Sixteen has become four as the Players Championship reaches the business end with the semi-finals in Wolverhampton on Friday and Saturday.
Both halves of the draw paint an interesting picture, with three players who many would have failed to predict at the start of the week still involved.
Two further victories separate the remaining contenders from the £125,000 champion’s cheque that will be awarded on Sunday, in what is the second of three events on the Cazoo Series.
Players Championship Draw and Schedule
(Times in GMT)
Barry Hawkins (16) vs Ricky Walden (12)
Barry Hawkins was at the top of his game in the quarter-finals, boasting a pot-success rate of 95% in overcoming Yan Bingtao in a thriller that lasted the distance.
Ricky Walden also needed a deciding frame to outlast Mark Williams, digging deep to claim the last four frames and complete an unexpected turnaround.
The pair of Englishmen will respect each other’s games of course, but there’s no denying the fact that it’s a huge opportunity for either to move forward to Sunday’s final.
An even looking affair on paper is substantiated by the stats, with Hawkins narrowly in front on the overall head-to-head from their previous matches.
Their biggest battle occurred at the Crucible during the 2013 World Championship when Hawkins prevailed to reach that year’s final.
But Walden has recorded impressive victories too, notably in an earlier guise of the Players Championship back in 2016 at the same semi-finals hurdle.
It’s four and six years respectively since Hawkins and Walden last featured in a ranking event final, so nerves could play a role in determining the outcome.
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Neil Robertson (6) vs Jimmy Robertson (15)
The second semi-finals clash in the Players Championship on Saturday evening will be a tale of two Robertsons.
Neil Robertson ousted Ronnie O’Sullivan in a heavyweight tie, but arguably the result of the quarter-final saw namesake Jimmy Robertson upset defending champion John Higgins 6-4.
On the cusp of going 3-0 in front and with his opponent struggling, Higgins appeared to be cruising into the last four of the competition.
But the Scot rattled the final black in the third frame to gift his opponent a reprieve, and Robertson subsequently grew in confidence.
The latter was almost relegated from the tour at the end of last season but has now manoeuvred his way into the penultimate round of one of the calendar’s most prestigious events.
Jimmy will again be the obvious underdog against Neil and trails their overall head-to-head by 5-2, losing their only match of significant length 5-0 at the 2013 China Open.
The recent Masters champion is staking a claim to being the world’s best player at present, and having celebrated his 40th birthday on Friday, the Thunder from Down Under will be keen on rewarding himself by adding more silverware to his impressive trophy cabinet this weekend.
Live coverage of the Players Championship semi-finals will be on ITV4 across Ireland and the UK, with other options around the world available.
Featured photo credit: WST
One caveat to your comment about the wait both men have had for finals was Hawkins had reached the Masters final last month. I felt because of that Walden was under a little added pressure.
I’ve got to say the crowd numbers in Wolverhampton have been impressive.