ally Pally three years ago that has gone down as one of the best ever Masters matches.
Trump edged that encounter in a decider and, even though his superior head-to-head record is marginal and he did lose that epic fixture in Sheffield in 2014, many of the pair’s biggest clashes have gone the younger competitor’s way.
Robertson fell foul to the Curse of the Crucible in 2011 when he lost as the world champion to Trump in the first round that year.
The latter has also prevailed in a UK Championship semi-final and the two big ranking event final showdowns that they have battled in.
Still, despite all of that, Robertson possesses the far greater experience when it comes to handling occasions like this one and their clash promises to be an exciting affair that is, as ever, difficult to call.