Judd Trump v Ronnie O’Sullivan: now there is a match to get the snooker juices flowing.
Their Betfair World Championship semi-final over four sessions has the potential to be big entertainment. These are two crowd pleasers who go for their shots and are capable of playing some quite extraordinary snooker.
O’Sullivan was at times sensational in overwhelming Stuart Bingham 13-4. Trump won a Crucible classic, 13-12 over Shaun Murphy.
O’Sullivan’s reaction to winning was odd, even by his standards. He claimed he was only in it for the money so he could pay his children’s school fees and that he would – guess what – retire after fulfilling contractual obligations next season.
Naturally, this is the exact opposite of what he said earlier in the tournament. Who knows the truth? Does Ronnie even know it? Or is he just reacting to how he feels in the moment?
It suggests that, even with the work he has done with Dr. Steve Peters, all is still not well with snooker’s most troubled star. But that may not be the whole story.
I’ve listened to many of his press conferences down the years and would make the point that they are heavily influenced by the manner of his performance in matches that often finish just minutes before he is interviewed. Had he won 13-3 this morning as seemed likely then I suspect he may not have been so gloomy.
Trump certainly sounds confident going into the match, as he should be. He has the ultra attacking game to put the defending champion under some pressure.
One factor that could favour Trump is the fact that he will have a significant portion of the crowd on his side. Traditionally, O’Sullivan enjoys the vast majority of audience support.
Trump is positive ahead of the semi-finals, saying: “There’s only a certain amount of players who have got the self belief to beat Ronnie and scare him and I think I’m one of them.
“I’ve got a good record against Ronnie. I’ve beaten him more times than he's beaten me, so hopefully I can go out and scare him.
“I haven’t seen any of his games really, but from what I’ve heard from my brother and others he hasn’t really played that well and a lot of people are just scared of him.”
In fact, O’Sullivan has played superbly. His long potting has been terrific. He has played better snooker in the tournament than Trump.
O’Sullivan said of Trump: “I’ve played him a few times and I’ve sensed he’s wobbled. Even he gets scared of me. It’s a hard place out there. If you play well enough and stay with him, and peg him back, he's not Stephen Hendry or John Higgins.”
O’Sullivan may have reacted badly to failing to kill Bingham off more clinically but he is a fierce competitor and will surely relish the challenge of taking on a player widely seen as the heir to his crowd-pleasing mantle.
By contrast, the two players in the other semi-final couldn’t be less controversial.
Barry Hawkins and Ricky Walden are two nice guys who love their snooker and support the game all year round.
Hawkins was superb in winning all four frames this morning to beat Ding Junhui 13-7. Walden eased to a 13-6 victory over Michael White tonight.
They each know they have a great chance to appear in a world final – the very reason you spend so many years practising and working hard.
You can guarantee whoever comes through this semi-final will be grateful for the chance to become world champion.
We’re down to one table now. My Eurosport commentary colleague Joe Johnson, who himself has played in two world finals, put it poetically: “when you get down to one table it’s a different tournament. It’s a different arena. You see the twinkle lights of the Crucible and they’re like the stars in the sky. It’s like playing in Heaven.”
For others, of course, it is a form of snooker hell.