There are four players still in the race for the £150,000 champion’s cheque.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, Barry Hawkins, Mark Selby, and Neil Robertson will battle in the Tour Championship semi-finals on Friday and Saturday at the Celtic Manor.
O’Sullivan and Robertson competed in the final of the inaugural staging of the competition two years ago and could set up a repeat showdown, but Hawkins and Selby will have a strong say about that.
Let’s take a look at each of the Tour Championship semi-finals encounters.
Ronnie O’Sullivan vs Barry Hawkins (Saturday)
Barry Hawkins produced an excellent display to beat world number one and pre-tournament favourite Judd Trump in the last of the quarter-finals on Thursday.
The 41 year-old earned himself a little bit of redemption after his spectacular collapse to Trump in the semi-finals of the German Masters earlier this season.
After a quiet spell in which he temporarily dropped outside the world’s top 16, Hawkins has rediscovered the winning touch in recent months and this run represents his third appearance in the last four of a ranking event since January.
It doesn’t really get any easier for the Hawk, however, with Ronnie O’Sullivan standing in the way of a first final in a tournament of this status since 2018.
In fact, even though Trump is undoubtedly the best player in the world at the moment, and so his scalp warrants the appropriate amount of praise, it wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise as Hawkins did boast a relatively good head-to-head record against the 31 year-old.
The same cannot be said about Hawkins’ record against O’Sullivan, who has won 15 out of their 18 battles with one another.
O’Sullivan is on course to feature in a fifth ranking event final of the campaign but is still in search of a first triumph since capturing a sixth world crown last August.
The Rocket defied cue issues to overcome John Higgins in his initial fixture, a close match in which he also compiled a record-extending 1,100th career century break.
O’Sullivan has beaten Hawkins in most of their high-profile encounters – including World Championship, Masters, and Shanghai Masters title deciders.
The latter can be underestimated, but when O’Sullivan has this kind of dominance against a player – other examples include Mark Williams, Ding Junhui, and Stuart Bingham – it tends to stick.
Hawkins will be looking for a quick start, like in his match with Trump, to at least get his esteemed opponent on the back foot early on.
Unfortunately, that didn’t even have much of an effect the last time Hawkins encountered O’Sullivan, when he built up a 3-0 advantage in last month’s Players Championship semi-final only to ultimately lose 6-4.
Neil Robertson vs Mark Selby (Friday)
The first of the two Tour Championship semi-finals takes place on Friday over the 19 frames format that is being incorporated for each round of the event.
Neil Robertson and Mark Selby face each other in a heavyweight contest of former world champions, world number ones, and Triple Crown winners.
Both competitors enjoyed relatively easy passages through to this stage, with Robertson beating Jack Lisowski 10-5 and Selby overcoming Kyren Wilson 10-3.
As one would probably expect, the head-to-head record between this pair is pretty even, with Robertson possessing a narrow advantage from their fixtures in all competitions.
Interestingly, after losing to the Jester in last year’s World Championship at the Crucible, Robertson has won the following three matches – including at the UK Championship en route to success in that tournament.
Even so, of the two semi-finals this clash is much harder to call and it wouldn’t be a huge shock if it went all the way to the final couple of frames in the evening session.
After watching both Trump and Williams extend their career tallies of ranking event titles in the last few weeks, Selby and Robertson – with 19 trophies each – have an opportunity this weekend to reduce the gap in what is a keenly contested battle for fifth place on the all-time list.
Who manages to move one step closer and reach this particular final will be as intriguing as ever.
Tour Championship Semi-Finals Draw
Barry Hawkins (8) vs Ronnie O’Sullivan (5)
Neil Robertson (3) vs Mark Selby (2)
Where to Watch the Tour Championship
The tournament will be available to UK and Irish viewers on ITV4, and fans around the world will also have various other options available to them, which you can find more details for by clicking here.
As has become the norm since last year, the tournament in its entirety will be staged behind closed doors.
Featured photo credit: WST