Saturday, 14 July 2012

Battle of Bendigo

The winner of tomorrow's Australian Open final will be able to look with great satisfaction at reaching a career milestone.

Picture by Monique Limbos
Peter Ebdon has the chance to win a tenth ranking event title. This would take him level with Jimmy White with only Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis, Ronnie O'Sullivan, John Higgins and Mark Williams having won more.

That in itself is a fantastic achievement. Ebdon's style of play has this week - and before - attracted plenty of negative comments, but his record speaks for itself. He has had a fine career and maximised his ability.

He is the master of finding a way to win and will be very proud of what he's achieved.

After a three-year wait for his ninth title, he won the China Open back in April and is back at the business end of the tournament in Bendigo. Ebdon has a fantastic conversion rate once he plays himself into a tournament. I read today that he's won eight of his 11 finals in the past 15 years and once again this week we've seen the employment of his trademark resolute style to plot his way to the final, and many believe his victory would now be predictable.

Picture by Monique Limbos
But standing in his way is one Barry Hawkins, who is within touching distance of his first major ranking event win.

His 6-4 defeat of Mark Davis today marked his first semi-final win in five attempts and he now has a crack at winning his first major trophy in his 16-year career.

He seems to be playing as confidently as he was when he rose to a career-high world ranking of 12.

At his best, Hawkins is a heavy scorer and definitely possesses the ability to claim a title. He won the Sky Shootout back in January and has headed in the right direction since.

He has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Stuart Bingham and claim his maiden win Down Under. It would set himself up nicely for a successful season.

Ebdon is probably slight favourite because of his nous and experience in finals, but Hawkins has beaten him in eight out of their 10 meetings.

Let the battle commence.

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