Friday, 21 September 2012

Living the Hai life

One of the world's top players is just three wins away from landing the Shanghai Masters 2012 title.

Only eight remain as we've seen the field whittled down to the quarter-final stage.

You'd be mad to believe it when the players say they're just taking it one game at a time; they'll all have their eyes on the top prize now.

With two wins at the venue already under their belts and playing so far away from their families, there's no consolation for not finishing the job.

There's a lot of work to be done between now and when the silverware is handed out, so expect plenty of battles en route to the finish line.

OnCue takes a look ahead to some fascinating quarter-final clashes...

Stuart Bingham v Shaun Murphy

A battle between two of the best professionals on the circuit. They each boast a first class attitude to the game. You never hear either them moaning. They just do their very best to play snooker. This should be an exciting match. They both like to attack, take on their shots and try make something happen. Bingham’s 5-1 win against Jamie Cope in round two was his 12th of the season in China after winning the APTC1 and reaching the Wuxi Classic final. This is indicative of Stuart. He’s been given the opportunity to play in more tournaments and has grabbed it with both hands. He does his best to stay match sharp and has become a formidable force over the past couple of seasons. Shaun will put his all into every event he plays in but openly admits that he prefers to play in front of the bigger crowds. He’ll enjoy everything that comes with the enthusiastic Chinese fans.

Mark Williams v Joe Perry

Williams has been floating balls in like only he does to reach this stage. He’s had as difficult a route to the last eight as anyone. He’s had to beat Wuxi Classic champion Ricky Walden and this season’s two-time major ranking event semi-finalist Mark, but he’s made it look easy enough. Bidding to win a seventh title in Asia, there’s no need to question his credentials. He has a proven track record. He’ll take some stopping by Joe Perry, but he comes into this match with a boost knowing he’s already sent Matthew Stevens and Neil Robertson home. I watched him have a stinker against Oliver Lines at the PTC3 in Gloucester, but everything seems to have clicked for him this week.

John Higgins v Ali Carter

This match pits two players together who have taken different approaches so far this season. Higgins was a late starter after missing many of the early events. What he may have lacked in complete match sharpness though, he definitely makes up for in self belief. He’s looked in good form this week dropping just two frames in wins against Jamie Jones and Ryan Day. It looks like he’s creeping back into contention and he’s proved himself to be a master when it comes to the business end of tournaments. In contrast, Ali has committed to playing in more tournaments and looks to have rekindled his hunger to play the game after shaking off the worst in his battle against Crohn’s disease. Reaching the World Championship final appears to have given him a spring in his step. His season has been a mixed bag so far reaching two PTC quarter-finals but also losing in the first round of the two bigger ranking events. He’s come through two different tests this week. He beat Robert Milkins in a deciding frame and then swept past Stephen Maguire 5-0. He’s a player more than capable of matching Higgins should it become an ugly tussle.

Judd Trump v Graeme Dott

Trump advances through tournaments with a crash and a bang, while Dott goes a little more quietly about his business. Judd has been the comeback king of the week. He went 3-0 down before beating Barry Hawkins and trailed 2-0 before dismissing Mark Allen. He’s a difficult player to stop once he finds his momentum and becomes tougher to beat the longer he stays in a tournament. The Chinese fans appreciate his outrageous potting ability and he’ll be full of confidence now. These two met at the same stage of the World Championship in 2011 and Dott’s safety wasn’t anywhere near good enough to contain him. The Scot is playing well himself with changes to his cue beginning to pay dividends, but this match could be all about how well he keeps buoyant Trump on a leash. He can be hot to handle when he starts to reel off frames. These short matches can whizz by quickly once he finds a rhythm.

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