A total of 35 frames needs to be won before a player lands this year’s title.
After a dozen days of action at the Crucible Theatre and almost a month when taking the qualifiers into account, it’s finally the semi-finals stage of the 2021 World Snooker Championship.
Tens of Thousands of pots and safety shots have been played in order to get to this point, when the arena is transformed and just one table takes centre stage inside the Crucible.
For the first time since 2015, all four semi-finalists are English, and somewhat interestingly the two finalists from six years ago feature again at the penultimate hurdle on this occasion.
It’s certainly not the semi-finals quartet that many had been predicting at the start of the tournament, but how often do World Championship predictions really come true?
Three former world champions and last year’s runner-up ensure that there is still an abundance of quality on show as we move a step closer to learning Monday’s champion.
The sport’s blue-riband event remains a monumental test, and for the foursome left in the hunt for glory they are just over halfway to the ultimate target in terms of frames won at the venue.
Let’s take a look at both of the upcoming semi-finals in the 2021 World Snooker Championship.
Mark Selby is the new favourite for the title after the unexpected demises of world number one Judd Trump and Australian Neil Robertson in the last eight.
The Jester is bidding for a fourth world crown and a first since 2017, having come so close last August to reaching the final only to be denied in a dramatic decider by eventual 2020 champion Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Selby, the European Masters and Scottish Open champion from this season, has appeared on a mission right from the get-go to rectify last year’s missed opportunity, signalled by his loss of just 11 frames in reaching the last four.
Stamina can often play a key role in determining a Crucible champion, and Selby must have energy in reserves after wrapping up his quarter-final triumph against Mark Williams with a session to spare on Wednesday morning.
The Jester’s confidence will be extremely high at the moment, but there is still a significant amount of work to do if he’s to become only the sixth player from the modern era to claim four world crowns.
Stuart Bingham is Selby’s opponent in the semi-finals of the World Championship, and the 2015 champion’s path through to this stage could hardly have been any more different.
While Ballrun easily negotiated his second-round test against Jamie Jones, the matches on either side both went all the way to a final frame.
Bingham, who is aiming to become only the third qualifier to emerge with the trophy at the Crucible, dispatched of Ding Junhui 10-9 in the first round and completed a nail-biting 13-12 triumph against Anthony McGill with a gutsy century break yesterday.
A player for the big occasion, the 44 year-old actually boasts a very strong career head-to-head record against Selby – leading his countryman 18-17 from their prior duels in all competitions.
After two emotionally draining clashes to get this far, whether or not Bingham will be able to muster up enough to challenge an in-form Selby over the long distance is the key question that we await the answer to.
The latter is considered the betting favourite now, not only to reach the final but also to win the whole shebang, and BigFreeBet has more information on how to avail of the various online free bets on offer.
A fifth semi-final appearance for Shaun Murphy and a first since losing in the final to Bingham six years ago, this journey to the last four has certainly come out of the blue.
The Magician hadn’t demonstrated many of his tricks in what had been a poor campaign before the World Championship began, but Murphy reached the semi-finals in Sheffield with an excellent 13-11 victory against Judd Trump on Wednesday evening.
When Murphy triumphed as a 22 year-old qualifier 16 years ago, there were probably many who believed he would go on and win at least one more time at the Crucible.
It hasn’t worked out that way yet, but with UK and Masters titles under his belt as well Murphy always possesses the pedigree to announce himself as a major contender.
Having gone under the radar in 2021 until now, that will surely all change after his defeat of the pre-tournament favourite, and it’ll be intriguing to see if Murphy will be buoyed by the added attention or find it burdensome.
Murphy’s next opponent is a player who is continuously making a name for himself as an expert over the longer distances.
Kyren Wilson reached the World Championship semi-finals for the third time in four years with a composed 13-8 success over Neil Robertson.
The Kettering cueist is desperate for another crack at glory in the final after not giving a great account of himself last year against O’Sullivan when the silverware was within reach.
Although difficult to choose one over the other, Wilson will probably begin this fixture against Murphy as the slight favourite, but it’s actually the latter who has enjoyed the better of their previous encounters.
Indeed, Murphy leads 6-3 from their career meetings and has a useful recent victory to turn to for inspiration, thrashing Wilson 9-1 in their 2020 Welsh Open final showdown.
This encounter is unlikely to be so one-sided, but should Murphy establish a lead early on the infamous mind games could begin.
Wilson, an exhausted winner of the most thrilling semi-final conclusion in Crucible history last year, knows about those all too well.
Live coverage continues on the BBC and Eurosport.
Featured photo credit: WST