Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Maguire marches on and Judd Trumps Ronnie

Stephen Maguire completed a Scottish double today in York with victory over defending UK champion John Higgins.

Following on from his win in the first round against Stephen Hendry, on-song Maguire put pay to Higgins' hopes of a second successive title with a thoroughly deserved 6-4 win.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Although Maguire was by far the stronger player on the night, it wasn't all plain sailing. He raced into an emphatic 5-1 lead including a tournament high break of 144 but had to weather a trademark Higgins fightback before clinching the vital frame.

A lot of people are quick to level criticism at Maguire as he's renowned for losing his rag. But here, he was cool, calm and collective waiting patiently for his chance to kill off the world number three.

Higgins on the other hand was clearly unsettled by the shortened format of this year's UK Championship. He openly criticised the changes to the tournament last week and played like a man with something else on his mind. He was lucky to even beat Rory McLeod in round one and was perhaps destined to lose when he met a stiffer test.

Stephen was that tougher match. His recent performances at the PTC tournaments have been excellent. He's rediscovered his long potting and is playing with the kind of authority that makes him easy on the eye.

That said, his chances of winning silverware at the Barbican have perhaps gone under the radar, until now. People are beginning to talk up his chances again but Maguire appears to be staying grounded. With the standard of play so exceptionally high, that's the only way to approach it.

It was a good night at work for Maguire and now he can look forward to a clash with Judd Trump in the quarter-finals, who emerged through the game of the day.

Trump beat Ronnie O'Sullivan 6-5 in a nail-biter -  but can still get even beater.

Picture by Monique Limbos
The 21-year-old significantly upped his game from his first round match with Dominic Dale but, he simply had. The Rocket showed decent resolve once more but was caught out by Trump's outstanding potting game. Ronnie's safety game wasn't as tight as usual and Trump capitalised.

The scary thing here is we know Judd can get better. He appears to be playing himself perfectly into form in this tournament, a sure sign of of his ever developing maturity.

Today was Trump's fourth professional win over his Grove partner, with his last coming just a few weeks ago in the PTC9 final in Belgium.

He looks to have the beating of the three-time world champion but immediately after defeat began the usual  inquest into why Ronnie lost. We shouldn't bemoan his performance though.

He's been in good enough form in recent weeks to suggest he could have made a bid for the title this week, and could easily have snatched this match.

But we must not forget it's been ever such a long time since O'Sullivan made a real impact at a major ranking event.

Although he'd never admit it, that must be playing on his mind. Ronnie spoke after the match about the possibility of needing a break. But today was about another huge stride forward for young Judd rather than the chance to further dissect Ronnie's relationship with the game.

The other two matches of the day saw Ding Junhui win his second decider of the week, this time against Matthew Stevens and Neil Robertson win 6-3 against Graeme Dott in a repeat of the 2010 World Championship final.

Ding has showed excellent fight so far this week further dispelling the myth about his lack of temperament. This added grit coupled with his superb ability to break build make him a dangerous prospect.

Robertson meanwhile, scored a scrappy victory and will need to find greater fluency lift the trophy. His long potting was on the money but he was positionally off the pace.

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