Robert Milkins and Si Jiahui will face each other in the second round of the 2023 World Snooker Championship in Sheffield.
This season for Robert Milkins
It has been an astounding end to the 2022/23 campaign for Robert Milkins, who came relatively out of nowhere to deservedly deliver himself a top-16 seeding.
After reaching the last four of the German Masters in February, Milkins proceeded to land his second ranking title at the Welsh Open by overcoming Shaun Murphy in the final.
A quarter-final run at the Players Championship then helped him qualify for the prestigious eight-player Tour Championship for the first time.
Milkins has played with the freedom of a man who has successfully turned his career around after the low point of the Turkish Masters last year when he was fined for drunken behaviour.
The 47 year-old has now reached the second round at the Crucible Theatre on four occasions, and this could be his best opportunity to eclipse that.
This season for Si Jiahui
When Si Jiahui fell off the main tour in 2021, there was a sense that it was only a matter of time before he would get back on.
So it proved, and his second stint on the circuit is certainly going better than his first with a World Championship debut to show for it.
Si reached the quarter-finals of the European Masters at the start of the campaign and successfully qualified for the German Masters as well.
However, the former WSF Championship winner has come alive in Sheffield – winning three ties to qualify for the Crucible Theatre for the first time.
The 20 year-old conquered Tom Ford and Jordan Brown in the preliminary competition, and he has already taken an even bigger scalp at the Crucible.
What happened in the first round?
Si recorded arguably the result of the round by overcoming the man in form, Shaun Murphy, with a dramatic 10-9 victory on Thursday.
The former WSF Championship winner was 3-1 down to Murphy early on, but after turning things around to move 4-3 in front, he was never behind in the contest again.
Si let slip a 9-6 cushion late on but held his nerve in the final-frame shootout to inflict a fifth first-round exit in eight years on the Magician.
Milkins was also involved in a thriller, with the Englishman clawing his way back in outstanding fashion from 7-2 down to edge Joe Perry by the odd frame.
That match was unexpectedly rescheduled as a result of Monday night’s disruptive protest inside the Crucible Theatre, with the second session moved to a rare Thursday morning slot.
Robert Milkins vs Si Jiahui head-to-head
Milkins and Si have played each other only once before on the World Snooker Tour, which was a high-scoring 6-4 triumph for Milkins at the 2020 UK Championship.
It’s widely bandied about that this or that young Chinese player is a potential star of the future.
But Si is among the few who truly stand out as genuinely being among this crop of up-and-coming talents.
The youngster had a standout amateur campaign last term and has carried that momentum forward into this season on the pro circuit, and notably to here in Sheffield.
As the seed and a proven winner of tournaments over the last year or so, Milkins will of course still be the favourite.
But although the Milkman ultimately performed when it mattered most in his round-of-32 tie, he was given a huge helping hand from an opponent who produced a shockingly low standard during their encounter’s second session.
At a time when Chinese snooker is suffering with the result of a hearing concerning the ten suspended players for alleged match-fixing imminent, a strong run from Si in Sheffield could provide a timely lift.
Prediction: Si Jiahui 13-10 Robert Milkins
Saturday, April 22nd – 7pm
Sunday, April 23rd – 7pm
Monday, April 24th – 1pm
Featured photo credit: WST