Monday, 29 April 2013

In close quarters

It's quarter-finals time at the Crucible.

The prospect of becoming world champion is beginning to become a real reality for the eight players who remain.

The greatest title in the game is only three wins away and this is the time to up it and stake a claim to lift the famous trophy.

The first two rounds of the tournament have produced an array of upsets but there are plenty of quality players still left battling it out.

Here's a whistlestop look ahead to our four tasty quarter-finals:

Shaun Murphy v Judd Trump

Picture by Monique Limbos
A match worthy of any ranking event final. This is the clash of the round as two classy cueists, who love to attack, chase their World Championship dream. Murphy won the title as a qualifier back in 2005 and has number two in his sights. He's used to starting events strongly but needs to show he can get even better when winning line comes in sight. He has always been at his best when he goes on the attack with a delightful cue action that gets plenty of attention. If he decides to go all out after the win this could become a classic because Judd loves to go after his shots as well and has produced moments of brilliance in this tournament, scoring as well as he has for quite some time. Trump looks to be getting more confident, so Murphy needs to believe in his own game just as much. I'm not sure these two are the greatest of friends but they have huge mutual respect for each othery and know they need to be at their best to win.

 Ronnie O'Sllivan v Stuart Bingham

Picture by Monique Limbos
 A clash of contrasting experience in this massive match. Bingham is playing in his first ever Crucible quarter-final while O'Sullivan has won the World Championship four times and has been here many times before. Bingham won't let that affect him. He doesn't fear anyone these days and is one of the best break builders in the world. Form suggests he will have to be at his very best to win this match though. O'Sullivan has been excellent so far in the tournament despite his lengthy break and looks to be going through the gears nicely. He's been in very punishing mood in the balls and is clinically taking advantages of any mistakes. Ronnie looks really focused and is probably becoming less vulnerable as the rounds go on and should get closer to his best with every session. Bingham will be worrying about his own game. He will relish playing in this great match and can put O'Sullivan under pressure.

Ding Junhui v Barry Hawkins

Picture by Monique Limbos
A lot of people believe the draw is opening up beautifully for Ding Junhui but this won't be plain-sailing. Hawkins has been playing brilliantly for a long time now. He proved against Mark Selby that he's a classy player and well up for the fight. Ding is superb in his own right and, if he plays like he did in his second session against Mark King, is pretty much unstoppable. His break building skills are mesmerising. Ding has showed all the signs that he is ready to step up to win the big one. If he can go all the way it would be huge for the sport in China. It would be one of the most memorable moments in the history of snooker. Hawkins will be desperate to spoil the party. He will want to get on top of Ding early and is capable against anyone.

Ricky Walden v Michael White

Picture by Monique Limbos
Maybe the most difficult quarter-final match to predict. Both players have won their first ever matches at the Crucible this year and are living the dream in Sheffield. White is here on debut and taking the whole experience in his stride. He's really taking the chance to show what he can do on the big stage and has showed great tempremant. Walden has been playing awesome so far and looks like he's put lots of practice in and is getting the rewards. This match could be a tense one and will produce spells of real pressure. It might come down to who handles it best.

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