Saturday, 31 March 2012

Beijing's final call: Ebdon v Maguire

Stephen Maguire will lock horns with Peter Ebdon for the right to lift the 2012 China Open title tomorrow.

That's a sentence I never thought I'd find myself writing. It's been an intriguing week of action in Beijing and while Ebdon's run has been a remarkable surprise, Maguire closing in on a first ranking title for four years has been brewing.

The Scot will count himself unlucky to have lost out to Ronnie O'Sullivan in the German Masters final earlier this year but people have since predicted his speedy return to the winner's circle.

For Ebdon, his chance to contest in a ranking final is a bolt out of the blue after a poor season.

It's ironic that both players' last ranking event wins were at the China Open. Maguire lifted the title in 2008 while Ebdon won the trophy the following year.

Maguire's form since the turn of the year has been impressive. He appears to have taken control of his often explosive temperament and found a way to produce his boisterous best snooker on a consistent basis.

For a player of his remarkable talent, it's difficult to believe he's had to wait so long to add to his four ranking event wins but tomorrow could see him back on the board.

Everyone takes joy from watching Maguire in top gear. He strikes the ball with authority quickly applies the pressure. He goes into the match a clear favourite but by it;s by no means a certainty.

Ebdon's best is somewhat more fragmented as he's long been the kind of player to craft his wins out of grit and determination using his phenomenal mental strength to make up the extra inch against more naturally-talented opponents.

This isn't a trait to be belittled.

In fact, if Ebdon takes home the top prize tomorrow he'll set a new record for the biggest gap between first and most recent ranking title victories after winning the Grand Prix back in 1993.

His staying power is a credit to his great dedication to the sport. While people enjoying poking fun at his style of play, I believe he deserves every bit of his success.

He's managed to beat John Higgins, Neil Robertson and Ding Junhui this week. Why not Maguire?

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