Thursday, 2 May 2013

Looking ahead: Hawkins v Walden

Ricky Walden against Barry Hawkins may be playing second fiddle in this season's battle of the World Championship semi-finals - but walking out with the arena their own will be a proud moment for both.

I don't think you could have a found a single punter to predict these two would have both made it to the last four at the Crucible.
Picture by Monique Limbos

But here they are having battled through a half of the draw which looked loaded at the start of the tournament, including star names Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Mark Allen, Mark Williams and Stephen Maguire.

They may be unlikely heroes but are definitely here on merit and can now look forward to their game of their lives.

Chester's Walden has played some fluent snooker in his first three rounds and has started really well in every session he's played, admitting he finds it easier to concentrate in the early exchanges of long matches.

His performance against Michael White in the quarter-finals was predatory. He made two centuries and another eight breaks over 50 to beat the Welshman 13-6 and showed how attacking he can be when full of confidence.

Walden is one of those players who I always enjoy watching but never see him as much as some of the other names in the top 16. This ability to go quietly about his business and under the radar in comparison to other marquee names in the draw has probably helped him this week.

He says he's only reached 70 per cent of his top game so far at the Crucible and incidentally has often produced the his best form away from the UK shores. He is a two-time ranking event winner. His triumphs have both come in China at the Shanghai Masters and Wuxi Classic.

Now he has the chance to enjoy ultimate success on home soil and in the biggest event in the sport.

Picture by Monique Limbos
But first, he must beat Barry who is playing out of his skin this week.

Hawkins has always had bags of quality but says his new found self belief and ability to hold himself down when under pressure has made the big difference.

The Kent potter has arguably had the most difficult route of them all to reach the last four. He's gunned down Jack Lisowski, world number one Selby and China star Ding to reach the one table.

His success has been built on accurate and consistent safety. A lot of fans have commented that no one has played well against Barry in this tournament so far, but it isn't a coincidence. He has stopped all of his opponents from playing their best, which is an art in itself.

He has stifled his opponents, got on top of them and broken their rhythm, picking off the wins with a series of great pressure breaks. He's massively up for this.

It's a tough match to call and could go right to the wire.

When they walk out this evening for the first session it will be the realisation of a dream they have both worked hard to achieve throughout their careers.

The match presents a great chance for both to make a World Championship final.

Whoever grabs it with most conviction will surely cross the line.

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