The World Grand Prix is down to the final four with the semi-finals set to take place over the next couple of evenings in Coventry.
Two further wins separate the remaining contenders from the £100,000 top prize in what is the final ranking event of the calendar year.
The outcome of the previous couple of tournaments revolved around a pair of young international talents, but this week’s action will see the focus shift back to the seasoned warhorses.
Neil Robertson vs Mark Selby
Two of the sport’s most prolific champions go head-to-head in the first World Grand Prix semi-finals clash on Friday evening.
Robertson took the last two frames in a dramatic 5-4 success against Yan Bingtao on Thursday, while Selby scored heavily in a 5-2 defeat of fellow Leicester man Tom Ford.
Having first encountered each other in professional competition all the way back in 2006, Selby and Robertson have had countless important battles with one another, and it’s not surprising that their head-to-head record is practically even.
The Australian, however, has enjoyed the upper hand recently – prevailing on all four occasions that they faced each other during the 2020/21 snooker season.
Robertson is hoping to add to the English Open crown that he captured earlier in this campaign, with Selby on course for a first piece of silverware since claiming a fourth World Championship in May.
Almost constant members of the top four in the official world rankings across the last decade, this fixture boasts two heavyweights of the game.
Stuart Bingham vs Ronnie O’Sullivan
Ronnie O’Sullivan started slowly for the third match in a row this week, but once again the Rocket was able to find an extra gear towards the end as he reeled off breaks of 80, 112, and 68 to see off the challenge of Jimmy Robertson.
It’s O’Sullivan’s third semi-final appearance of the campaign, and it just goes to show the standard he has set, and the expectations his fans hold, that such a record is deemed average.
The 46 year-old has struggled to translate a visit to the business end into a tournament triumph ever since landing a sixth world crown at the Crucible in the summer of 2020.
Stuart Bingham stands in O’Sullivan’s path of a berth in the final on this occasion after the 2015 world champion thrashed Stephen Maguire 5-1 in the last eight.
Bingham possesses a miserable record against O’Sullivan, winning just four of their 21 prior showdowns in all competitions, and he’ll undoubtedly begin the second of the World Grand Prix semi-finals as a pretty big underdog.
Still, it would be foolish to completely write off the 45 year-old given O’Sullivan’s tendency in recent times to capitulate in the latter rounds when the going gets tough – a factor Bingham will surely be aware of.
Live coverage continues in the UK and Ireland on ITV4.
Featured photo credit: WST